Whether he refers to himself as a YouTuber or not, that’s how comedian/director Bo Burnham first gained attention 14 years ago. Now, he’s an acclaimed director, having won rave reviews for his movie Eighth Grade.
This year he has gone back in front of the camera to star in the attention-grabbing drama Promising Young Woman, starring Carey Mulligan as a woman who entraps men who try to take advantage of her as she pretends to be intoxicated. It does not go well for these men.
How did Bo Burnham get famous?
Burnham’s first wave of fame made him known as “that comedian who can sing too.” Singing with a guitar or keyboard, Burnham gradually gained notoriety for his comic songs.
He released an EP, Bo for Sho, following that up with a self-titled album. His songs tackled subjects ranging from homosexuality to white supremacy to the hypocrisy of country music stars who pretend to be down-home country people when they’re living high on the hog, at least as Burnham sees it. His “Country Song (Pandering)” included these lyrics:
I walk and talk like a field hand
But the boots I’m wearing cost three grand
I write songs about riding tractors
From the comfort of a private jet
Burnham was nominated for best comedy show at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, and he won two other prizes: the Panel Prize and The Malcolm Hardee Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid Award. Like many a celebrity before him, however, Burnham started saying, “What I really want to do is direct.”
Bo Burnham becomes a director
Burnham cut his teeth directing Tamborine, Chris Rock’s Netflix special that focused largely on Rock’s failed marriage and contentious divorce. But it was a different kind of alienation that was also getting Burnham’s attention at the time: adolescent alienation. And so Eighth Grade, which Burnham wrote and directed, came along.
Burnham thought about the various anxieties his career had given him so far and he decided to channel that through a character named Kayla, a socially awkward teen who only seems to break out of her shell doing YouTube advice videos. There are two problems, however. First, hardly anyone watches these videos, and second, Kayla is very bad at taking her own advice.
Eighth Grade, with a lead performance by Elsie Fisher of Despicable Me fame (she voiced the youngest girl, the excitable Agnes) premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, becoming a big indie hit.
The Rotten Tomatoes Critical Consensus reads, “Eighth Grade takes a look at its titular time period that offers a rare and resounding ring of truth while heralding breakthroughs for writer-director Bo Burnham and captivating star Elsie Fisher.”
What’s the latest on Bo Burnham?
All of this comedy and pain has combined to give Burnham a net worth of approximately $4 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. Promising Young Woman is another Sundance hit, but Burnham only acts in this one, playing Ryan, a former classmate of Mulligan’s character, who is a pediatric surgeon. He seems to be the one person who can get on Mulligan’s good side.
Co-produced by Margot Robbie, Promising Young Woman will be released April 17. Its Rotten Tomatoes consensus states, “A boldly provocative, timely thriller, Promising Young Woman is an auspicious feature debut for writer-director Emerald Fennell — and a career highlight for Carey Mulligan.”
While this is much more Mulligan’s show than it is Burnham’s, Burnham is happy to share the spotlight.
He told Film School Rejects: “When I showed Eighth Grade a couple of years ago here,” he remembers, “I had the same sort of experience. There are scenes that are very uncomfortable, and they would provoke laughter from some people while other people tried to go, ‘Shhh!’ That’s interesting. Laughter is sometimes just a release of tension.”