I know you read that headline right. Please hear me out straight white male comedian TikTok.
The Bo-John-TikTok Industrial Complex
Ever since Bo Burnham’s third Netflix special, “Inside,” dropped, TikTok has had a months-long field day with it. My “For You Page” has been flooded with many audios and trends inspired by the special.
From “Welcome to The Internet,” “Look Whose Inside Again,” and “Bezos I,” Burnham’s special has inspired countless videos to take over trending pages all over TikTok…. and social media in general. I haven’t even mentioned all of the songs I’ve seen being used, but it’s pretty much the whole album at this point.
As of writing this, Bo has been nominated for six Emmys for this special, all well deserved. I have been thinking about this topic for a while now, so let’s jump in:
Around this time last year, John Mulaney was The Straight White Male Comedian on TikTok. “New In Town” and “Kid Gorgeous” spawned countless audios and recreations. The amount of impressions I have seen that attempt to recreate his mannerisms is… too many. When John was hosted SNL for the Halloween episode, you would have thought it was as big as the Superbowl (but exclusively for comedy nerds).
(As of writing this, I forgot I did a review of “Kid Gorgeous” back in May 2018… my mind!)
When John “Betrayed” Everyone
The news hit in December that Mulaney was checking into rehab. We have since learned that John has separated from his wife, Anna Marie Tendler, and immediately, my timeline exploded in tears. The number of tweets and TikTok videos I saw that were in distress over “love being dead” and feeling like they “can’t trust men anymore” was astounding.
The most shocking to me was that all of a sudden, there was a drastic 180° turn from some fans. Before, the idea was that “Mulaney can do no wrong” and that he is this perfect specimen. Then suddenly, the narrative became so dark so quickly and was being just generally nasty towards him. Some of this being that he is now reportedly dating Olivia Munn (even though it is none of our business because it is not our relationship(s), but I digress).
In John’s past stand-up specials, he has shared funny anecdotes about his past issues with substance abuse. In “New In Town,” John stated, “I don’t drink. I used to drink, then I drank too much, and I had to stop. That surprises a lot of audiences because I don’t look like someone who used to do anything.
When John checked into rehab, all I saw was love and support towards him and his family. Since returning to the stage and dating rumors starting rising in May, the love and support became less visible. With this newfound divide, there was suddenly room for someone else to take over the “crowned spot” as the most celebrated “white boy of the month” (a la stan Twitter).
Bo’s Time To Shine
On April 26th, Bo posted a photo to his Instagram of a door slightly ajar with golden light spilling out of it. There was no caption on the post, which caused the comments section to concoct all types of theories of what this cryptic post can possibly mean.
Two days later, Bo updated us with a 1 minute clip of him playing a song on the piano. The caption reads, “hi. I made a new special. it was filmed by me, alone, without a crew or an audience, over the course of the past year. it is almost finished. I hope you like it.”
“Inside” dropped on May 30th, and I think it is safe to say that since then, TikTok has become taken over with Bo content.
Story Polls from my Instagram Story
I wanted to ask my followers a few questions surrounding this topic to gain some more perspective. I will be showing the question and answers, how many responded, and the percentages out of the two possible answers.
Question 1: Have you seen Bo Burnham’s Inside?
Out of 267 responses: 64% voted NO, and 36% voted YES.
Question 2: Have Bo Burnham audios taken over your TikTok ‘For You’ Page?
Out of 251 responses: 68% voted YES, and 32% voted NO
I was shocked to see that both polls were almost exact in their percentages but flipped according to the question. This definitely contributes to the theory that content from “Inside” has taken over the app substantially.
Along with a few polls, I asked my followers if anyone had anything they wanted to express about Bo, John or the special to be featured in this piece. The responses were overwhelming and really interesting to comb through. I will be keeping the submissions anonymous.
“their stans r mainly white women who hype up every basic white male comedian”
“bo would absolutely fuckin hate it thats all i know”
“I think they’re all talented, but it’s become the comedian version of tumblr sexyman”
“I feel like tiktok diluted what bo was talking about in the inside special”
“sometimes i feel like inside is just on this side of too good to be considered fake/deep/edgy bc content wise a lot of it would make me ðŸ™„ if bo wasn’t so freaking talented”
“They are absolutely beautiful, I can see why people get pissed about the lack of diversity tho. Waiting here patiently for a female comedian to get as much appreciation”
To expand on the last submission, I have seen this take a few times on TikTok that if a female comedian/person of color made “Inside”, it would not have gotten the amount of support Bo has gotten. In the same vein, many audios have also been used by TikTok users to show that they are “woke” and accepting, but it actually shows the opposite.
