Adam Buxton Presents BUG Special: David Bowie 17-04-16

Reviewed by Joe Douglas

Last night, in the grand surroundings of the recently refurbished Albert Hall, Manchester, full-time comedian and part-time David Bowie worshipper (or should that be the other way round?) Adam Buxton presented a comedy-lecture on his thin white idol.

For those of you that are familiar with Buxton’s live BUG shows (for those that aren’t, I highly recommend that you track them down on YouTube), the structure of this presentation will be vaguely familiar. As with his regular slot at the BFI Southbank in London, Buxton (a.k.a Dr Buckles) and the BUG team have scoured the internet for a bevy of fascinating clips and music videos, ventured into the often confused and always hilarious world of YouTube’s comments section, and put together a few videos of their own, all with the beardy funnyman’s droll observations and offbeat skits binding the production together.

There are a few key differences from the usual BUG sets here though. The first and most obvious detail is that this show is dedicated to just one man (as Buxton himself teased about 10 minutes in, “I’m not going to tell you who. It’s a surprise…”). The second difference is that the performance runs for two hours, not including the intermission – far longer than those held at the BFI. That surplus time is filled for the most part with a lovingly compiled selection of bonus material, little-seen interviews, interesting outtakes and artful fan videos that hardcore Bowie fans will surely lap up. Highlights for me included the story of his battle with the censors for his 1979 performance on Saturday Night Live, his pioneering trolling of a one-time fan in the early days of the internet, and a mesmerising video put together for ‘Right’ from the 1975 album Young Americans. The BUG David (or Zavid) Bowie special feels far removed from traditional stand up comedy, and closer to attending a quirky lecture by your favourite professor amusingly pontificating on his specialist subject.

One thing to note is that this is a cheerful tribute to the Starman, rather than a mourning of his passing. Adam Buxton lost his Dad about a month before Bowie’s death, and he has openly discussed how hard he took the deaths of these towering father figures in his podcast series (check out in particular the wonderful two part episode “Bowiewallow”, where Buxton swaps stories with the likes of Jonathan Ross, Dara O’Kearney and Kathy Burke about the impact Bowie had on their lives). Here though, Buxton sensibly takes a less emotional approach (at one point he simply drily observed that he “wasn’t a fan of Bowie’s new phase”).

The anecdotes and films flit randomly between time periods, from Ziggy Stardust to Scary Monsters to the Berlin trilogy, but chiefly Buxton concentrates on the Bowie eras that he identifies with the most as part of his mega-fandom. Although that does mean the timeline is oddly truncated (there’s no mention of anything pre-Hunky Dory and little for the two decades between Glass Spider and his death), it does bestow upon the show an incredibly warm and personalised celebration of Bowie’s life. This is a real treat for fans of David Bowie and BUG alike.

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