The cult DJ, filmmaker and comedian vents about life, London and the pitfalls of TV sketch shows.
Adam Buxton is a British comdian, originally from Brixton, South London. He made his break on to TV in 1996 with best friend, Joe Cornish (check out our first interview). They've gone on to become cult figures, and present a weekly radio show on BBC 6Music. Adam has always been an active filmmaker, producing short comedy clips, spoofs, and even a music video for Radiohead (all of which can be seen on his Youtube). Recently, he made created a pilot for BBC Three called Meebox. Though popular, the full series wasn't commissioned. We caught up with a slightly grumpy Mr Buxton to get the latest. Note: if it sounds too good to be true...
What was the inspiration behind Meebox?
MeeBOX was just a way of combining a variety of things that I really enjoy doing, ie. re-voiced/re-edited bits of TV footage, like the Signing For The Deaf or Songs Of Praise bits, which I do on my own generally, character stuff, like Famous Guy or Ken Korda, which I usually do live, and straightforward TV parody stuff, like 10,000 Things That Are Soooo Crap, which I haven't done so much of recently because you kind of need a crew and a bit of a budget to make it look at all decent. I'd been trying to find a TV format that might accommodate all these kinds of elements for a long time and one day it occurred to me that the only place you can easily find that mix of stuff under one roof is on-line in places like You Tube. I thought a slightly spoofy version of You Tube would be an amusing way to tie all the disparate elements together and it might even have a double life, with the TV show acting almost as an advert for a spoof You Tube website where you'd find everything from the show as well as other clips, fake comments, fake ads and all the other bollocks you find on-line. Thus the greatest failed TV pilot of all time* was conceived!
*there's a chance this isn't true.
How long has the project been going?
Here's the very long answer. It all got going in 2005 I suppose. I'd decided I was going to do a one man show in Edinburgh as my character Pavel (a furious and deeply pretentious east European animator). In order to develop the show and try stuff out with an audience I started doing a comedy night (The Out Of Focus Group) every two weeks at The Zetter hotel in London. I'd do about 15 minutes of stuff as Pavel and other characters then other comedians would do some bits and I'd show video pieces I'd made in between. I tried to make one or two new pieces for each bi weekly show so by the end of the year I had quite a few in my locker. At that point I thought I may as well stick them on You Tube as well as on the blog I started that year and after a while a few people started to notice them. A year or so later some of those videos were used on Armando Iannucci's show Time Trumpet, a show for BBC2, which was produced by a chap called Jack Cheshire. I'd met Jack at the end of 2005 when I did some film reviews as my character Ken Korda for a More 4 show called The Last Word and he and Armando were always very encouraging about my stuff. In mid 2007 Jack said that BBC3 was commissioning a load of low budget comedy pilots and he thought it would be a good chance to do something with my videos. F***ing hell, that was boring wasn't it?
How has working without Joe been? And how was it to work with Garth
Jennings, Johnny Greenwood among others?
I feel as if I've been working without Joe longer than I've been working with him really. When we did The Adam & Joe Show we would often work quite separately and it was hard to just hang out and be twats the way we used to before we started getting paid to work together. Since then we've ended up leading fairly separate professional lives which is why doing the radio show on 6 Music is so enjoyable; we get to just enjoy each other's company again.
As far as working with Garth goes, it's always very easy and great fun. Perhaps that's because so far there's been no commercial aspect to anything we've done together. As soon as money is involved things tend to go weird as far as I can tell. Similarly with Jonny, he helped out for love and because he's a comedy fan and liked the idea of writing a theme tune so I thought I'd throw him a bone. He came up with the MeeBOX theme as he was putting the finishing touches on the score for some film called There Will Be Blood. I'm told the score was nice but I think his work on MeeBOX has really taken him to a different level. People finally respect him now. It's a good feeling when you can help someone out like that, but that's what I'm like. I'll do anyone a favour if I can, even Jonny Greenwood.
Where do you find your inspiration? And how do you develop that into
your characters and sketches?
I have a book called 'Inspiration' by Jordan, Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan and Josh Jackson. You can't get it in shops. It was written specially for me and it's full of wonderful ideas for all sorts of things including characters and sketches. When I've chosen the ones I like I take them to Dermot O Leary who has a developing machine he bought second hand from a branch of Prontaprint and he develops them for me. That's why a lot of them come out all f***ed.
