Raunchy teen comic plays to the crowd

By Katie Johnston Chase
Globe Staff / April 13, 2009
  • Email|
  • Print|
  • Single Page|
  • |
Text size +

You have to wonder what Bo Burnham would be doing if he'd grown up before the age of YouTube. The 18-year-old from Hamilton would probably be just another cocky, mouthy college student cracking inappropriate jokes in the back of class. He wouldn't have a CD on the Billboard charts or have been tapped by Judd Apatow to write a script. And he certainly wouldn't have been onstage at the Wilbur Saturday night.

His sold-out audience appeared to be made up of two distinct groups: teenagers who had seen his songs on YouTube and their 50-year-old parents (not sitting together, of course). Burnham also claimed his grandparents were there. And he did his best to insult and shock everyone in the crowd, even mocking them for shelling out $30 for routines they can see for free on the Internet.

Burnham's jokes covered the bases: race, religion, women, sex, and people thinking he's gay. The latter is his favorite topic, but heterosexual relationships are fair game too: "My ex-girl-friend had a weird fetish," he said. "She used to like to dress up like herself and act like a [expletive]."

After his not-quite hourlong set, girls lined up in the lobby to meet him - apparently they don't mind that he holds up Helen Keller as his perfect woman because she couldn't talk. Or maybe they fell for his line at the end of the sex-themed "High School Party": "None of that happened because I wasn't invited." Oh, poor Bo: Is this why you're so bitter? Seems unlikely. No one who had a miserable high school experience is this self-assured, at least not this quickly.

Burnham's raunchy, condescending humor is what made him a hit on YouTube. The more shocking the better on the Internet - especially when it's coming from a cute, geeky teenager - but in person, you can see he's playing a part. He admitted as much, telling the audience he really wasn't a jerk offstage.

Burnham clearly has a flair for the dramatic, a quick wit, and a knack for wordplay and musical phrasing - and he's undeniably hard working. He just better hope he finds a new shtick before his boyish charm wears off.

BO BURNHAM At: the Wilbur Theatre, Saturday night