Adam and Joe
Comedy duo Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish stop in to chat about how they made their cult TV show from their bedroom.
Adam and Joe have been friends since primary school, but became cult icons with their homemade TV show in 1996. Broadcast from a bedsit in Brixton, the duo performed comedy sketches, including some where stuffed toys acted out classic movies, such as Toytanic, Tufty Club and Star Wars TV. Over a decade on, we asked them what they were up to.You met as kids, did you think back then that you would still be so close today?
ADAM - I don't want to be all revolting about it, but yes, definitely. It was love at first sight! I always thought that Joe was one of the funniest people in the world and I always loved hanging out with him and I feel the same way still. When we're laughing in the podcasts, it's not spray-on rapport (or Lynx) it's genuine fun!
JOE - Yes I did. See below.Through being together as a comedy duo, have you achieved most of your own personal dreams and were there certain things that you couldn't achieve together?
ADAM - We wanted desperately to bring up amusing monkeys but we were deemed unfit by the funny monkey council. That hurt. Also we were always keen to meet David Bowie somehow as we're both obsessed by the man, but apart from a few close shaves that never worked our either. Apart from that, we're both delighted by how many people connected with The Adam & Joe Show. That was always our dream: let nerd speak unto nerd!
JOE - When we were at school we fantasized that we ran a huge multimedia conglomerate. We designed a logo, chose our head office on Cambridge Circus, and named it Joeadz. All the plays and films we put together at school were branded with the logo. Adam was going to run the advertising and TV department, and I was going to run the film studio. So all in all I'm actually kind of disappointed that it hasn't happened. Yet...Was it much of an effort to make the Adam + Joe Show, or did you sit around like that anyway?
ADAM - It was a lot of effort yes, but we were at least able to set our own timetable more or less, so if we weren't in the mood one day, we just wouldn't show up. Inevitably that freedom also turned into a point of conflict when one of us felt that the other was doing too little or maybe doing too much and showing the other one up! We were both guilty at various points I seem to recall. When it was all running smoothly however, and we were just locked away at night listening to music and gluing fairy lights to bits of cardboard, it was as good as 'work' can get.
JOE - The only time we sat around was when we were actually shooting the links sitting on that bed. The rest of the time we were knee deep in lights, toys, cardboard models, scriptwriting, editing and location shooting. Can you be knee-deep in location shooting? It's funny how anything you have to do, however enjoyable, instantly becomes hard work when done to a deadline. We always made stupid little films together, since we were thirteen, but we'd never made so much stuff in so little time before.With all the technology around today, how different do you think it would be if you had to start all over again and if you had to start again what would you do differently?
ADAM - I don't think it would be very different at all (see below re. You Tube etc.) As far as what we'd do differently, we'd probably try harder to delegate certain jobs to people we trusted. We had a great little team of people helping us with the production of The Adam & Joe Show but we weren't very good at letting go in those days. OK, I wasn't. I'm not brilliant at it now but I'm getting better!
JOE - I think the show would be pretty much the same, but I'm not sure it would get commissioned. It would probably be on-line. After all, most of what we did is similar to the kind of stuff you get on Youtube now. Parodies, pranks, ranting relatives and that kind of thing. If we did it all again and had to do something better, I think I'd try and be nicer to Adam. We were a bit young and competitive with each other when we made the first few series, and it was sometimes pretty stressful on our relationship, doctor.Do you think it would be possible for just anyone to produce a show similar to yours these days?
ADAM - I think loads of people are already doing that. You Tube and similar sites provide a pretty effective means of dissemination for exactly the kind of stupid crap we used to have in The Adam & Joe Show. Half an hour of well chosen You Tube surfing is a fucks sight better than half an hour on most terrestrial or cable channels at the moment.
JOE - Absolutely, given the time. What we had was production back-up and a wage. I'm not sure how easy it would be for anyone to produce the volume of stuff we did in the time without some kind of financial backing. Not forgetting of course our incredible talent, which is priceless and no-one will ever match for the rest of history.You produced everything yourself originally. How has the transition been now that people do the producing for you?
ADAM - I think we've both ended up doing things ourselves for a lot of the stuff we've done post Adam & Joe Show. On things like Adam & Joe Go Tokyo or acting things like Rush Hour or The IT Crowd, obviously there's a big crew around you and all you have to do is 'perform'! It's much more relaxing in some ways and always fun to be with a big group of people rather than just being alone (which is how we often ended up doing things on our show), but it's a different thing. There tends to be a greater sense of pride in the things I've made myself (or with Joe) and I'm often happier with how they've turned out because I've spent ages getting them exactly the way I want them.
JOE - Making the Adam & Joe Show was so exhausting we used to fantasise about doing a show where we only had one job. How luxurious to only have to worry about the script, or the presenting, or the lighting. But when the show ended and we started to work on other people's productions, we found out that losing all that control was equally stressful in new, unexpected ways. We've both found it pretty hard to fit into the traditional TV environment, and I reckon we're only just finding our feet. But I think we're still at our best together when we find somewhere that will let us do things our own way, XFM or the Podcasts for instance. God that was a boring answer.Have you returned to Japan since A+J Go Tokyo, did you ever make it big over there and what other countries would you like to explore?
