I had a dream last night. It was a weird dream. I was at a show, completely alone, just sitting at a table drinking a water with lime. It was a strong drink, but I was able to stay coherent throughout the performance, which was a one-man production full of music, comedy, and storytelling. The man on stage was racially ambiguous with small features, an infectious smile, and a sarcastic charm. I couldn’t figure out who he was, but his performance and in turn, my dream, was enchanting. I awoke confused. It was clear I was at a one-man show, yet two names were in my head: Bo Burnham and Childish Gambino.
Now, there’s no way in hell Bo and Childish (alias, Donald Glover) are the same person. That would be the best kept, and most corrupt, secret in Hollywood. The big wigs who helm the entrainment industry’s ship would scoff at the notion of such chicanery. But I’m a bloodhound when it comes to solving mysteries. And in the case of Bo Burnham and Childish Gambino, I smell some serious blood.
But this isn’t your everyday riddle. Bo and Childish have done an impressive job hiding the fact that they comprise just one mind, body, and spirit. On the surface, they seem like radically different humans. Hell, my personal opinion regarding the two entertainers differs drastically.
I like Childish Gambino. I remember him as a YouTube star. I’ve seen him perform stand-up twice. I’ve delightedly followed his rap career. And the only television shows he’s worked on—30 Rock and Community—have been two of NBC’s finest since the turn of the millennium. The dude has everything going for him! F yeah, Childish!
But Bo Burnham? That guy’s a piece of work. I’m more talented than him. I could write wittier sketches and catchier songs. Listening to him for a full hour is boring. Even at his best, he lacks range as a comedian and singer. And yet, he’s Bo Burnham.
One is a likable and talented entertainer; the other is an arrogant asshole lucked into his fame. One is black; the other is white. I can see how you’d think they were different. And until my dream last night, which sent me into a hyper-analysis of Bo and Childish’s most recent work, I’d have said the same thing. But then I listened to Gambino’s because the internet and watched Burnham’s what., both of which exposed the pain from which the artists draw. Suddenly, they’re writing was not just catchy and humorous, it was fucking real.
Childish is having trouble dealing with the pressures attached to stardom. During the months leading up to the release of his second album, he jotted down his fears and confessions on Residence Inn note paper and posted them to Instagram. He spoke so candidly during interviews you actually grew concerned for the man. This is a depressed homie. He’s confused, lonely, exasperated. His album reflects these sentiments. It’s a collection of outlandish sounds and unconventional hooks that seem to comprise a three-part play, which acts as a beautiful and confusing manifestation of the artist’s beautiful confusion.
Meanwhile, Bo Burnham hates everything about Hollywood, especially that he’s a part of it. His hour-long special, what., outlines this inner struggle using unconventional comedic techniques. Bo interacts with a voiceover and plays with stage lighting. He sings a song from the perspective of God, which is strange, considering it reveals that there is no God and that “none of you are going to Heaven.” The show concludes with Bo merging the admonishments of his three sternest critics into a catchy song, essentially turning the sounds of his haters into music to his ears. The show is bizarre and thought-provoking and holy mother of the God that Burnham says doesn’t exist, it’s creative.
Don’t listen to Gambino’s because the internet as background music for a party. Don’t watch Burnham’s what. when you’re trying to fall asleep. Rather, immerse yourself in these artists’ work, because they deserve it and you will benefit from it. They share haters, they suffer similarly, and they are totally relatable. I was wrong about them. Childish doesn’t have everything going for him; Bo is not a dick. They’re just like me and you. The pain they share is some of the same pain you feel. They’re affected by fame and fortune in the same way you’d be affected by fame and fortune. And they’re trying to share their emotions in a distinct manner.
The only difference between you and them is that they used to be just one man, who wielded his shrewdness to purchase a genie who could split him into two men, so his life’s work would reach a broader audience. This man is brilliant and talented. He’s confused and alone. His work is far more real than what we’re used to, so let’s pay attention to it.
Also, if any of you have ever seen these two individuals in the same room at the same time, please let me know, as that would ruin my theory.