Bo Burnham’s wonderful book, Egghead, or, You Can’t Survive on Ideas Alone, is a collection of poems, published in 2013. In this collection, Burnham covers a broad range of topics from scatological humour to love in his own unique style. Being a stand-up comedian by trade (and a phenomenal one at that), this book promises you a whole barrel of laughs, whatever your sense of humour.
Burnham’s poetry is incredible in many ways, but one of the things I admire most is his mastery of several different comic techniques, poetic styles and language. You do not have to read far into this volume to realise that Burnham is a wordplay expert. But he mixes that with variations on poem length and rhyming schemes and it makes for a very eclectic reading experience.
Burnham’s poems, on the whole, use comedy as their medium, but even this is more complicated and subtle than it sounds when put into Burnham’s hands. Some poems are laugh out loud funny, some are pure silliness, whilst others are an exercise in wit. ‘Clever’ is definitely an understatement when it comes to describing Burnham’s work.
But Burnham is so much more than his biting humour. His ability to use the medium of poetry to make important and impressive points on society and politics is fascinating, for instance. All of Burnham’s work is meticulously thought out and formatted for maximum impact. For a comedian who doesn’t take himself too seriously, his work has an awful lot to say.
However, I think my favourite thing about Burnham’s poetry is his sentiment. On top of all the ingenuity and the scathing wit lies some gorgeous verse with beautiful and inspirational messages. My particular favourites include ‘Magic’, ‘Sully’, ‘Rock Bottom’, and ‘The Light’. I adore these poems because they are so evocative, and yet don’t seem at odds with the other works in Burnham’s oeuvre.
The other important feature to mention is the fabulous drawings of Chance Bone. His style is simultaneously simplistic and very deep. There is a great sense of freedom and personality in his work which suits Burnham’s poetry well. I also like the fact that the drawings do not always match the content that they are paired with, which just helps to accentuate Burnham’s eccentricity. Bone’s drawings are also wonderfully uncanny at times, which adds a whole other dimension to his work.
Egghead is an amazing read. It’s easy to pick up and put down again, it’s quick to read and it is a definite spirit lifter. If you are not adverse to a bit of offensive humour (which tends to be Burnham’s forte) then I would definitely recommend giving this a go. Surprisingly enlightening and uplifting, Egghead is the best collection of poetry that I have read in many years.