This is a true story. It’s been abridged, but it’s true, more than a little embarrassing, and completely unbelievable. And y’all are going to get to live it with me here and now. In honor of comedian/writer/actor/crazy person Bo Burnham’s television debut, Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous (as I’m sure you can gather follow the hyperlink here to watch it on mtv.com) I’ve decided to tell the story of the year and a half I spent meeting Bo at, what seemed like, every opportunity.
I’ve always been a fan of Bo’s witty-sometimes-cynical-always versatile brand of comedy. The first time I saw one of his videos on Youtube I was a freshman in high school and he was just some kid singing in this video with a couple hundred views. I’d check back in from time to time to watch a video, but I wasn’t the most ardent of fans. In fact, over the years I almost completely forgot about him.
But during my freshman year of college things changed for me. I was living in a new city on the East Coast, trying to juggle a full time work schedule with a full class-load, figuring out exactly what I wanted to do with my life, and all while committed to an already failing relationship that was stretched too thin across two thousand miles. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), I was a walking ball of stress.
One night, after getting home from work I turned on the TV to comedy central while I got ready for bed. It was then, toothbrush in one hand socks in the other, that I heard a familiar voice wafting from those mini speakers. I know that kid, I thought as I watched a clearly grown-up (or at least, taller, and isn’t that kind of the same thing?) Bo perform song after song of new material on his Comedy Central special, Words, Words, Words.
In that moment, I’m not ashamed to say, I fell in love. Not with Bo himself, mind, because that’s just plain silly if you ask me – falling in love with someone you don’t even know, but with his work. And I stand by that – Bo’s art is real, which may sound like a cop-out thing to say, but it’s true. He puts himself into it, and it’s very obvious that his heart is fully in it. And it’s hard not to love something that’s filled with that much passion. It inspired me and made me realize that my passion for the written word could amount to something as long as I never gave it up.
So I got it in my head that I had to meet this kid.
And I did.
In fact, I met him several times. I went to shows in Philadelphia, Boston, Hartford, Albany, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C. And it wasn’t kismet; it was all me.
People ask me to tell this story a lot. Sometimes because they know who Bo is and are curious about what meeting him was like, and other times simply because they know I hold nothing back, so in stories like this one I look like an idiot.
The first time I met Bo was at a show in late 2010 in Philadelphia. Overly worried about being late because I had to take the Greyhound there, I decided that the only logical thing to do was to take an early bus, arriving in the blistering cold city at around 5:30 a.m. Yes, you read that right. I showed up at the Trocadero Theatre in China Town more than eleven hours early. Because I was afraid I was going to be late.
So this TEXAN-BRED gal spent an October day outside of the theatre just waiting and freezing and then waiting some more. So much so that the Theatre Manager, Howard, urged me to go somewhere else while I waited, promising he’d remember that I was first in line for the show. But by then I was committed to waiting (and broke) so I just paced the streets of China Town and tried to keep from looking too homeless (did I get offered quarters a few times? yes, yes I did). When it was finally time to find seats my friend (who conveniently arrived like an hour before show time instead of 12) and I were ready to go. I even got an, “Enjoy the show, Crazy Girl,” from Howard, who was at this point a friend to me.
The shows were great, but I’m not here to tell you about that. If you want to see his stuff, google him. I will say the highlights were him making fun of my friend (one of the only black people in attendance), and these girls who pretended (they told people after the show) to have mistakenly bought tickets for him thinking they were buying ticket to see the Burnham Band (who open for Justin Bieber apparently), prompting much ridicule from Bo.
After the show I was pretty nervous while we stood in line to meet him. I had, in my own silly young endearing way, decided to bring a copy of a short story I was working on. I wanted him to read it because he inspired some of it, as I had listened to his music while I was writing. Of course, to expect someone famous to have read it is kind of ridiculous, but hey – I wasn’t old and cynical then.
The man in charge of keeping the line going was very strict, and for the purposes of this story let’s just call him BUFF JERK, because that’s really all he was. So, Buff Jerk got called away to handle something while I was like next in line to meet Bo. But before he left he told me not to move until he came back. Since he was huge and scary and I was exhausted and nervous, I didn’t move an inch.
