Adam Buxton brings David Bowie show to Dublin

Adam Buxton made his name with ‘The Adam and Joe Show’. Now he podcasts, is working with Graham Linehan, and is bringing his David Bowie special to Ireland


As many mourned the passing of David Bowie in January a debate resurfaced about whether fans could legitimately grieve for someone they didn’t know. Ask Adam Buxton, who’s currently touring a Bowie special of his show Bug, and the answer is complicated by the death of his father – best known as BaaaadDad, from The Adam and Joe Show – just four weeks earlier.

“I knew my dad was going to die. He was ill for a year. We were caring for him at home,” he says over a drink as London’s rush hour happens around us. “Those who’ve been in that position know that it’s tiring and stressful and nothing is the way you think it will be. Like there’s a sense of relief when they finally go, because you got your life back. That process is weird, and takes a long time to make itself known.

“Then Bowie died, and that focused all my feelings of sadness, because I loved Bowie as well. I guess it had that effect for a lot of people. A lot of Bowie fans are of a certain age and wrestling with various midlife crises, or worries about mortality, so when someone like that dies it brings it all into focus and gives it an outlet.

“We play Lazarus” – Bowie’s goodbye – “towards the start of the show, to get it out of the way because it’s so sad,” he says. “It’s supposed to be a comedy show, after all. Most of it’s light hearted, but then at the end of the show I always tear up. I think, Surely at some point I’ll stop getting weepy – but I haven’t yet.”

Buxton puts together a Bug show – they’re based around music videos – every couple of months, staging them at the BFI Southbank, in London. The Bug Bowie special comes to Dublin this month for the Vodafone Comedy Festival, which for Buxton last year was the best gig of his life. “I’ve never received such a good reaction from an audience ever, and all these comedians I loved stood there at the back, laughing. It was a fantasy gig.”

Bug, which began life in 2007, is one of Buxton’s many projects. His all-encompassing career has also included radio documentaries, stand-up comedy, sitcoms and even Radiohead music videos. Yet panel-show appearances – a high-paying, profile-raising obligation for most comedians at his level – remain few and far between.

“I’ve had one or two good experiences, but I generally come out wishing the ground would swallow me up. I can’t do off-the-cuff comedy,” he says.

But aren’t panel shows covertly scripted? “Not the ones I’ve been on. No one was feeding you lines in Have I Got News for You. God, I wish they had been. Then I would have said more than six things, and maybe one of them would have been funny.

“And no one does in 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, either, but when I go on I’m in Dictionary Corner, so I can prepare that in advance.

“There are some shows that feed you gags. On Never Mind the Buzzcocks you spent a couple of hours in the writers’ room, and you were encouraged to write down what they said about the various rounds, which was weird,” he says, cheerily admitting his shortcomings and giving away trade secrets in one fell swoop. “So basically unless I have a massive change of personality I’m phasing panel shows out.”

Instead the 47-going-on-27-year-old is playing to his strength of prepared, poststudent humour, with his main project of late being his podcast: a well-received mix of interviews, jingles, skits and musings as he walks his dog, Rosie, in his rural home in Norfolk – broad enough to justify the say-what-you-see title of The Adam Buxton Podcast. Twenty-three episodes in, total listenership figures have topped five million and are set to rise with its recent inclusion on Spotify, all of which has earned him a decimal-place percentage compared with the panel shows.

“I’ve always thought, I won’t expect to get paid for what I really love doing – that’s a bonus,” the dad of three says. “I’ll get paid doing money jobs: ads or voiceovers or hosting award ceremonies, and I don’t do voiceovers that I don’t like, and I don’t do awards for people that I think are dicks.”

This astute business plan has been in effect since Buxton first paired up with Joe Cornish for The Adam and Joe Show. The low-budget Channel 4 series had mile-a-minute gags and pop-culture references a gogo, although their irreverent links from their bedsit is what stole the show for most.

As a natural next step their double act migrated to radio, with stints on both XFM and BBC 6 Music.

Cornish changed path in 2011 to pursue a film career. He wrote and directed Attack the Block, starring the then-unknown John Boyega, and was a writer on Ant-Man. His next project is Snow Crash, an adaptation of the Neal Stephenson novel.

Buxton has continued on his solo career. “It was strange when he did [Attack the Block]. It took me a little while to not feel threatened and envious. I wondered why he couldn’t find a place for me in his projects, but I certainly don’t feel that way at all now. I realised he needed to do films with actual actors, not people he went to school with.

“I don’t see as much of him as I would like, but I feel lucky that we’re still pals, because I know a lot of people who can’t stand the sight of each other after being professional partners.” (He won’t reveal who except to say: “When you think, They seem like an arsehole, but I bet that’s just for show, no, that’s what they’re really like: that’s the rule.”)

The good news is that in honour of the sketch show’s 20th anniversary the pair are reuniting later this year. “We want to celebrate that somehow. It could be a live thing. We haven’t worked it out yet. It’s early days.”

Before then there’s enough to keep Buxton away from panel shows. He’s just done a live podcast of sorts with another of his schoolfriends, Louis Theroux, at the Latitude festival. And, if it comes to fruition, he and Graham Linehan have a sitcom to write. The Cloud – “like a flat-sharing sitcom in space” – was commissioned by Channel 4 last year, but there has been silence since.

“It hasn’t gone away. It’s still there. Channel 4 haven’t withdrawn the commission,” he says. “But everything takes so long. I find it hard to drop everything and deliver something on deadline, and Graham is so busy on other stuff; he works on seven or eight projects at a time. And neither of us want to do something that’s shit, so it’s just a question of the planets realigning. Which I hope they will do soon.”

Adam Buxton’s Bug: David Bowie Special is on Thursday as part of the Vodafone Comedy Festival at the Iveagh Gardens in Dublin

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