Now I have also started to see some discussion around Bo’s early career pop up on my “For You” Page as well. It’s important to recognize where someone has been wrong/done problematic things that have caused groups of people harm in a lot of ways. One of Bo’s songs that has gotten a lot of attention in recent months has been, “Problematic”.
Before the song begins, Bo is watching a video of his younger self performing an older song of his from 2006 called, “My Whole Family”, with the premise being his whole family thinks that he is gay. While someone could argue that it has to be contextualized with, “well comedy was just like that back then” and “everyone is so sensitive nowadays” this was not an isolated shtick, and jokes of this nature were present in his later specials in 2013 and 2016. It wasn’t just homophobia, there were also many bits that echoed racist rhetoric as well.
In the TikTok above, the creator brings up that many college campuses of POC and LGBT-related groups protested him coming to their college because of his content. In the video, the creator shows a screencap from an article by The Columbia Daily Tribune in 2009.
“Burnham is an equal-opportunity offender. Jokes about abortion clinics are told back-to-back with jokes about civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. For the religious crowd, he packed in jokes about pleasuring himself while reading the Bible.”The Columbia Daily Tribune, “YouTube comic Bo Burnham prompts protests at Westminster”, Mar 4, 2009.
There are more incidents to talk about, but there are people who have written about it and say it more eloquently than I ever could. So I recommend searching for yourself if you are curious. (thank you for this Insider article for some references).
For a long time, Bo was able to evade talking about his past. In the past few years, he has turned around and started addressing it (i.e. Fresh Air in 2018, talking about “My Whole Family”).
BURNHAM: Truly, it’s like – you know, I – you know, for a 16-year-old kid in 2006, it’s not bad. But the cultural standards of what is appropriate comedy and also the inner standards of my own mind have changed rapidly since I was 16.NPR Fresh Air: December 27, 2018
GROSS: Did people misinterpret it and think, like, that guy’s homophobic?
BURNHAM: I don’t know that it’s not. You know what I mean? I don’t know that it’s not. I don’t defend my 16-year-old comedy at all. And, like, even part of this movie is me going back and, like, trying to forgive myself for what I was expressing at that time. The tact of a 16-year-old comic in 2006, which was like the peak of sort of, like, shock jock humor – yeah, I have a lot of material from back then that I’m not proud of and I think is offensive and I think is not helpful. But also, I can’t regret a bit of it, you know, because I deeply believe in the butterfly effect. And I am so grateful to be here right now. I do not think my intention was homophobic, but what is the implicit comedy of that song if you chase it all the way down? I don’t think it’s perfectly morally defendable.
But the issue is – and it’ll be an issue, I think, for a lot of young creative people – my sort of open mic material – you know, the first stuff I wrote – is out there for everybody to see. So I just hope, on my own behalf and other people’s behalf, we’re still allowed to think out loud and fail publicly and grow because – yeah. We’re going to soon have a bunch of – well, you know, at a certain point, there’s going to be a – every presidential candidate is going to have every bad joke they made when they were 13 immortalized (laughter) online. So at a certain point, we’re going to have to call amnesty and just, you know, get on with it.NPR Fresh Air: December 27, 2018
However, the point of “Problematic”, has seemed to not click with some fans of a certain caucasian descent.
The song is satirical. While he has started to address things from his past, one song does not absolve him from it. From reading the comments from this video, the point can be missed by some thinking it is “an apology song” and so forth.
There is a fine line between acknowledging your fave’s past and ignoring it completely. You are also allowed to still like a creator who has a tainted past, if you view their content through a critical lens. I am a huge fan of Bo Burnham and John Mulaney. Being critical of someone doesn’t mean you are “hating on someone” or ” simply disliking it because it is popular”.
To finish off this piece, I asked my followers to recommend some women/POC comedians that deserve more recognition. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed!
- Beth Sterling
- Rhea Butcher
- Ali Wong
- Bowen Yang
- Taylor Tominson
- Rose Matafeo
- “Any female on SNL“
- Hannah Gadsby
- Tiffany Haddish
- Lori Beth Denberg
- Abby Govidan
- Fourtune Feimster
- Desus & Mero
What is your take on this topic? Do you watch Bo or John? I would love to discuss below!