Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Other Way

After Bowie's death, the English professional funny person Adam Buxton read my blog and asked me to talk about it on his podcast, something I was honoured to do. He contacted me again while I was in Vegas saying he was doing a Bowie tribute show in Dublin soon and very kindly offering to guest list me. The show was a few days after my Lille trip so the timing was great, and I was really looking forward to it.

We unfortunately got there a little late due to Mrs Doke's insistence she knows better than Google Maps. A good hour before the event, I made the fundamental marital error of presenting her with a Google Maps suggested route from our house to the Iveagh Gardens with an estimate journey time of 26 minutes. Her response to my effrontery was three pronged in nature: outrage that I doubted her navigational prowess, dismissal of the Google Maps approved route in favour of one taking us directly through the city centre at rush hour, and insistence that we take that route. I compounded my error by suggesting a compromise route that would have us skirting around the centre of a city rather poorly designed by the Vikings for modern traffic rather than right through it, at rush hour.

An hour later, we are edging along the quays as she wails about the unexpected traffic and I wrestle with the death wish impulse to say out loud "We should have gone the other way". The fact that I have survived several decades of marriage hangs by such slim threads.

So we sadly missed the start of the show, after a fun "are you really on the guest list? I can't find you. Who put you on?" sweat that echoed the one Bowie himself put me through over a decade ago outside the Point. We came in during Lazarus, Bowie's intensely poignant farewell to this world. As we were ushered to the only remaining seats (front row but of course) we got to feel like those naughty kids who always arrive late for class.

The show has an interesting format that I suspect no words I write will do justice to. In reductionist terms it consists of Adam coming in at the Bowie phenomenon from a number of tangents, then using a YouTube clip as illustration, sometimes followed by some hilarious dissections of some of the YouTube comments that (as anyone who has wasted too much of their lives reading YouTube comments will already know) tend to be silly, surreal, inane, irreverent, misinformed, grammatically atrocious and hilarious all at once. So perfect fodder for Adam's brand of professional funnymanship.

It's a format that is simultaneously engaging and deceptively simple. It feels like one of your funny mates rattling on about stuff on the Internet, except much better and more carefully crafted because none of our funny mates are actually as funny as Adam. It's a format I'm certain Bowie himself would have loved, as it arcs between different periods and aspects of his career, the nature of stardom and fandom, and hops between respectfulness and irreverence with ease. Some of the highlights (spoiler alert!) include Bowie's ingenious subversion of 1970s American TV censorship with mad puppetry skillz on Saturday Night Live (which I was unaware of before the show), Adam reimagining Bowie's annus mirabilis (1977, when he wrote and recorded two of the greatest albums of all time, and helped write record and produce two more with Iggy Pop) if instead of being an eccentric reclusive 70s star he was an attention seeking all tweeting inane hash tagging present day one, and a stomach churningly funny exchange between a fan and a web persona believed to be Bowie himself that whisked me back to the early days of the Internet when none of us were sure what the Internet was for and the barriers between stardom and fandom started to crack.

Overall, the whole thing was a much more enjoyable and possibly more faithful to the spirit of the artist affair than the hundreds of "serious" tributes to Bowie since his passing. No matter how serious he got about his work or his process, there was always a quintessentially English tongue in cheek subversive quality to Bowie himself, a refusal to take himself or anything else in this world too seriously.

Adam is currently touring this show I believe so if you like Bowie or just comedy in general, get your ass along to it. For Bowie fans still in grief, it can have an oddly cleansing effect. Since his death, I found it difficult to listen to Bowie's music (and impossible to listen to Blackstar, the Death album), but since the show have gone back to listening to the music that has been the soundtrack of my adult life. 

However, you don't particularly need to be a Bowie fan to enjoy it (I was struck by how young the Dublin audience was) even if it probably helps. She's not exactly a Bowie superfan and it's pretty hard to make my wife laugh when she's tilted by traffic, I've certainly never managed it, but Adam pulled it off with aplomb.


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