Podcasts: Adam Buxton
As an interviewer and host, Adam Buxton is incredibly pleasant to listen to
Adam Buxton: his interviews are gentle, funny and compassionate.
Podcasts are a particularly special medium because of their propensity for incredible specificity. For example, if I want to listen to a podcast about back-episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race, I have several choices – and which one I choose to listen to depends on how much I like the hosts. Normally, what attracts me to podcasts is the content first, and the likability of the hosts second: in fact, the hosting will keep me there long after my initial curiosity about the subject matter has waned. Good podcast hosting is subjective, and often requires a weird one-way alchemy between the listener and whoever it is they’re listening to. Last week, while abroad, I started listening to Adam Buxton’s podcast, on the promise from a friend that I’d love it – and I’d love him. As an interviewer and a host he has an undeniable gift: he’s incredibly pleasant to listen to.
I’d missed Adam Buxton – I hadn’t seen the Adam & Joe Show on Channel 4 when I was younger, and had thus somehow not really paid much attention to the existence of his podcast. And to be entirely honest, normally when people recommend me chat shows about nothing in particular hosted by men, I recoil. However, Buxton’s interviews are gentle, funny, compassionate, interested – it’s almost as if you could learn how to be a better conversationalist just from listening to him. Because the podcast has been airing since 2015, there’s an immense back catalogue to go through, which can seem incredibly daunting from the outset. However, I suggest scrolling through and listening to him chat to any name you recognise – writer Zadie Smith or documentarian Louis Theroux (who he has known all of his life, which makes for a wonderfully easy and interesting chat). John Ronson’s episodes are particularly insightful, I found.
The conversations move from the personal to the cultural with incredible ease, and lack any stiltedness or worse, in-jokey comedian culture jags. There was no point in any of the episodes I’ve listened to where I felt alienated, rather I felt invited. Buxton introduces each show with a little monologue, often as he is walking, which places the listener very firmly with him. The shows are broken up by little musical interludes which are surprising and weird and give every episode a feel of being something quite whole, with a deliberate aesthetic beyond just “interviews with interesting people”.
In my experience of talking to people about why they listen to podcasts, over and over again I am told that people listen to voices on the other end of headphones for company. This explains that strange parasocial click we sometimes get when we love a podcast for no reason other than we enjoy the host’s company – or why despite our interest in subject matter, some hosts just don’t work for us. Listening to podcasts is an intimate thing. It’s just you and whoever is speaking down the line. I’ve had Adam Buxton on my headphones every day for over a week now, at times when I’ve needed a bit of company. I know I’m extremely late to the show, and late to the party, but I’m really glad I got here.