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Burnham Make Happy Analysis Essay

Bo Burnham’s Bo Burhnham: Make Happy is a live comedy show that through goes through the struggles of his own life and the lives of his fans. As Burhamn’s show explores the many facets of our lives it shows how they all seem to be coming up short in one way or another. It opens up to a sad clown with a voice over to the audience, “The world is not funny” (Bo Burhman: Make Happy, 1:30-2:00). Through the show Bo struggles to bring happiness into an unhappy world. Burnham touches on topics such as love, music, the archetype of the ‘straight white male’, and even the legalization of marijuana.

All of this comes together into a hilarious show with a dark, ominous message. His message is simply this; We are not happy. To Bo it seems a large part of our unhappiness comes from societal values and the biases of American society. He proves this point almost immediately in the show with a song bit “Straight White Men”. This song speaks ironically about the ‘struggle’ of the straight white male while saying how women, different ethnicities, and people of other sexualities want rights.

Burnham shows how these not getting what they want with the lyric, “can’t you just leave us alone? also no to the things you asked for” (8:41-8:50) coming from the point of view of a straight white man. While cracking up the audience this brings a poignant fact to the eyes of the viewer. Burnham ends the song and continues to speak of the racial bias of the US education system, adding a, “No way Joseph! ” (12:17-12:25) instead of the usual “no way Jose” to drive the point home. Later in the show Bo brings the attention back to this same point with a bit about the show Celebrity Lip Syncing.

He focuses on how on this show there is either a male lip syncing a woman’s pop song or a oman mouthing along to rap. He uses this example to show how the rap the woman picked were once an, “honest articulation of racial struggle” (21:05-21:15) and the male’s performances were always found funny because the reversal of our societies gender roles is seen as so outlandish. Burham’s commentary on the biases and views of our society show’s why many can’t be happy. There are rigid guidelines we’re expected to follow with ease and joy. His intention is made blaringly clear for anyone who cares to listen. Music is a common motif throughout Bo’s performance, as he uses music for a majority of his show.

This being how it is Burnham has strong feelings about the music and artists people listen to today. He takes issue especially with the fact that so many artists exploit their listeners to get that next million, the next platinum record, more followers, whatever their goal may be. Burnham makes this point with the bit in his show titled “Country Song (pandering)”. This is a country song that discusses how a lot of stadium-country genre music is written for people strategically and only for the point of getting money.

The artists write what they know will sell which is a lifestyle they have never lived and may even look down on. The beginning of the song starts with a speaking section that it used in a lot of this popcountry music where Bo says, “they figured out the words and the phrases that they can use to pander to their audience. And they list the same words and phrases off, sort of mad-lib style, raking in millions of dollars from actual working-class people,” (21:00-21:15) making Burnham’s point with the song abundantly clear right from the beginning.

People spend so much time looking up to the unattainably rich and famous all the while being taken advantage of by those same people. Bo wants his audience to realise the wrong they’ve had done to them. In a similar sense Burnham has another song as a part of his show sarcastically titled “Kill Yourself”. This song shifts the blame more to the people who buy the music instead of the artists this time. Specifically he is referring to people who buy into music that that give blanket statement answers to life’s problems.

In the song, as you can imagine, Bo says to kill yourself over and over, but this isn’t actually what he means. Behind the lyrics there’s an irony he wants the audience to recognize. Bo himself stops to talk in the middle of his song to say, “I’m just trying to make a simple point, that life’s toughest problems don’t have simple answers. You shouldn’t just be brave, you shouldn’t just roar” (38:55-39:00) to make his point obvious in the darkly titled song. Burnham’s trying to say this naivity causes discontent in people’s lives because they’re problems do not just solved with a simple attitude change.

He also draws the correlation between unhappiness and suicide which is important because there is evidence that “that individuals who are exceptionally low in [subjective well being] are more likely to later commit suicide”(Judge and KammeyerMueller, 32). No one can be act happy for the sake of just being happy, there needs to be a reason and a rhyme to the ways we feel and the ways we act. No one should just act happy just like no one should just kill themself. Bo articulates this beautifully to his audience.

