Self-Deprecation is arguably one of the most popular comedic styles these days. People enjoy putting themselves down, making themselves the butt of the jokes, because it’s easier to make yourself a joke before someone else does. Sigmund Freud talked about self-deprecation, along with other comedic devices, as a way to make one feel superior to others, and I think that even now that definitely a thing. The list of comedians who use self-deprecating humor goes on and on, but my personal favorite would be Bo Burnham, who has centered his entire career on making fun of himself, while also critiquing society as a whole. His latest show “what.” is a shining example of that, since with almost each and every bit he does he’s constantly putting himself down in the name of comedy.
Burnham’s latest show, and his other shows that he has done, are always done through an on-stage persona that is both incredibly self-interested, as well as self-deprecated. The character is sexually ambiguous, but he often references being referred to as many homophobic slurs, usually by old classmates or his parents, even though in real life Burnham’s parents don’t actually hate him and are very supportive of his career. He makes himself the butt of almost every joke he delivers, whether it’s through song or through poetry. The whole first eight minutes of the show is a bunch of miming jokes, and one of the recorded jokes is constantly making jokes at his expense, such as “He has a giant head and tiny nipples,” and “You’re an asshole, Bo… You will die alone and you will deserve it.”
In particular, there is one bit he does in his show that is called “The Left and Right Brain.” This is a song that is sung by his left a...
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...of control. All of these moments get a lot of laughter in response, so it definitely falls in line with what Freud was talking about.
There are so many other examples of Bo Burnham’s comic genius than the ones discussed here. His humor is crude, and dirty, but also so insightful, and the way he blends them into this giant, theatrical, self-deprecating manner makes him, in my opinion, one of the most talented comedians in the industry today. Despite the character that he plays, Burnham has moments of true self-expression, making it known explicitly that what he does is all an act, and that while his character may think he’s better than others, Bo Burnham himself does not. He knows just how much to push and he knows how to get the laughs, and I’m sure he would find it incredibly hilarious that he’s been related to Sigmund Freud’s theories in a college English paper.
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