Interview: Adam Buxton

We caught up with Adam Buxton just after his set at Leeds Festival.

So you’ve just headlined (so to speak) the Alternative Stage at Leeds, how did it go? Is it weird playing a festival?

Yeah, it’s very weird. There’s lots of different kinds of festival audience’s, so I suppose I had kind of forgotten what it was like going to a younger festival. I’ve done Reading before, a few years ag,o I did a BUG show there so that’s different because it’s me obviously playing other peoples videos and then fooling around a bit in between so the pressure’s off in that way, but then doing all my own stuff I’ve only ever done that a Lattitude before and that’s a slightly older crowd there and more kind of 6-Music-listener-type crowd. Where as today there were a few 6 Music listeners maybe, but not that many so it was hard. If I’d have known what it was going to be like I would have done some different stuff, and maybe asked for a shorter slot. In the end I did an hour and ten minutes which is a lot.

Personally we’ve never seen a live comedy show, is that a long set for you or just in general?

That’s a long set for anyone. Usually you would do twenty minutes, and that would be a big spot. Like in comedy clubs most people do five, and then you work up towards twenty, and then you go around and if you do festivals and stuff generally people unless they are headlining will do twenty minute spots. I guess I’m sort of one of the headliners tonight so it’s a much much longer spot, and I haven’t done that long at a festival before. But yeah, in Edinburgh most people do shows that are just under and hour, and you would only go over that if you are doing a big stadium show and selling tickets.

We felt for you when you had some technical issues.

Yeah my “Fantastic Shine” bit, well it’s not too bad because it could have been a lot worse. I’ve had gigs that have just ground to a halt because something on the computer wont work. One time I had to say “is there an IT person in the audience” and the audience thought I was joking, but I said “no seriously is there an IT person” and someone came up, everyone cheered and the guy tried to fix the problem and he couldn’t. In the end three people came up, and non of them could fix the situation so I felt so bad because it was my show and people had paid to be there. I’m not a stand-up in the way that I’ve got a big arsenal of jokes that I can just tell with a microphone, it’s all about the AV stuff for me at the moment, so I just said “listen I’m sorry, if anyone wants to come I’ll do a free show, just write your email address down leave it on the stage and I’ll email you the details” thinking that maybe thirty people would do it, and every single fucking person in that audience did it. There was about three hundred people there, and they all did. So I spent the rest of the night trying to read peoples handwriting and emailing them, whilst trying to figure out how to put on a free show. It was hard, if things do go wrong I feel really bad. So it’s a risk, but now I’ve got it more or less where I could solider through I think if anything goes wrong.

How did you come up with the current concept of the show?

Well I did it because of BUG initially, I’ve been doing BUG since 2007 so ever since then I’ve been looking through the You Tube comments and reading them out at BUG shows. So in the course of doing that I just found myself spending more and more time online, and then I would fool around and play little videos I’d made at BUG as well and so then gradually I was going more and more stuff and I thought it would be quite good to see if I could do my own show and not show other people videos in full, maybe play the odd clip. So yeah just gradually amassing enough stuff so that I could fill an hours worth. So towards the end of last year I got together a load of bits and pieces that I’d been developing throughout the course of doing BUG and just put them together as one sort of show package and added some other stuff as well and did it like that, but that’s a kind of weird transition show. This show is Kernal Panic really the one that I’ve been touring around a little bit for the last year, and I think the next thing I’ll do, I’ll do in a more traditional way. So I’ll work up the material at clubs for small audiences and try and get it right like that, rather than doing at BUG shows which are quite large audiences, usually about five hundred people and normally a comedian would never do new material for that many people. But I just got into the habit of just trying stuff out because it doesn’t really matter because I’m showing music videos and that’s that main thing, as long as they are good it doesn’t really matter if I do something that doesn’t work that well. So I got spoilt having that environment to work up new material, but now I’ve got to go back to the traditional way.

We were big fans of BUG when it was on Sky Atlantic, any plans for it to return?

No, unfortunately not! It was an annoying thing because Sky Atlantic after our first series they had a compete re-think about what kind of stuff they were going to have on their channel and they stopped commissioning original UK programmes and it’s mainly just imports now, they did a certain amount of narrative comedy like comedy drama stuff but our show and a few other that were more entertainment shows really, they decided they weren’t going to do any more of those. Even though BUG went down really well, and I ended up getting really nice reviews for that which I’ve never really got before so it was frustrating but at the same time I’m really pleased to have done it.