That is until a minute or so passed and he never came back. The person who had been meeting Bo before me had already left, so he was looking around to see who was up next. Which would be me. We locked eyes and he held out his arms like, “Hey are you going to come over here now or what?” I knew I had a choice to make – listen to Bo who was beckoning and smiling at me, or listen to Buff Jerk who could possibly kill me for disobeying him. So obviously I chose Bo. I walked right up to him with about all the confidence I had and I shook his outstretched hand (which was probably waiting for me to hand him something to sign). Yup, that’s right folks. I met one of my artistic inspirations and the first thing I thought was appropriate was to shake his hand. Then I went on to ask him to sign my writing notebook. Lame, I know.
Basically our exchange went like this:
I sputtered this mess out as quickly as my tongue would allow, “I’m a creative writing major and I would really love it if you would sign my writing notebook.” I said it so fast that I had to slow down and repeat myself.
He said, “Of course I will. Where do you want me to sign?”
I turned to the page at the beginning where I had written out Hamlet’s To be or not to Be Soliloquy, which is my favorite from the play. He looked it over and said, “I love Hamlet.”
I nodded my agreement and said, “Yeah, it’s one of my favorite Shakespeare plays.”
As he finished signing it and handed it back to me I took the opportunity to be even more awkward and said, “I got here at 5 a.m. this morning.”
He looked shocked, “5 a.m.? I’m sorry!”
I was feeling sheepish at that point and looked down at my feet again (ugh I’m an idiot), “It wasn’t so bad. I went to both shows actually.”
He looked surprised again, “You went to both shows? Wow. That’s awesome. Thank you so much.”
I said, “They were amazing.”
He said, “Aww, Caitlin, Thank you.”
Then I basically handed him my short story with some, “You really don’t have to read this or anything I just wanted you to have it” speel, he swore he’d read it and thanked me, we hugged, took a picture, and I left with my friend.
I had no idea that it was only the beginning.
Since I promised an abridged story, I’m going to streamline it a bit from here. I went on to see Bo again in Boston, where I accidentally met and (sort of) befriended his really-cool dad (Hey, y’all know I’ll talk to anyone, so when this guy struck up a conversation with us, I didn’t ask questions until later when he was all, “Oh btw I’m Bo’s dad”). In Boston his dad also introduced me to his mom, who asked me why I liked Bo, to which I replied with an eloquent (by which I mean riddled with umms and thrown together on the spot) speech about how Bo is “three-dimensional in his art” and I respect that. I’m positive that in the end I was just like, “I mean you already know all this because you’re his mom and all.” You know me, always playing it cool. After she called me sweet I ran into the bathroom and died because it was all really weird and because they were real people and I was eighteen and floored to have anyone think I was sweet. Upon meeting Bo the second time I started with the always in style line, “You probably don’t remember me…” to which he swore up and down he did (not sure how true that was). It was at this point that my having friends who are comedians (don’t get worked up – friends is a loose term for the people I hang out with in New York City at the Comedy Cellar sometimes), which got him all excited because he knows a lot of the people I know. That was cool. And we took more pictures.
A month or so later and I found myself freezing to death in the snow in Pittsburgh because again I was way too early (have I mentioned insanity runs in my family on not one, but both sides?) It was at that show that I befriended all of the stagehands because they let me into the theatre early when I started to turn colors outside. When Bo and Co. showed up they were all more than eager to tell Mr. Burnham about how early I was, to which he replied, “Oh I know her. She’s Bo’s number one fan.” Which was probably code for, “she’s some insane girl who shows up at like every show.”
Then something pretty interesting happened…
As I was sitting waiting for the show to start Mr. Burnham came back over with a very very pretty young woman. Like, I thought she was gorgeous. First he pointed out to both of us this other girl and her friends also on the front row and tells us that she’s the girl that’s stalking Bo on his Facebook page and won’t stop giving him drawings of him. Then Mr. Burnham turned to me and said, “This is my daughter Samm.” Samm smiled and shook my hand.
