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Bo Burnham Knows Eighth Grade Was Awkward For You, Too

Bo Burnham and Elsie Fisher on the set of EIGHTH GRADE.
Linda Kallerus, courtesy of A24
Bo Burnham and Elsie Fisher on the set of EIGHTH GRADE.

Bo Burnham isn’t afraid of awkwardness. In fact, he’s built a career on it.

The 27-year-old comedian and musician achieved accidental fame on YouTube over a decade ago. At 18, he became the youngest comic to have his own special on Comedy Central.

Through his self-deprecating style, Burnham explores and parodies subjects like love, anxiety, and the internet. So it’s no surprise that his latest project, a full-length feature film, deals with those subjects, too.

But this time, he’s telling it from a 13-year-old girl’s perspective.

Burnham is the writer and director of “Eighth Grade.” We spoke to him about why he made the film, and what he hopes audiences (of all ages) will take away from it.

I didn’t set out to make a movie about eighth grade or talk about my own eighth grade experience. I really just wanted to talk about how I was feeling at the time I was writing it. I was sort of coming to terms with the fact that I had anxiety and wanted to talk about that and wanted to talk about the internet and just how it felt to be alive now to me. And in writing a bunch of things, I sort of stumbled on the voice of an eighth grade girl and found that I could say everything I wanted through her.

The film might be about a specific moment in adolescence, but Burnham thinks we can all relate to the way eighth graders act and feel.

I think we’re going through a slightly eighth grade moment as a culture. It feels like the country’s maybe operating at an eighth grade level. And especially with the internet, it’s like everyone acts like an eighth grader on the internet, so why not talk about it through the only people acting their own age?

The takeaway?

It’s just sort of an average five-day span in the life of this girl who’s about to graduate eighth grade. And part of being that age is that every day sort of feels like life and death. Every situation feels incredibly high-stakes, no matter how on-the-surface banal it is.

Hopefully it’s a movie where you leave and go ‘whoa, that was really really intense,’ but really it’s just a movie where she goes to a pool party and then goes to the mall and hangs out with a few friends.

*Show produced by Kathryn Fink and Paige Osburn, text by Kathryn Fink*.


Bo Burnham, Director and screenwriter, “Eighth Grade”; comedian; @boburnham

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

© 2018 WAMU 88.5 – American University Radio.

Copyright 2018 WAMU 88.5

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