Well we really enjoyed it, and also your guest spot on Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

There was actually a guy with an “or sutin” t-shirt in the front row tonight.

Speed Round

What would you like to be remembered for?

I’d like to be remembered as one of the most brilliant and talented comedians of my generation, an incredible father, a wonderful husband, a brilliant innovator in the world of sexual intercourse; positions and new ideas for costumes that kind of thing. Unfortunately, that’s unlikely so if I’m remembered by anyone in anyway fondly that would be fine, I’m trying to think of the things I’m proudest of that I’ve done.. Things I’m proudest of to be serious are the podcast with Joe, I loved doing those and I’m really happy that those exist, I thought those were the most fun things me and Joe did together. And then I really am proud of some of the stupid videos on my You Tube channel and some of the Song Wars songs I’m quite pleased with- I wouldn’t tell anyone, well I’m telling you now. I’m really proud of the video that I made for Radiohead for a song of theirs called

“Jigsaw Falling Into Place”, I did a music video for that. They’ve had some incredible music videos made for them, and obviously they are an amazing band so to be in that company was just brilliant.

Is that something that takes your fancy, going into directing music videos or further?

I don’t know, I mean it’s difficult because real proper music video directors come up with ideas all the time and they can pitch on videos. People can ring them up and say “right Imagine Dragons need a new video in two weeks, come up with something” I’m not very good at that. All my stuff comes about very “organically” and it’s just things that occur to me whilst I’m going about my stupid life really, little silly ideas that grow into bigger things. So I don’t know, I love making videos and little films and I’d like to do more of that and I’d like to do longer stuff and I’d like to write some things a bit better. I wrote a sitcom with a friend some years ago that was on Channel Four that very few people saw called the Last Chancers, but that was a fun, very enjoyable experience so yeah I’d like to get back to maybe doing that kind of thing. But you know I’m very happy just farting along, I’m very lucky I’ve got a lovely family, a nice place to live so I don’t want for anything but if I’m able to maintain my charmed life somehow and carry on doing shows every now and again then that would be good enough.

Dream dinner guest (dead or alive)?

Dream dinner guest? (in a Bowie-esq voice) Well I suppose it would be David Bowie. But it’s difficult on the one hand I would love to meet and pick the mind of David Bowie because I adore him and have done since I was very little. But on the other hand the older I get the more I realise its not a good idea to meet your heroes and people always told me that. My friend Nigel Godrich who produces Radiohead, he knows fuck of a lot of famous people, but he said to me early on “don’t bother mate, it’s always a disappointment” and not because they are disappointing but because friendships need to grow. You can’t just thrust people together and suddenly shazam they get on and find each other fascinating, with the best will in the world it’s very difficult, and then when you’ve got so many barriers to a friendship growing fame is the worse kind of thing because people want to keep people at a distance because they are extra cautious. So someone like Bowie- a fucking living legend- it would be difficult. So I’m thinking in practical terms about this dinner, and thinking in reality the people I would like around my dinner table are my friends and people like that I know I can have a good conversation with. I would be worried I would just make a fool of myself with Bowie, and he’d go out of the room and I’d never get over it, and then I’d never be able to listen to his music again without cringing and that would be awful.

How long do you spend in-front of the mirror?

In general, I don’t know.. how long do you spend in-front of the mirror? I guess I’m sort of quite pre-occupied with my face, just because you get more self conscious if you’re ever being filmed or anything so you think about it more. Actually when BUG came out it was the first show I’d done in HD, so watching my face in HD was really shocking. I was like “Oh my god it’s enormous, why have I got such a giant face and it’s so weird and hairy and look how grey my beard is.” So it’s not very enjoyable, and the nice thing about a mirror is you’re more in control of it. You can take a little bit of time to think “Hey, look at you. Not looking too bad today.” You’ve got to find a good mirror, when you find a good mirror it’s great, you know sometimes you go to a club and there is a flattering mirror in the toilet or something and then you think “I love that club, I’m going to go back to that place because they have those great mirrors.” So I suppose I’m quite vain in that respect.

Favourite swear word?

Well I say Shitbiscuits a lot that’s the thing that natural pops out! (Great swear.)

What.. Shit Biscuits?

Yeah, I mean they don’t pop out of me. I don’t excrete shit biscuits, I mean maybe I could I don’t know. You would require a level of buttock control to actually create a shit biscuit, that I don’t currently possess. It is a horrible image really but I guess you’re not really supposed to think about it too hard, maybe I’m going to stop saying it now because I have over thought it.