ADAM - No, no and anywhere really. We always hoped the show would be successful enough for the BBC to commission loads of programs about us visiting various luxurious locations but that didn't happen! Adam & Joe Go Iran would be good though. Fun, informative and politically explosive. It's what we do best...
JOE - I haven't been back to Japan, and I refuse to go back until I can be accompanied by a BBC production team again. We never made it big in Japan. And although it still lives on Youtube, 'Adam and Joe Go Tokyo' didn't really make it big enough on UK TV for us to be asked to do a similar series somewhere else. But if they did, I think we're both pretty fascinated by Hawaii.Since the success of reality shows such as Big Brother, there has been a surge in wannabe presenter types. How do you two feel about it, being presenters with actual talent?
ADAM - That's nice of you Cat but it's all relative innit? People get very worked up about TV presenters. I've read comments about us on line from people who think we're great when we present things on TV and a few from people who find our ramshackle approach profoundly irritating and think we should get some proper training. I haven't presented anything on TV for a while though and I think apart from the odd one-off those days are probably behind us. Doing the radio and podcast bits with Joe has been much more fun and turned out much better than anything we did as presenters on TV I think. I never found TV presenting much fun.
JOE - That's very nice of you to say. Presenting is a tricky business. Not because it's that hard to do, but because you have to really believe in what you're presenting. Adam and I are so relentlessly critical that we're rendered pretty much worthless in the presenting market. But when we can find the right show, we both love it. Or I do, anyway. As for wannabe presenter types, I can't get enough of them. Who are you talking about anyway? Brian Dowling on The Mint? Alison Hammond on This Morning? I'm happy for them. If you can be relaxed and confident about it, presenting is probably the easiest and most lucrative job on the face of the earth. Anyone who manages to get in there and do well for more than a couple of years is to be admired I reckon.What's next for the both of you - new podcasts, show ideas?
ADAM - I've managed to get acting roles in a couple of sitcom/sketch show pilots, one for BBC3 and one for Channel 4 although they're in early stages so I can't say too much about them. They may or may not see the light of day, but it's exciting! I'm also working on doing something with the kind of videos I've been posting on You Tube, but again it's too early to say much. Podcast wise, I think our Coke podcasts are going to become bi-monthly instead of just monthly but as far as Xfm or any other podcasts / radio shows go, we're STILL waiting to figure it out! Keep an eye on my blog for news!
JOE - Our Coca-cola new music podcast is going bimonthly. It's worth a listen. Genuinely good music by unsigned bands. Idiotic chit chat by Adam and me, all bought to you by Santa's favourite fizzy drink. The podcasts we did for XFM did really well and are still up on i-tunes, but XFM had so little money that we couldn't afford to keep doing them. In fact, today XFM announced they were dropping presenters from daytime entirely. So we've been talking to lots of other radio people and hopefully we'll pop up somewhere different later in the year. I'd like to make a film, so that's what I'm concentrating on at the moment.How do your listeners know who's who, now that you're on the radio and don't have your Adam + Joe t-shirts?
ADAM - Hmm. You can tell it's me because I tend to laugh a bit more than Joe, I pretend to be French a bit more and I've got the same voice as the guy who does the Yellow Pages ads on the radio. Joe's the other one.
JOE - I'm the one who's done official BBC radio voice training. I presented the Radio 4 film show for a bit a few years ago, and got specially trained. A woman tore the corners off a bit of paper and stuck them to the mike like ears, then told me to talk into it as if it was my cat. That's a true story. That's the secret of Radio 4 - they talk to their listeners as if they are cats.Adam: How was making Rush Hour and how does working with a huge cast of comedians compare to working with Joe?
ADAM - It's like the difference between being hanging out with your mates and spending time with your girlfriend/boyfriend. Except Joe and I don't tend to fondle each other or argue over the remote.Will you be appearing at the Edinburgh Festival this year?
ADAM - No, I only went that one time to see if I could. I'm going to concentrate on TV & film stuff for a while, but I'd go back if I ever thought of a good idea for a live show. It was great fun being there.Joe: How is your film making career going and is it easier not being on both sides of the camera?
JOE - Well, I haven't made one yet, so in that respect I suppose my film making career's not going as well as it could be. But I am writing something for Marvel with Edgar Wright, and I have other film shaped projects cooking elsewhere, so things could be worse. Being behind the camera means you don't have to worry what you look like. I'm quite self-conscious and shy, so I prefer being off screen or on the radio. I'm happy to pull my cap down low and be the Chris Lowe to Adam's Neil Tenant.Did you become interested in film through necessity or was it something you were interested in before the show?
JOE - I've always liked films and I always wanted to make them. When I was little my bedroom was covered in home-made posters for imaginary films. I could tell you all their names and stories if you wanted. But you'd have to sign some kind of secrecy agreement. The Toymovies we made in The Adam and Joe Show were very much an expression of my desire to be making films too. I loved recreating big effects sequences and stunts and stuff. So the answer is yes to films. Films films films!!!