What Are Words For?
musically inspired comedian strives to answer that on debut CD
New young comic prodigy Bo Burnham, 20, performs his
second album “Words Words Words” (in stores Oct. 19 and tied to the Oct. 16 Comedy Central
special of the same title), as a mix of songs and wordplay that seems a
little unfocused and scattered at first, but eventually gets to you with
an element of surprise.
Burham’s album mixes studio versions of comedic songs with live
monologues, other songs and alternate versions of some of the studio
songs that lead off the album. His best moments are when he gets far
enough ahead of his audience with wordplay that they have to catch up to
This is heard best in “Ironic,” a song with lines like “I adopted an
Asian baby to save him from child-labor factories/and for his first
birthday, took him to a Build-A-Bear Workshop” and “I got my girlfriend
pregnant/on my sterile uncle’s pull-out couch.”
Burham’s material, perhaps because he is still young enough to wear his
influences closer to the surface, draws from Steven Lynch, particularly
in his songs; Zach Galifianakis, in its politically incorrect
surrealism; and Stephen Wright, in its drier observations. But some
moments of Burham’s monologue material have novelty, particularly
“Haikus/Sonnet/Shakespeare,” in which he delivers a clever Shakespearean
soliloquy filled with sexual puns.
And Burham’s religious-satire rap “Rant” consolidates and compresses
what George Carlin once discoursed at length on Catholicism and politics
into a short punchy track, shot through with pop culture references as
well (like a quick dismissal of Soulja Boy).
“Words Words Words,” Burham shows enough flashes of talent and
originality to suggest he has greater things in store. His debut
scatters this like buckshot, resulting in ups and downs, high points and
lulls. When he’s got more knowledge under his belt to back up those
words, that could be something to see (and hear).