Some people like to cry. Some people like to gnash their teeth on the Yorkshire Moors. Other people like to pile into a large music college in a northern town and collectively laugh. I found myself in the latter group yesterday.
I first encountered Adam (Buxton)and Joe (Cornish) when I was in third year at university. It was 1998. I remember being in my bedroom on the odd Friday night (please note, I wasn’t ‘sad’ or ‘friendless’ at being in on a Friday. In those days, the nights to go out, as a student, were week-nights. Weekends were reserved for checked shirt ‘townies’ with thick necks and impenetrable accents and sky high club entrance prices. I was the proud owner of at least three whole friends at uni). I used to tune in to a delightful televisual threesome of Frasier (before it became unbearable high farce), Adam and Joe and TV Offal with Victor Lewis-Smith. They were perfect bedroom companions. They made me laugh, they were good company and they didn’t leave their clothes all over my bedroom floor. I’ve been a fan ever since.
When the opportunity came to see Dr. Buckles at a live show, I jumped at the chance. My husband took a little bit of persuading. He’s *cough* slightly younger than me and isn’t as well acquainted with the A&J show as me, but he said yes and was interested in accompanying me. Probably to ensure that I didn’t do anything stupid.
In the days leading up to BUG, I was quite stricken. As those of you who follow me on Twitter will know, I have been ill for some weeks and was devastated to think that I might not be able to make it. Manchester is some 45 minute drive for me and it’s not a drive suffered well when you’re ill and have phlegmy tendencies. I stayed in bed for days, willing my fragile, weak body better. Thankfully on the day of the gig, my wishes had been granted. The Gods of Comedy were smiling on me.And had patted me benignly on the arse too.
I tottered around the Northern Royal College of Music (or something similar) on skyscraper heels. At first, I felt like I was on some kind of crystal maze style aptitude test and I was in the industrial zone. Only this industrial zone had a faint smell of alcohol, sick and Mancunians. After some particularly taxing reading of signs with our eyes we managed to find the entrance.
On entering the college, I was quickly drowned in a Tsunami of beards and cosy jumpers. I felt like I needed to grab onto their owner’s across-body satchels to stop myself being swept away in the follicular waves. The demographic of Adam’s show was clear. Mostly men, early twenties to early forties, thick glasses, beards, alternative types with shaggy haircuts. As a scouser, I felt totally out of place. We feel naked if we are not very dressed up with hair and make up coiffed and buffed so you can see your face in it. Which is no mean feat. To see your own face in your own make up whist residing in your own body takes some huge physical and existential leaps.
As we entered the auditorium, it was heaving with beards. I feared for my safety. Never has an audience been so beard-heavy since the opening of the ‘Mike’s beard’ arena in 2008. Upon the screen was the greatest and biggest beard of all. ~And it was moving. To a count down.
4 minutes 48 seconds until BEARD!
On screen it showed Adam on his bike, grinning welcomly, biking towards our venue with a camera fixed to his helmet. Even though you knew he wasn’t on his way, this did lend to a sense of excitement seeing him dismount his bike, walk down the corridor and then arrive on stage as the count down finished. It also set the tone for what we were about to see.
Adam bumbled onto the stage to rapturous applause. He explained the format of the show for the uninitiated. Adam shows videos that he has found that he deems to be noteworthy and remarkable, and comments between videos. This was how Adam rather humbly put it, and certainly sells his show short. Adam chose some amazing videos and then would do some stand up based on each video using the mac equivalent of a powerpoint presentation. It’s hard to do a detailed review without ruining it for others, but I’ll do my best.
Using the videos as the framework, Adam used photos and Youtube comments between each to join them together to take you on a journey. He explored themes and topics such as exploiting children and Kate Middleton’s topless pictures and showcased daring and creative directors. One major theme that emerged for me was the divide between those that urge control, decency, (on the internet and beyond) and want to impose rules on a community and those that want to upset, cause chaos or rebel against what is expected of others. For me, the ~Youtube comments represented a microcosm of society. Misunderstandings being immortalised forever (David Bowie: “I’m sorry for what happened to your eye” being a case in point), people wanting to demonstrate superiority over others (“It’s brakecore you fucknose!” over what ‘beat’ a song had or “I know the real symbolism of that ‘Let’s Dance’ video and I’m so tired of everyone else who is so thick they don’t realise it-SIGH”). Those wanting to calm troubled waters, those wanting to impose the rules of society on others and being annoyed when they refuse to comply (grammar/spelling Nazis ahoy).
