Bo Burnham’s Career Was Pretty Impressive Even Before ‘Inside’

From humble YouTube beginnings to possible Emmy gold, Bo Burnham has had quite a career in Hollywood. From acting gigs to hit independent films, the 30-year-old from Massachusetts has come a long way since starting almost fifteen years ago. 

His newest comedy special, Inside, is already gaining critical acclaim and multiple Emmy award nominations. Let’s take a look at the performer’s career to see how far he’s come.  

PARK CITY, UTAH - JANUARY 25: Bo Burnham of 'Promising Young Woman' attends the IMDb Studio at Acura Festival Village on location at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival – Day 2 on January 25, 2020 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb)
Bo Burnham | Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb

Burnham started from his bedroom

Bo Burnham did not set out to be a comedian. His road to stardom started with him writing a few funny songs for his older brother and then uploading them to Youtube.

As he told the AV Club in 2009, “I had written these songs, and I wanted to show them to my brother who [was] in college. And at the time, YouTube was nothing. No one knew what it was. It was just like another outlet, and I didn’t think of it as a career move.”

He was 16 years old at the time. His first song, “My Whole Family…” reached up to 250,000 views a day, which was considered viral at the time. “It was very strange because I saw this giant number and then I went to school and nothing was different,” he told NPR. “And I think it started a lifelong journey of these two separate sort of narratives being absolutely incoherent but overlaid on top of each other.”

He quit NYU to work with Comedy Central Records

Once the view counts on Burnham’s videos started to rise, he quickly garnered the attention of agents and executives. The future Emmy nominee even deferred his acceptance to New York University for a year to pursue comedy. 

During that time, he toured the college circuit and eventually released the first six-song EP Bo Fo Sho. This was followed by his self-titled debut album. Both records were released on Comedy Central Records and led to his first taped comedy special.  It included many songs from Burnham’s YouTube channel. 

While his work still garnered laughs, the content became darker and more existential. Three more comedy specials followed, including Words, Words, Words, what., and Make Happy. With each special, Burnham looked deeper and deeper into the trappings of modern society, from fame to social media to mental illness. 

He even explored those themes further in the 2013 book, Egghead: Or, You Can’t Survive On Ideas Alone. Consisting mainly of poetry and quirky illustrations, Burnham was inspired by the Shel Silverstein books he read as a child. 

Burnham wrote and directed MTV’s ‘Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous’ and the indie darling ‘Eighth Grade’

Still fascinated by fame and youth, Burnham co-created Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous for MTV. The series follows the titular Zach as he uses his college money to pay a television crew to follow him around as he attempts to become a celebrity. 

His methods included getting a makeover, becoming a celebrity chef, and even making a sex tape. “This is the story of mocking fame, but I’m doing this, and in theory, if the show works, I’ll get more famous,”  Though it only ran for one season, it was critically acclaimed and has since developed a cult following.

Burnham took his conflicting feelings and anxieties about the internet and channeled them into a script. The resulting film Eighth Grade focused on a young girl, trying to become an influencer, during her last week in eighth grade. premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival to critical success. Burnham won awards from the Directors Guild of America, Independent Spirit Awards, and Writer Guild of America.

The first film he starred in was Oscar-nominated

Over the years, Burnham has taken more minor roles in big projects. Parks and Recreation fans may recognize him as Chipp McCapp, an arrogant country star. He also appeared in movies like Funny People, Hall Pass, Rough Night, The Big Sick, and TV shows like Kroll Show and Key and Peele. 

This past year he starred with Carey Mulligan in the feminist revenge film Promising Young Woman. Proving to Hollywood that he really can do it all, he played the romantic lead. He even put his musical talent to good use singing Paris Hilton’s “Stars are Blind.” Like Eighth Grade, the film also premiered at Sundance and went on to be nominated for five Academy Awards.

His luck may continue at this year’s Primetime and Creative Arts Emmy Award Ceremonies, where his newest special, Inside, is nominated for six categories.

Related: How Did Bo Burnham Get the Scar on His Face?