Best excuse you’ve ever used to break-up with someone?

Best excuse, I mean I don’t think I’ve ever broken up with anyone I’ve always been dumped. No one wants to be the break-up guy do they, I’m trying to think. I’m sure in my younger days I treated people badly and tried to break up with them. I never broke up with anyone, but I certainly stopped things from going any further, and it was usually by saying something like the same old bollocks that everyone else says like “I’m not good enough for you”, “I’m not tall enough for you” but then I married a really tall woman so that’s not going to work. I think I might have to pass on that one.

Best day of your life?

Best day of my life, holy shit! I had a pretty good day the other day, it was sunny and we’ve got a hammock in the garden and I was- it’s difficult when you are self employed to relax because you feel like you could always be doing something productive, so it’s really hard especially what I do, everything comes out of such tiny little stupid things. You always feel as if you should be absorbing the world somehow, reading a book or watching a film or going to the shops or living your life, so that you might be inspired by something. But then the other day, and it’s difficult when you’ve got children because I suddenly had a flash of realisation that my children are growing up so fast and actually I’ve only got like ten years worth (if I’m lucky) of them actually being around and liking me and after that they’ll move out, and I’ll do something bad and they’ll hate me. So it was a lovely sunny day and I lay in the hammock with my daughter and she makes up these songs and she was singing me these songs and then she read to me. She’s really good at reading, and she read me this book and I’m like “Fucking hell, you are excellent at reading” I mean girls are, they develop a lot faster when they’re younger in their brains. My other children are boys, so everything she does I’m like “Wow, you’re a genius fucking hell, you’re only five and you can say all that.” So that was pretty great, it was one of those moments where I was actually aware. You know, like sometimes you’re not aware, you only realise in retrospect that “Wow that was a really brilliant day, or wow that was an amazing part of my life.” But that day I was like “This is a good day.”

Religious, spiritualist, humanist or non?

I’m a Bowiest! That’s my god.

Worst thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?

Oh I had something the other day that was horrible, what was it? I actually said “This is the worse thing I’ve ever put in my mouth” but now I can’t remember what it is, shit. It was so disgusting I was like “What the fuck” and it was something fairly benign it was like a chicken nugget or something. What was it? Oh my god, I wish I could remember. It looked so good, and it was so bad. Shit, this is not a good anecdote!

Was it a whats-it?

No, I would never put a wotsit in my mouth I don’t like cheese.

Not an actual Wotsit! Like a “what do you call it?”

Oh (chuckles)! No but I think Wostsit’s, I would never put in my mouth, anything cheesy I don’t like whether it’s actually cheese or some part of someone’s body that is cheesy, I wouldn’t like that.

Last band that you went to see live?

Oh man, I mean obviously I don’t go to that many gigs now. I think maybe it was Wild Beasts, they were great, or maybe The National. Last gig that I really remember was Radiohead and that was fucking brilliant. My favourite gig ever was Spoon at the Garage in London, it was a small venue and I was really close to the stage, they’re quite a big band in the states but not so well known in the UK, so it was one of those things when you see a really good band and they’re right in front of you. That was one of my best days as well actually and after that gig I went and filmed a couple of little videos of the lead singer playing a couple of his songs. I’ve got two You Tube channels one for comedy videos and one for music related stuff, my music video related stuff is called Jimmy Big Nutz and that video is on there of him playing a song called “Black Like Me” and that was a pretty great day.

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

I can remember very clearly wanting to be one of three things. Spaceman, always wanted to go to space and obviously it became clear I had neither the physical wherewithal or the intellectual wherewithal to get my head around the fucking maths and physics you need to go into space, so that wasn’t an option sadly. I also wanted to be a sweet shop owner, because I thought “free sweets, that would be fucking brilliant” and I genuinely though for a long time “that is the best gig ever,” running a sweet shop or corner shop those guys are so fucking lucky. Or a gynaecologist when I got a bit older, for the same sort of logic as the sweet shop.

What would you say if you met the Queen?

I’d say “lorra lorra blind date” which is a reference to my Queen impression on the six music show.

Last time you were starstruck?

