Adam Buxton: interview
The 'Adam' half of 'Adam and Joe' tells us about Bug
Adam Buxton leaves behind old school friend Joe Cornish and the 'Adam & Joe' radio show with music video comedy bonanza 'Bug'. The multi-platform comic tells Time Out finds out why the genre-mashing show has been such a success and shares his favourite Bug music videos.
While Joe Cornish is off directing Brit blockbusters (‘Attack the Block’) and writing for Spielberg (‘Tintin’), his regular collaborator and school friend Adam Buxton has taken a slightly less glamorous, but equally creative route. Since late-night cult hit ‘The Adam & Joe Show’ ended in 2001, the ‘Adam’ half has bumped up his acting CV with roles in ‘Hot Fuzz’ and ‘Stardust’, built up an impressive catalogue of brilliantly funny short films (see YouTube channel AdamBuxton) and started playing the live comedy circuit. In 2005, the multitasking comic took ‘I, Pavel’ to the Edinburgh Fringe – 60 minutes of character comedy and short films – and over the last five years has been the host the BFI’s hugely popular fixture, ‘Bug – The Evolution of the Music Video’ – a show which appeals to comedy, music and film fans alike. I speak to him about the show’s runaway success.
Bug has gained a huge following now – friends of mine are members of the BFI just so they can get priority booking to it. Why do you think it’s been so popular?
‘Well, I guess it’s two amazing, world-beatingly successful shows for the price of one. It’s primarily a forum for music videos; an opportunity to see videos that you probably wouldn’t see anywhere else. There’s a wealth of talent, ingenuity and invention out there that very seldom gets seen. And the other show is my stuff, I suppose. I kind of crowbar in little odds and sods of my own. And then there’s me responding to the videos themselves, and particularly reading out comments from YouTube.’
Reading YouTube comments has become a staple of your live set. How did you discover they were a rich source for comedy?
‘In one way it started out being a vanity thing – getting some use out of the abuse left on my own videos. The first time you read a hurtful comment about yourself online it knocks you for six. “What!? He hates me! Oh my God, this guy hates me too! Oh my God, they all hate me!” So I thought rather than get upset about them, it would be better to recycle them somehow, make use out of them, share them. And, apart from the fact that they’re funny, people respond to the comments because all of us have had an experience of being called a dick by some anonymous troll somewhere. It’s a weird, modern feeling.’
So, how did Bug start?
‘David Knight, who writes about music videos for a living, came up with Bug. I saw it at the BFI years ago – it was a different thing, called Antenna, and was just music videos. It was pretty hardcore, quite serious, with big blocks of five or so videos in a row. It was one of the most inspiring evenings that I can remember. But it was almost too much, you know? So we thought we’d break it up with my goofing. At Bug, we have shorter blocks of videos to keep people engaged. One of the reasons I like music videos is that they don’t outstay their welcome and if you don’t like one, there’s going to be another one along soon.’
What else is it about the medium of music videos you like, as opposed to, say, short films?
‘Well, short films I always find are a little bit too long! “Wait a second, this is supposed to be a short film. It’s like 20 minutes!” But I’m a muso anyway, so I listen to a lot of music. And when a good song and good idea for a short film come together, I don’t think you can beat it. I would rather see one of the good videos that we show at Bug than ten miserable fucking summer blockbusters with superheroes or Jennifer Aniston or whatever it happens to be.’
You went into live comedy after TV, the other way round to most comics. Why did you decide to start performing live?
‘For a few reasons. There wasn’t that much else going on, I wasn’t really doing anything on TV. I was just missing doing something, so I thought: This is one area I haven’t ruined yet. I’ll try that. Plus, I thought it would focus me and encourage me to do more. But mainly I wanted to have another place to show people my videos. Otherwise I was just putting them on YouTube and they would vanish into the ether. So, it was another way of trying to stay creative, I suppose, forcing myself to do something rather than just get pissed and stare at the TV.’
What else is in the pipeline for you?
‘Well, I seem to be on a sort of permanent transition phase. Joe and I aren’t doing any more radio shows for a little while, so I’m just going to concentrate on doing my own bollocks for a bit. But Bug is my main source of enjoyment. We’ve been to Amsterdam and New York, but I really hope that we can do more shows in different places. Basically my whole life is geared towards trying to get free holidays and travel, so anything I can do to take Bug to a new exotic country, I will be doing.’
Three music video tasters
Check out two of Adam's favourite music videos – The Chemical Brothers' 'Let Forever Be' and '70 Million' by Hold Your Horses – plus Buxton's own 'Nutty Room'.