One of the points Burnham made more discreetly than others was the fact that we as society make decisions and laws that innately make us unhappy. This is exemplified in a bit in which he makes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while high on marijuana and then while drunk. Of course as anyone know the US has a legal drinking age of 21 but in most of the US marijuana is illegal for people of any age. While in the part of the bit that bo is pretending to be high his character is charismatic. He works intensely to make the sandwich, takes his time, and ends up with a what seems to be a pretty satisfying sandwich in the end.

While pretending to be the drunken character Bo makes a sandwich sloppily and looking like a wreck with what turns out to actually be mayonnaise instead of peanut butter. He also ends up being yelled at by a girlfriend and the whole thing ends pretty miserably. His point here is that we got to make the decision to have alcohol legal and marijuana not. Alcohol causes a lot of problems even death due to overdose where marijuana does not. Over than this there is a large population of people who want marijuana legalized in the states, it would make them happier participants in society.

Thinking this way it would be natural to think lawmakers would consider societal happiness as there is studies that prove, “that individuals who are in positive mood states are more productive” (Judge and Kammever-Mueller, 32). Even when faced with the decision to decide our own happiness, we don’t make the right decision. Our unhappiness is, at a certain level, institutionalized which is a point Burnham was trying to put across to his viewers. Another part of the performance was the idea of love. Both how we leave it and how we get it.

Burnham performed the song “Lower Your Expectations (If You Want Love)” which, if not made apparent by the title, is about everyone wanting the perfect one to be in love with. These expectations of what a love needs to have keep us from love which in turn keeps us from happiness. The alternate theme in the song is that we all deserve love and we shouldn’t let unreasonable expectations get in the way of that. Or as Bo puts it, “if he’s got a thing for feet say/ ‘fuck it’ sweep me off them” (28:20-28:28). We do let expectations get in the way of things that could be great for us which ruins our whole happiness.

Burnham’s point is if love is what makes life great should all be accepting of it. Another point about happiness in relation to love is how we leave love. Bo makes this point in a skit of two people breaking up. The woman in the relationship tries to be calm and discuss things while the man in the relationship uses anger and insult to hide from his emotions. The tragedy of this boy’s point of view is revealed in the song when Burnham raps, “I think the issue is/ l’ve got my father’s temper/ and I’m emotionally inarticulate/ So rather than being honest and vulnerable/ I’ve made a quick switch/ because I’m hurting inside” (43:50-44:05).

Being vulnerable is something that is become increasingly less common. It’s terrifying to many and it makes sense why some want to avoid this feeling but by doing this we’re keeping ourselves from moving on and getting closure. What Burham is trying to say is that even though it’s difficult to feel this way it’s a necessary emotion to feel to have a fulfilled life. As Bo’s comedy show drew to an end he made it a point to make one last powerful impression in his audience. The veil of comedy did not accompany him much through this monologue where he decided to talk about the “me generation”.

As Burnham explains it, today’s youth is a generation that wanted to perform and social media came to fill that hole. Instead of just filling a hole social media has become a chore, “it’s prison, it’s horrific,” (48:00-48:07). Burnham makes a very strong message throughout this section of the show. He wants to warn his viewers that,”the media we ingest… has cleverly wrapped itself around our day to day interactions and has a persuasive and almost inescapable presence in our lives” (Nicholson). Trying to make every part of our lives seem perfect so that we can post it to the world, can in fact be the reason we don’t see it as perfect.

His show revolves around the idea of performing and to turn around tell his audience to live without trying to perform for others themselves adds a substance to his words that is hard to ignore. Even those watching and not trying to decipher a deeper meaning behind his words won’t be able to help but notice this. Bo Burnham’s Bo Burnham: Make Happy spreads the message that our culture breeds unhappiness. This unhappiness can come from a personal level like not being able to deal with vulnerability or from a societal level like the laws that decide what liberties we can and can’t have.

Despite this unhappiness we, as a society, are always striving for the happiness most everyone deserves to have with their life. This is exactly the message Bo Burnham gave throughout his show. He gave an outstanding performance always making sure to keep his theme interwoven within. Burnham did this is a way where people wouldn’t have to struggle and search for the meaning in his words which is part of the brilliance of the performance. Everyone who watched this will have a clear message in their heads.

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