Two Comedy Central albums, an EP, an MTV series, millions of YouTube views and several comedy tours are just a few of the things under Bo Burnham’s belt, but this success isn’t something he thinks too much about.
“I always think if I stop and smell the roses, I’ll faint or something,” Burnham, who posted his first Youtube video in 2006, said in an interview with The Lantern. “So I just try to keep my head down and work because the attention and all that stuff could be gone tomorrow.”
Burnham is slated to perform 8 p.m. Saturday at the Capitol Theatre, performing his stand-up show, “what.”
Despite the success Burnham has achieved, he tries to stay modest, attributing his accomplishments and popularity to hard work.
“It’s very calculated for me. I grew up doing theater so my persona on stage is like, ‘How can I act where it will make the material as funny as possible?” he said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh all these people are laughing at me, I’m just so naturally funny,’ or anything, it’s more that I work hard on a performance and get something back from that during a performance — it helps me to sort of distance myself from the ego inflation that I think would come otherwise.”
At 23 years old, the Hamilton, Mass.-native can add published poet to his resume, which already includes comedian, actor, Internet celebrity and singer-songwriter.
Burnham recently released a book of poetry Oct. 1, titled “Egghead: or, You Can’t Survive on Ideas Alone.”
“For me, someone who’s grown up on Shel Silverstein and has gotten older and cynical and maybe a little dirty and maybe a little weird … it’s sort of like Shel Silverstein except a little more for adults,” he said.
Burnham, who already utilizes poetry in his stand-up, decided to publish a book of poetry when he realized the amount he had written.
“In my stand-up shows the last couple years, I’ve been reading poetry and I started to write more of it and it started to pile up in a way that I couldn’t put it in my show,” he said. “So I just started to put it aside and all of a sudden, it seemed to stack up in something that was like 500 poems or something and (I thought if) I were to edit and cut these down, there could actually be something worthy of people’s time — and it was also nice that for once I could sort of write without having to worry about getting a laugh every single five seconds, which is somewhat limiting.”
Some material in “Egghead” might resemble Burnham’s stand-up, but not all of the poems are comedic, he said.
“There are definitely poems that could be right out of the stand-up,” Burnham said. “Then, hopefully, there are other ones slightly maybe more serious, or a little more sad then you’ve seen. I hope it’s more a complete picture of the mind that makes my stand-up. I think that my stand-up has to be a little more of a narrow thing that’s closer to just comedy.”
Burnham intends to read poetry during his live show Saturday, but he said it won’t be the focus of his performance.
“There’s lights and a lot of sounds and it’s loud and hopefully very fun,” he said. “Sort of just a weird rock ‘n’ roll kind of comedy show.”
Sara Meng, a fourth-year in communication, said she would be interested in seeing Burnham live because he is unlike any other comedian.
“I used to watch his YouTube videos all the time,” Meng said. “He’s a lot different than a lot of comedians out there right now. I’d definitely be interested in going to his show.”
Chelsea Weaver, a third-year in English and member of 8th Floor Improv, agreed.
“I really like Bo Burnham, I’ve liked him for a while,” she said. “I think he’s a very smart comedian, he has a lot of jokes in his songs. I would go see him.”
Saturday will be Burnham’s second time performing at the Capitol Theatre, he was last there December 2010, and he said he’s thrilled to be back.
“I like performing in Columbus, that’s my favorite part of the country to perform in. I feel like people are so gracious and so intelligent, a smart crowd — they get things right away,” he said. “Always the best combination of all the niceness of the Midwest with also the intelligence of a city crowd.”
Capitol Theatre is located at 77 S. High St. Tickets are available for $34.80, after fees, through Ticketmaster.
Meghan Wallis contributed to this story.