Burnham performing in April 2012
|Born||Robert Pickering Burnham
August 21, 1990
Hamilton, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Labels||Comedy Central Records|
Robert Pickering Burnham (born August 21, 1990) is an American comedian, musician, singer, songwriter, rapper, actor, and poet. He began his performance career as a YouTuber in March 2006, and his videos have been viewed over 204 million times as of September 2017 .
Burnham signed a four-year record deal with Comedy Central Records and released his debut EP, Bo Fo Sho, in 2008. His first full-length album, Bo Burnham, was released the following year. In 2010, Burnham's second album was released, and Words Words Words, his first live comedy special, aired on Comedy Central. His third album and second comedy special, what., was released in 2013 on his YouTube channel and Netflix. Burnham finished first overall in voting in 2011's Comedy Central Stand-up Showdown. His third stand-up comedy special, Make Happy, was released exclusively on Netflix on June 3, 2016.
In addition to his career as a comedian, Burnham co-created and starred in the MTV television series Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous and released his first book of poetry, Egghead: Or, You Can't Survive on Ideas Alone, in 2013.
Burnham was born in Hamilton, Massachusetts, the youngest of three children of Scott Burnham, a construction company owner, and Patricia, a nurse at Burnham's school. He graduated from St. John's Preparatory School in the spring of 2008, where he was on the honor roll and involved in theatre and the campus ministry program. He was admitted to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts to study Experimental Theatre, but instead deferred his admission for a year to pursue a career in comedy.
In 2006, Burnham videotaped himself performing two songs and posted them on YouTube to share with his family. They became an overnight sensation when they were copied to Break.com, with traffic multiplying over 111 times.
Accompanying himself on guitar or digital piano, Burnham continued to release self-described "pubescent musical comedy" songs and videos online as his audience grew. Described in The Boston Globe as "simultaneously wholesome and disturbing, intimate in a folksy-creepy sort of way", Burnham wrote and released 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, and had an intentional "do-it-yourself [feel], almost like voyeurism".
Burnham's music and performances tackle such subjects as race, gender, human sexuality, sex, and religion. Burnham describes his on-stage persona as a "more arrogant, stuck-up version [of] himself". When speaking with The Detroit News about his rapping, he expressed his intent to honor and respect the perspective and culture of hip-hop music.
Represented by Douglas Edley, Burnham recorded a performance in London for Comedy Central's The World Stands Up in January 2008 (aired June 30, 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 June 17, 2008. Burnham's first full album, the self-titled Bo Burnham, was released on March 10, 2009.
Burnham has performed his music in the United States, including Cobb's Comedy Club, YouTube Live in San Francisco, and Caroline's Comedy Club in New York City, and internationally in London and Montreal. In August 2010, Burnham was nominated for "Best Comedy Show" at the 2010 Edinburgh Comedy Awards after his inaugural performance (of Bo Burnham: Words, Words, Words). He instead received the "Panel Prize", a £5,000 prize for "the show or act who has most captured the comedy spirit of the 2010 Fringe".
Burnham's first experience with controversy regarding his music came on March 3, 2009, 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. 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." Despite the college's admission that they had booked Burnham while ignorant of his show's material, dean of students John Comerford praised the opportunities for discourse the controversy brought the school.
On May 21, 2010, Burnham taped his first one-hour stand-up special, entitled Words Words Words, for Comedy Central from the House of Blues in Boston as part of the network's new "House of Comedy" series of stand-up specials; it aired on Comedy Central on October 16, 2010. It was released on October 18, 2010. Burnham's second special, titled what., was released on both Netflix and YouTube on December 17, 2013. Burnham's latest special, Make Happy, was produced by Netflix and released on June 3, 2016.
While performing at the Montreal Just for Laughs festival in 2008, Burnham met with 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", although Burnham insists the script is not a parody of the Disney musicals, but an attempt to emulate the high school he attended. Hoping to star in the film he was writing, Burnham told Wired magazine that he named the star "Bo" in a "not-so-subtle hint [he] want[s] to be in it". In a March 2009 interview with Boston's Weekly Dig, Burnham elaborated on his work with the film. When he is not performing, Burnham spends eight hours a day writing the music, and his nights writing the script, of which he has finished the first draft. Co-writing the screenplay with Burnham was his high school friend Luke Liacos. In an October 2010 interview with MTV, Burnham admitted that he did not know anything about the future of the project, and that it was all effectively up in the air as far as he knew.
In May 2009, viral marketing began appearing for Funny People, in which Burnham stars in a NBC sitcom called Yo Teach! In the promo, Burnham stars opposite Jason Schwartzman, as a student in the latter's English class.
In 2010, Burnham wrote and executive produced Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous alongside Dan Lagana, Luke Liacos, and Dave Becky. The series was not picked up for a second season and officially ended on June 26, 2013.
At the 2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, he was nominated for the main Edinburgh Comedy Award and won both the Edinburgh Comedy Awards' panel prize and the Malcolm Hardee "Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid" Award.
Irreverent songs win Hamilton youth a cult following
Rising comedian just finished run at Edinburgh fest
Burnham lands US sitcom deal
With a Comedy Central special and an Apatow movie in the works, young Burnham sees plenty of room for growth