One thing that came across loud and clear to me, whether it was meant intentionally by Adam, is the ‘thrill of the troll’. We experienced that as an audience. Adam revealed the Youtube comments one by one and the audience gave a chortle of delight when they saw a debate over two Youtube users, one uptight and one more chaotic. It made me reflect upon how/if that manifests in our non-virtual interactions. Those people who seem to delight in being provocative, in pushing your buttons and in being deliberately out-and-out unkind to your face and how we react to that. To be honest, I’ve always felt a bit traumatised by those people. I’ve always felt that I must be ‘deficient’ in some way for them to be so horrible to my face. After Adam’s show, it’s put a whole new perspective on those people. Maybe it’s nothing personal but it’s the thrill of the troll.
It was just under 2 hours long and it was over too soon. I laughed like a drain the whole way through it and there was a woman in front of me who was crying with mirth. It was non-stop wonderful. I could hardly believe it when Adam started to wrap it up. I sat there hoping it was just an interval, but a quick glance at my watch told me that it was over. No interval happens at 11 pm.
We spilled out of the auditorium bubbling with excitement, eagerly chatting and repeating parts of it to our friends trying to relive the moment. Again, we were plunged into a plunge pool of beards. I was desperate to spot Adam as we were on the back row of the auditorium, and it was a big auditorium. I always like to sit quite close to the front at a comedy gig, as being so far away seems almost like you are watching them on a video or TV. There’s something about being in a ‘realish’ situation with the person who is performing.
My patience paid off, (as well as my ‘not-listening to my friends and looking around me as a stalker might’ attitude) as the famous beard breezed past with his bike and helmet. How funny to have a massive audience in the palm of your hand and then quietly just walk past them all. I remember either Richard Herring and/or (memory fails me) Adam talking about the ‘post gig rush’ and how you can be on a high and then go back to a hotel on your own or back to your home and the crushing contrast that can be. This had made me feel more able than I would usually to say hello.
Adam was chatting away merrily to a beard by the bar as I approached and I felt I had missed my chance. My sister told me she was going outside for a smoke and I should just follow her out for a chat instead of hanging around Adam like a crazed groupie. She was embarrassed. So was I. Would saying hello be a welcome intrusion or would it be an irritating diversion? Next thing I know I’m thrusting my hand out at Adam to shake his, despite him being in mid conversation with a beard.
“Loved the show. You were great”
Adam “thank you”
My sister then thrusts her hand out at Adam, prolonging the agony and ecstasy of the meeting.
“I thought you were great. Thank you”
Adam “thanks very much”.
We walk off. Cheeks (face) burning brightly. My mission was complete. I had met the man! I went back to my husband and my friends like a teenage fan girl having stumbled across the dressing room and snuck in.
We decided it was time to move on. There was a pub with our name on it and it was serving until 1 am. as we made our way out, I noticed Adam leaving. He was behind us. He was going out for a smoke. Fucking hell. I could get a photo with him. Our earlier encounter had strengthened my resolve and also the observation he had been chatting to fans ever since he came out. Hell. He might even like it…
me: Adam, would you mind if I had my photo taken with you please? (grinning wildly)
me: thanks. I wasn’t sure if you were camera shy or camera confident (following Adam out the door)
Adam: that’s fine
My husband then takes an appalling photo of me with Adam. I want it over quickly because I feel sorry for him. I want to release him into the wild, like a hedgehog that got trapped in some plastic can holders.
My sister: can I have my photo taken with you? (to me) ask him if he wants a ‘twin sandwich’
Me: er Adam, would you mind being the meat in a twin sandwich?
Adam: no of course not
me: you were amazing tonight. We just couldn’t stop laughing thanks so much. Bye!
My husband immortalised the twin sandwich on my cameraphone. Whether it was bothersome the encounter to Adam, I’ll never know. If so, I made it mercifully brief. If it had been enjoyable banter, I’m sorry I didn’t hang around longer. I guess I’ll never know. Either way, Adam Buxton made my year.