Bo Burnham (born August 21, 1990) is an American singer-songwriter and Internet celebrity. Writing comedic and satirical songs with a politically incorrect slant, Burnham's YouTube videos have received over 41.6 million hits and his first EP—Bo Fo Sho—was released in June 2008 by Comedy Central Records, and his first full-length self-titled album was released by the same label in March 2009.
Bo Burnham was born the youngest of three in August 1990 to Patricia and Scott Burnham.
In February 2008, Patricia was a nurse at her youngest's school, and Scott owned a North Shore, Massachusetts construction company. Their two older children, Pete and Samm, were concurrently enrolled in their third and second years at Cornell University and Suffolk University Law School|Suffolk Law School
Bo attended the all-boys' Catholic school,St. John's Preparatory School Danvers, Massachusetts; there he was on the school honor roll and involved in theatre and the campus ministry program. The school's assistant principal, Wendy Olson, remarked in a February 2008 interview that while "[t]he Bo on YouTube is not the Bo we see around here, […] no one at St. John's is surprised at his creativity or that he's pursuing his dream, which is to make a name for himself." Burnham graduated from St. Johns in Spring 2008.
Burnham applied to New York University (NYU), University of Southern California (USC), and Yale University, and was accepted to NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.
Burnham was performing skits ("Bo Shows") in his home by age three, and grew up listening to boomer-generation comedians like George Carlin and Richard Pryor.
As detailed by Burnham himself, 2006 was the beginning of what would become his musical comedy career. Rehearsing a play at St. John's that summer, Burnham began writing songs about teenage angst and debuting them to his fellow high school thespians. He then videotaped himself performing two songs and posted them to the video-sharing website YouTube in December 2006, so that his older brother Pete could watch them from college. While response to his videos on YouTube ("My Whole Family... " and "My 'little' secret...") was initially unexceptional, when they were copied to Break.com they became an overnight sensation, with traffic to his videos multiplying over 111 times.
Accompanying himself on guitar or electric piano, Burnham continued to release self-described "pubescent musical comedy" songs and videos online as his fame and recognition grew. Described by The Boston Globes Joseph P. Kahn as "simultaneously wholesome and disturbing, intimate in a folksy-creepy sort of way," Burnham wrote and released R-rated songs about white supremacy, Helen Keller's disabilities, homosexuality, and more.
All of Burnham's home-released videos were self-recorded in and around his family's home in Hamilton, Massachusetts, most in his bedroom. Occasionally jokingly addressing his audience in his videos, ("Hello, Internet pedophiles,") Burnham rarely changes facial expression or camera angle while performing—simply setting the video camera on a stack of books.
In Autumn 2007, Douglas Edley, talent agent from The Gersh Agency had Burnham recommended to him by his assistant. The next day Edley called Burnham and told him: "I gotta represent you." Said Edley in a February 2008 telephone interview: "He's definitely the youngest comedian I've worked with – he was getting ready for his SATs when I called – but the quality of his writing is amazing." It was this call from Edley—whom Burnham had initially thought to be "a very advanced Internet predator"—that was Burnham's wake-up call as to his potential professional success. In addition to Burnham, Edley also represents several top-tier comedians, including Drew Carey and Dave Chappelle.
Compared to Ben Folds, Eminem, and Andrew Dice Clay, Burnham's music and performances tackle such taboo subjects as race, gender, human sexuality, and sex. Represented by Douglas Edley, Burnham recorded a performance in London for Comedy Central's The World Stands Up in January 2008 and signed a four-record deal with Comedy Central Records. Comedy Central Records released Burnham's first EP, the six-song Bo Fo Sho, as an online release-only album on. Burnham's first full album, the eponymous Bo Burnham, was released by Comedy Central Records
Burnham has performed his music across the world, as well as the United States, including Cobb's Comedy Club and YouTube Live in San Francisco, London, Montreal, and Carolines Comedy Club in New York City. Burnham describes his on-stage persona as a "more arrogant, stuck-up version [of] himself.
Burnham's first experience with controversy regarding his music came on, when fifteen Westminster College students (members of the campus' Gay-Straight Alliance, Black Students Association, International Club, and Cultural Diversity Organization) protested his concert there that evening. Though Burnham is playing characters in his performances, to make it comedy, that line has to be a thin one. Of the controversy, he said, "It's so ironic because gay bashers were the ones labeling me in high school, […] I try and write satire that’s well-intentioned. But those intentions have to be hidden. It can't be completely clear and that’s what makes it comedy." The Columbia Daily Tribune related that at the end of his Westminster performance, Burnham was approached by a paraplegic fan. While Burnham was plainly uncomfortable and nervous, given that his music mocks the handicappe], the young fan instead related a blonde joke to the teenaged musician. Despite the college's admission that they had booked Burnham while ignorant of his content, dean of students John Comerford praised the opportunities for discourse the controversy brought the school.
While performing at the prestigious Montreal Just for Laughs festival in 2008, Burnham met with the award-winning director and producer Judd Apatow. That September, Burnham negotiated with Universal Pictures to write and create the music for an Apatow-produced comedy film which he describes as the "anti-High School Musical". interview with Boston's Weekly Dig, Burnham elaborated on his work with the film. When he isn't performing, the teenaged musician spends eight hours a day writing the music, and his nights writing the script, of which he's finished the first draft.