"Before Thursday night, when I sat down to watch comedian/actor/filmmaker Bo Burnham’s Bo Burnham: Inside special on Netflix, I would sooner have thrown my TV out the window and occupy my time doing dumb things like 'reading a book' or 'discovering a hobby' than watch another piece of content created during and about the pandemic," says Kevin Fallon. "Now that I’ve seen Bo Burnham: Inside—a brilliant, maddening, and transformative piece of art-meets-comedy-meets-commentary—I officially make that pledge. This is it. Inside is the perfect punctuation on the grand quarantine TV experiment. It’s at once an exclamation point, a question mark, and an ellipsis to a maddening, sad, and paradigm-shifting time of our existence. After this, no more. The world is reopening. Inside is the perfect special to look back and reflect at the dark tunnel behind us as we move, some of us cautiously and some of us as if shot out of a cannon, into the light."
What Bo Burnham: Inside does so successfully is capture the unquiet isolated mind: "As I watched it — having spent more than a year almost completely alone with my dog — I kept feeling it buzz uncomfortably close, as if it were telling secrets about how isolation feels that were supposed to remain secrets," says Linda Holmes. "The Burnham you see alone in his house was not a literal translation of my own experience, by any means. I did not wind up unable to get out of bed, or stuck in one room, or feeling myself go to pieces in quite the way this represents. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized: This is a picture of what the inside of my head felt like for a year. What feels eerily familiar is the way the version of Bo Burnham we see here is struggling with a completely unfamiliar and unexpected happening by trying to balance two impulses. One is to stay in bed, stay in the dark, stay alone. The other is to create, create, create, stay busy, and make jokes. How many jokes do you make about having had no human contact and losing (in his case) access to audiences and work, and how much do you candidly acknowledge that you have no idea how long you can go on like this? That's familiar to me. It might be familiar to anyone who decided to garden or make sourdough bread or learn a language or do anything else that represents a mind at work and at play and not in freefall. Burnham has made the first piece of pandemic culture that I would show to someone in 20 years and say, 'I'm not a comedian and I can't write songs, but the inside of my head was like this guy sitting at a keyboard in his underpants trying desperately not to lose it.'"
Inside is…a lot: "It's a staggering feat of multimedia art that speaks to Bo Burnham's rare creativity. It's also a hopeless and upsetting projection of depression that gets a little too close to the feels if one is inclined to feel them," says Alexis Nedd. "It's brilliant, the songs are mostly bangers, and it's laugh-out-loud hilarious. It's physically painful to watch. That oscillation is the point of Inside and of Burnham's work as a whole. All eyes on him. Now heads down. Pray for him. And for the love of god, don't ask him what he did in 2020."