Which was your favorite character to play and why?
Famous Guy is fun. I started doing the character about three years ago and he's kind of about people like Russel Crowe and Tom Cruise but mainly it's inspired by Don Cheadle's British accent from the 'Oceans' films. Everyone seems to have a stupid movie star character now though, but I guess that's because they're fun to do. For me it's an excuse to shout and sing bad songs like Russel Crowe and his band.
How did you go about promoting the show?
Well, it was a very complex and brilliant promotional campaign so it's exciting to give you the inside scoop! I did a few interviews and changed the background on my You Tube page the week the show went out and er, that was it. Oh, and I forced my way onto Jonathan Ross's radio show which I felt very bad about because he's been so generous over the years and what have I ever done for him? He was incredibly kind and enthusiastic about MeeBOX and I am now even further in his debt. He could have gotten me on his TV show though. What a f***ing bastard.
How was the audience reaction to the show?
On the whole people thought it was the best TV show they'd ever seen. "Much better than The Wire" was a comment I heard a lot, mainly from my Mum. A couple of people said it didn't work as a parody of You Tube but I found out later that what they really meant to say was "I thought it was the best thing I've ever seen either on television or at the movies or in real life." In fact the TV critic from Time Out was so embarrassed at the lukewarm review he'd written for the show that he resigned the next day and has now become my dogsbody. He does his best but he's a little hit and miss although he does actually have the body of a dog which is wild. A wild dog.
Will you continue to make videos for YouTube? And how does it differ
to have a direct connection with an audience for feedback?
I'm sure I will. I've taken some time off to move house and have babies (I didn't carry the baby myself like Arnold Scharzenegger in Junior, I got a woman to do that) but when I get myself sorted I'll almost certainly get some more stuff up there. It's fun making those things. Videos I mean, not babies. They're quite hard work. As far as having a live audience goes it's like having a group of friends give you compliments, if they're laughing that is. If they don't respond so well, it's like having a group of friends making it clear that you're embarrassing.
Do you think the future of broadcast lies on the internet?
You grew up in London, do you see yourself living here for the rest of
I just moved to East Anglia, so I guess that would be a 'no'. London's fun when you're young and much less fun when you have children.
How have you seen the city change over the years?
Not so much. Still can't believe they got rid of routemasters and replaced with those fucking awful cunty long pieces of red shit but apart from that it's all more or less the same, innit.
Around London, where would you recommend to visit? And where do you love to hang out?
I've spent many enjoyable moments sitting on a bench in St James's Park. I would recommend that. The South Bank is always good too.
Is there anywhere else in the world you'd still love to see?
What am I, Jimmy Traveller? I'd love to see the inside of the Virgin first class lounge at Heathrow again. I saw it once a long time ago and it is still the most wonderful place I have ever beheld. Much better than anywhere you might be flying to. I'm told Australia's worth a visit but it'll have to wait til I'm rich and I can go in style. I f***ing hate flying. And it's bad for the planet, didn't you know?!
What's does a typical day-in-the-life consist of for you?
Have breakfast, do some rock climbing, write a hilarious comedy film, answer fan mail, fly to George Clooney's for sushi in my Microlite, star in successful TV series, direct a quirky independent film about misfit teenagers, allow Melvyn Bragg to make a boring film about me, write an award winning book, receive a selection of other awards, eat some of the awards at supper with Barack Obama, go to bed.
Tell us about Bug - how did you get involved?
I hosted a couple of shows as Ken Korda for BUG's predecessor Antenna, also at the BFI Southbank. When Antenna finished and BUG started I was asked to be their regular host and was only too happy to oblige though it was decided I was better off doing it as myself rather than in character. It's a hoot! Definitely one of my favourite things to do these days and people seem to dig it so it's deeply satisfying on every level.
What inspires your love of music videos and can you tell us some of
Oh God, I don't know. It's the ultimate art form. My two favourite things: music and film in bite sized chunks! Hooray. As far as my favourites go, just check out my You Tube music channel here: http://uk.youtube.com/user/JamesBignutz and you'll find a lot of them under my 'favourites'!
What projects are you currently working on?
Putting up a couple of shelves and boiling some water for instant cous cous.
And finally, what's next for you?
I guess the only thing I can be absolutely sure about is death. I hope it's not "next" but it's definitely on the list.
You can see more at Adam's YouTube page