Only a true fan could get away with saying, “I don’t think much of Bowie’s new phase. I much preferred the earlier, more alive stuff.”
The comment may elicit a collective intake of breath from the audience but Adam Buxton’s BUG Special is based on the kind of irreverent humour that could only work among fellow enthusiasts.
While the industry has been awash with musical tributes to the Thin White Duke over the last four months, the comedian offers a personalised ramble through some of the comedian’s favourite Bowie music videos.
This is comedy as part celebration, part catharsis as it explores an influential body of work that focuses on the 1970s, which is Buxton’s preferred period. It primarily works because it’s not afraid of affectionate criticism. “I love David’s acting,” he notes drily after playing a clip of Labyrinth. “It’s much better than Jagger’s or Sting’s…”
It’s a format that could easily turn into an episode of Gogglebox: watching videos and commenting on them, or reading other people’s YouTube feedback (“What a shitty gift, he died on my B-Day,” bemoans one person on the ‘Lazarus’ forum).
Yet while the evening has the warm, collective experience of watching television together, Buxton elevates it with knowledge and fond tribute. Videos are presented with fun facts that would only interest aficionados, while songs or interviews are parodied with spliced footage or specially commissioned animations.
In a video short entitled ‘The Good Life On Mars’ a Lego David talks to then wife Angie about the next character he should embrace (Cobbler Bob? Groovy Gardener?). In an edit of the ‘Where Are We Now?’ video, meanwhile, Buxton edits himself into the footage while changing the lyrics to represent a trip to Sainsbury’s.
Some of this material was used in earlier shows between 2013-15 but it still feels fresh and, as with all the video footage, gains a certain poignancy in the light of Bowie’s new phase of work.