“I’m so excited to finally meet you Caitlin.” Weird. Finally? WTF?
“It’s great to meet you too.”
“I love your braids. You look beautiful.” She reached out and touched them. Then she says, “At the… What theater was it? Oh! The Wilbur (that was the Boston theater fyi) I was watching you the entire show – during both of them. It was my favorite part of the show. You’re really fascinating.”
Well Samm Burnham was watching ME for 3 hours watching her brother the famous comedian. And there’s really nothing you can say to that except, “Thanks.”
Needless to say I spent that show very self-conscious. But afterwards I got to talk to her again, which was really cool. She’s great. She introduced me to her significant other who coaches swimming or something (if I remember correctly) and asked me about myself a lot.
I got to talk with Bo again, which went a little like this. “What’s up?” “Nothing much.” “Do you want a picture?” “No, I’m good – I’ll see you tomorrow at your show in DC.” “Oh? Really? Awesome!” We hug. I start to feel awkward and sort of disentangle myself to leave. He stops me. “Wait.” I wait. “I love you hair.” He reaches out to touch my braids (everyone always wants to do this).
Then I took a one a.m. bus back to DC, went to work, got dressed and went to another of his shows the next night. I didn’t get there too early as it was my campus and I had to work, but Mr. Burnham claimed I was “late” because I wasn’t the first one there. After the show I met Bo’s brother Pete. Mr. Burnham joked that I was “fitting right in” with the family. Because that’s perfectly normal. Bo and I made awkward small talk about how tired we both were and took another picture because he claimed I “needed one with the braids.” Lord knows, the one thing Bo probably genuinely liked about me was that I’m whiter than snow but I rock those nigerian braids.
The next time we came face to face a couple weeks later in Harford, CT his first question was, “What did you do to your hair?” So I knew he actually remembered me. He second question was, “Are you a professional photographer?” Because I’m always carrying around my camera which is professional. After another photo attempt that didn’t work out we did a slow motion fist bump that was probably cringe-worthy.
The next night, in Albany, I watched two teenage girls beg him to take them to prom and then propose to him. After they left we were the only ones left in the theater so we talk for a few minutes about writing and pictures and being tired again (yeah, super interesting stuff). Then he says this. “You know, you come to so many of these shows. You know, I should… If you’re interested… I mean… You could come to some of my next east coast shows… and… take pictures and stuff. I mean… If you want to… I could use some live action shots.” Of course I said I’d be happy to and he asked me to Facebook him so he could get in touch. Then we talked more about this photo contest I won (no way I’m going to pull that photo out for you guys) and other random topics. And, at his insistence, we took another photo to document my hair change from the braids.
A few months later at The Bamboozle festival the manager of the stage he performed on gave me a guitar pick Bo dropped because he thought it “might be lucky.” But instead of just keeping it or selling it on ebay or throwing it away I actually put it on a keychain so I wouldn’t lose it and I returned it to him more than eight months later in Boston, the next and last time I saw him. That was in November of 2011, when he was about to move to LA to begin work on Zach Stone, almost a year after my city-hopping tour-following days began and ended.
I never did take photos for Bo, and I certainly wouldn’t call us friends (heck, at this point I’d be shocked if he actually remembered me), but meeting Bo really did impact me. I was at that time in my life when I wasn’t really sure what I was doing and I certainly admired Bo’s work to the point that meeting him and just getting to talk to him like he was a regular guy (albeit kind of a giant) was great. It also showed me that it doesn’t matter how crazy your dreams are, if you want something and you’re willing to work for it then it’s within reach. After all, who would have thought I’d get to not only meet one of my favorite artists, but also his family (don’t laugh – your family raises you, so if you’re good chances are they’re good too). Three years ago traveling all over the east coast on that kind of adventure was a laughable dream. But now, having just returned from a semester in Italy, that kind of thing isn’t so odd, in fact it feels downright ordinary. And it goes to show that even famous people are just normal, weird, awesome individuals like everyone else.
So cheers to Bo for having a new TV show!
Hope you guys enjoyed this crazy story (and think, this is the ABRIDGED version).
Feel free to comment below!