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What Are Words For?

20-year-old 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 the joke.

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).

On “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).




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