Total disassociation, fully out your mind.
Googling derealization, hating what you find.
I used to love stand-up comedy, but as the years went on I feel like the artform started to interest me less and less. Or at the very least I wasn’t enjoying some of the comics as much as before and certainly wasn’t finding any new ones. But I still love some of George Carlin’s old stuff and for newer comics I still think Bill Burr is very funny. Although with both of them I always find myself not agreeing with all the jokes. That’s not a bad thing, of course, you should rarely find yourself agreeing with someone on everything.
Yet there’s one stand-up comedian whose work I will always love. Some of his older stuff may not have aged well, but when it comes to his latest special, Inside, I think Bo Burnham is one of the most brilliant creative minds out there. And from this special, which is fantastic from beginning to end, there was one song that to this day lives rent-free in my head: That funny feeling.
There are a lot of lines in this song specifically that stand out to me, the one at the top of this post being the one that hits the hardest. But what this song really means to me is the feeling it evokes. In talking about that funny feeling, Bo evokes a feeling from the person listening to the song. Now I would wager good money that the feeling it evokes might differ depending on which person listens to the song, but as any good literature teacher will tell you, it’s all about your interpretation of the art, and not about the literal meaning. And the feeling this song gives me, is the aforementioned disassociation. It’s a feeling I’m familiar with, so it was easy to recognize. There’s a lot to unpack in this song and I’m sure I can’t go into every detail, but let us try anyway. And a lot of this feeling has to do with the world not being right.
I’ve talked about the world feeling wrong before on this blog. I think it’s a feeling many people share, and a big reason why some people buy into conspiracies. As a way to combat the feeling of something being wrong, they try to find a convenient solution to a complex problem. Ever since I watched this video by Hbomberguy this has become so much clearer to me as well.
The funny feeling Bo is describing seems to match this sentiment. Let’s take the following line from the song:
Discount Etsy agitprop, Bugels’ take on race.
It’s a sentence that both makes a lot of sense yet also might give the listener emotional whiplash at the same time. It’s political in every sense of the word. Agitprop originates in the Soviet-Union primarily, where it’s used to describe propaganda in movies and such. Having a communist concept on a discount etsy shop is contrarian enough but Bo immediately follows up with Bugels take on race. It shouldn’t be relevant what a crisp brand has to say about race, it’s not really something I’m looking for in my crisps. I don’t mind brands being political, a good example is that Ben & Jerry has done quite a lot of good in their time. But, and I’m sure this is what Bo is referring to, a lot of companies love pretending to be an ally. Just look at the black logos when we were talking about Black Lives Matter, or the rainbow logos during Pride Month. Forget the fact these things are dropped as soon as the moment has passed and these companies don’t actually give a damn, but we still look at it to be comforted in a sense.
We all know Samsung and Nike and many other brands we use have their products made by slave labor in China, and we all condone them for it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t own their products. Well, I have a Oneplus at the moment, but I had a Samsung phone up until recently. And just because I’m unfamiliar with Oneplus’ production line doesn’t mean it can’t contain anything awful. I really don’t want to go down this Google rabbit hole, so I’m going to assume their production line is fully ethical. I do want to get some sleep at night, after all.
The point that I believe Bo is trying to make in this song, is the insanity of the way the world works. There’s other songs that point this out too. From what I’ve understood about Bo, and I could be wrong on this, he’s very left-leaning in his political views, which I consider myself to be as well. And I can understand someone who wants the world to be a better place so badly, but then experiences the emotional whiplash of buying shoes and having to live with the fact that they’re not ethically produced, to struggle with this. I know I do. I can eat less meat or recycle my plastic or donate to Ukraine to make myself feel a little bit better, but at the end of the day I’m still a part of the problem. The more I think about it, the less funny this feeling really is. I think it’s just depressing.
Bo is a masterful storyteller and leaves enough room for interpretation in many of his songs in this special, so perhaps when you listened to this song you got an entirely different meaning from it. All I can comfortably say is that it is an amazing song that really makes me think, for better or worse. But please, if you have anything to add, or if you disagree with some of the things I’ve said, please leave a comment down below. And if there’s any other songs on this special you’d like me to talk about I’d definitely be open to that. But until then, thanks for reading, and let me leave you with the most hauntingly beautiful line in the entire special.
That unapparent summer air in early fall,
The quiet comprehending of the ending of it all.