Singer-songwriter/comedian Bo Burnham thrills crowds

By Jeffrey C. Larnard

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Bo Burnham- FacebookBo Burnham looks a little awkward. With his mused hair and his wire-rimmed glasses, the singer-songwriter-comedian famous for broadcasting angsty videos of himself over YouTube isn’t exactly the sort you’d expect would rake in such a large crowd at the Fine Arts Center. But Burnham works a special magic over skeptics, winning them over faster than University of Massachusetts students leaving a football game.

Combining razor-sharp wit, a willingness to offend pretty much everyone and – to indulge in a little hyperbole – musical talent basically beyond compare, Burnham’s show on Saturday at the Fine Arts Center was one that few will forget. 

Comedian Amy Anderson opened the show to fine applause, despite the fact that she had to contend with a raucous crowd largely unfamiliar with her work. Anderson, who has previously appeared on Comedy Central and on commercials for Southwest Airlines, [TS1] has been likened in the past to notoriously raunchy comedian Margaret Cho.

Still, Anderson has a style that is strikingly her own. And it didn’t take the experienced comedian long to get into a groove, firing off-kilter jokes in rapid succession that dealt mostly with Asian people and strangely enough, her breasts. 

As her routine went on, there was clearly some sentiment in the crowd that she was overstaying her welcome, as her limited scope of topics grew tiresome. She was, however, able to close effectively with a bit on a website specializing in scatology – the site allows viewers to rate the quality of other people’s excrements.

 Even with Amy Anderson’s better-than-anticipated set, it was clear all night what drove audience members to turn up for this leg of the Fake I.D. Tour .

Burnham took the stage with assertiveness, the young performer exuding a strong stage presence. The Hamilton, Mass. native, who in addition to stand-up also plays the electric piano and the ukulele, has garnered plenty of controversy for his often outrageous skits.

Whether it was piano-driven ballads about sexual disorientation or haikus about African children eating pennies, Burnham has a subversive streak that runs deep. Burnham also fired off lightning-fast raps oozing with puns and clever wordplay, the kind that would make most English professors envious.

When a member of the crowd yelled out that Bo could sleep with anyone on campus, Bo responded dryly – and without missing a beat – “My mom’s here.” Moreover, he called out an obnoxious crowd member and proceeded to humiliate him in front of the entire audience.

However, what was most impressive about Bo Burnham’s act was the sheer amount of ingenuity and creativity worked into his musical-comedy style. There’s an every-man quality to his comedy that resonates with an audience. Burnham is able to draw from a myriad of comic styles (from Andrew Dice Clay to George Carlin) and executes them all deftly, appealing to virtually everyone in the audience. 

His strange-but-true statistics, like “One out of every 44 presidents can dunk,” drew just as many laughs as a song about how Helen Keller is the perfect woman because she can neither talk nor hear. At once blatantly offensive and painfully funny, Mr. Burnham’s act seems to have the potential to become one of the most highly demanded comedy acts in the nation.

At only 19, who knows what his true potential could be? Just like Bo’s Jackson Five joke, it is probably “too soon” to tell.

Jeff C. Larnard can be reached at [email protected] Shayna Murphy can be reached at [email protected]