The summer of 2016 saw two performances go from ecstasy to horror in an instant. The first was Kanye West’s infamous Saint Pablo tour, in which he debuted his free-thinking Donald Trump admirations, and the second was Bo Burnham’s Make Happy, a Netflix comedy special that, through a final meditation on fame and performance, accidentally prophesied Kanye’s current re-emergence. We’re calling Kanye’s turn a betrayal, but Bo Burnham’s show communicates it might have been unavoidable.
Bo Burnham rose to fame in the early aughts as a YouTube star. His original comedy songs racked up hundreds of millions of views, and in 2010, he debuted his first live comedy special, Words Words Words, when he was 19. Ever since, Burnham’s slanted his act toward ideas about performing. His second special, what., ends on a downer piece of performance art, and in 2016, Make Happy’s finale carried a similar emotional weight. It’s introspection disguised as fan service, and it’s tied directly to Kanye West.
(Bo Burnham’s Make Happy finale can be viewed here. WARNING: The clip contains strong language.)
It would be Burnham’s last stand-up act to date. He hasn’t stood on a stage and told jokes since, instead putting all his time into writing and directing. Aside from a couple bit parts in a few tiny movies, “Can’t Handle This” was in effect the punctuation mark on Burnham’s comedy career, and his career on a stage in general. His comeback, if you could even describe it that way, will be as director of this summer’s Eighth Grade.
Kanye West, too, has re-emerged after a performing hiatus, but his exit and return both sit far afield from Burnham. Kanye’s departure from the stage also came in 2016, when the San Jose stop on his Saint Pablo tour saw the artist launch into a 25-minute rant about his personal political views and his endorsement of then-President-elect Donald Trump. Kanye said if he had voted, he would have voted for Trump. The crowd, standing beneath him on a stage designed for them, booed.
Days later, Kanye cancelled the rest of the Saint Pablo tour. He was admitted to the hospital for stress and exhaustion, and not long after he appeared at Trump Tower with the current president. The backlash was vicious and swift, and Kanye disappeared.
This April, Kanye returned to Twitter, and in turn, the public eye. He came out strong in support of the president and positioned himself as one of the few free-thinkers in popular culture. He explained that most people in modern society were prisoners of the “thought police,” and wrote that slavery was “a mentality.” Later, in a taped interview with TMZ, Kanye called slavery a choice.
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Source: Relevant Magazine