I get quite easily starstruck, I was quite starstruck in LA recently when I was doing a gig at the club that the nerdist people have called Nerdmelt and there was a guy there called Kumail Nanjiani who is on the show Sillicone Valley. So him and J.T (Miller) who is also on the show came into the green room with this guy called Ron Funches who is going to be a massive star in the states, and it was one of those things were I saw him on stage and he was really funny so to see him in the green room afterwards- you know when someone is going to be massive and famous. Like I met Russell Brand years and years ago when he was a junkie and doing his MTV show, but he was so magnetic and had such a lot of charisma I thought “this guys is going to be huge” -so it was one of those moments, Kumail and J.T.

Weirdest moment of your life?

Probably that fucking gig just then, that was pretty weird I was thinking “shit what am I going to do, I’ve just got to be here now” and it’s annoying too because you are confronted by the reality of your limitations. Especially if you are a comedian I think you should be able to make comedy that will work in any room, anyone in the world should be able to find something funny in it.

-But when you’ve got everything pre-planned like your set, that makes it difficult?

Yeah it’s difficult, but that’s my problem because I’m not a proper comedian in that way, or at least a proper stand-up because a real stand-up is just a man or woman and their mic and they are able to just talk to and connect with an audience and that’s a skill that I really admire but don’t have, yet. So it’s always weird when you are out of control, because I’ve been doing live stuff for quite a while now and usually I feel quite comfortable and okay but then you go up their and go “oh, shit I’m totally nervous I’m just blathering” and you can’t tell how much they can hear, if you should shout or speak really slowly. Did I sound weird earlier?

No, it sounded great and the audience seemed to be responding really well from where we were. Especially coming on after the Midnight Beast which was slightly strange.

They were going nuts! Impressive I thought, like the Beastie Boys meets Flight of the Concords. I was really impressed! But it’s weird for them though, because those songs are really funny but that audience wasn’t getting the subtlety of the lyrics.

It was almost like a rave or dance act.

Yeah, but they were so familiar with the tracks. I think that’s the thing with things that you do online, is you get very familiar with them and you sort of feel that nobody else knows about them because you’re not watching it on TV. So then when you see it live you just go fucking nuts. It’s like the podcasting thing, you do really feel like you have a relationship with the podcaster. The podcasts I listen to, they really get into your head. I occasionally meet people who listen to stuff I’ve done and they act like I’m their friend even though I’ve never met them, but I totally get where they are coming from because I’ve lived in their head a little bit.

Would you prefer to only ever whisper or shout?

I don’t like whispering, I don’t like people who whisper, no whispering. The worst thing about whispering is when they put it in adverts, it makes me physically ill, I start gagging as soon as someone starts whispering in an advert. If I’m listening to an audio book and there is whispering, like I was listening to a Stephen King audio book the other day, the one about the guy who goes back in time to try and prevent JFK’s assassination, the title of the book is the date that the assassination happened and I am now struggling to recall what it was. It’s something like 22.11.63. And there is a bit where the narrator starts whispering and I had to take my earphones off.

Why?

I don’t know, I don’t like it, there’s something about it. That’s why I don’t really like loud places, well I suppose in loud place people shout in your ear and I don’t like that either. I just don’t like someone being that close to my ear. Also, I like shouting.

Worst job pre-comedian?

Well I was like a plunger, if you ever read Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell it details his time as a plunger aka a dish-washer or pot-washer in a Parisian restaurant, and I remember reading that at school and thinking “I’m never going to do that, that sounds shit.” Sure enough that was the first job I got when I left school, I was a pot wash guy in a pizza restaurant in London called The Chicago Pizza Pie Factory. I was the guy that had to scrub the fucking pizza pans, and you are down in the kitchen under the florescent lights in the bowls of the building for eight hours or longer if you’ve got a double shift and it was awful. It was just grim! And all the guys there took the piss out of me, they were all Nigerian guys that work in the kitchen of that one. They were nice in the end but for a while it was torture, so that was bad.”

Who would you like to cover one of your songs, and which song?

Oh wow! That’s a good question! Which one, fuck I’m trying to think of my songs, they’re not very good to sing though because most of my songs are shouting. It would be good if Radiohead covered the festival song. I met a girl called Lianne La Havas who is kind of a pop singer the other day who is amazing, and I thought it would be amazing if she ever covered one of my songs. She’s got an amazing voice, maybe “Party Pom Pom”. She’s been on tour with Prince doing all the female vocals so I thought I could do a duet with her doing “Party Pom Pom”, that would be pretty amazing. And of course Bowie, if he did anything of mine I would just die happy.