There aren’t many podcasters more widely and warmly regarded than Adam Buxton, AKA Dr Buckles, AKA Count Buckules. Since 2015 he’s been talking to comedians, writers and musicians, though usually only in passing about their comedy, writing and music. Without any gimmicky formats or forced jollity, The Adam Buxton Podcast has been the gold standard of interview podcasts for a little while now.
Each episode opens and closes with Buxton wandering through the Norfolk countryside, usually with faithful dog Rosie haring around nearby, and in between is an apparently unstructured stroll through the conversational hinterlands. Buxton and his guest might chat about their careers; they might just as soon talk about picking up hitchhikers, what they’ve been watching on telly, or UFO sightings. The chat goes where the chat goes.
The magic’s in how completely unforced and genuinely fun each episode feels, though Buxton’s self-deprecating style masks a real skill at getting his guests to relax and talk unguardedly. He even got Paul McCartney, who’s been reflexively telling the same anecdotes for about 40 years now, to spill some new stories.
He’s got a deep back catalogue to dig into too. Here’s where to start with Dr Buckles’ patented ramble-chats.
Episode 28: Michael Palin
A couple of big Buxton themes crystallised in his chat with Python and genial explorer Michael Palin. Early on Buxton’s guests leaned heavily toward British comedy greats past and present – big tick on this one there – and Steve Coogan, Michaela Coel, Sara Pascoe and more all featured. Palin pitching up to chat was a pointer that Buxton was moving into the biggest podcast leagues.
The other big theme is death. When Buxton’s dad, the journalist Nigel Buxton, died in 2015 it coloured a lot of the early episodes, and Buxton spoke very movingly about more recent passing of his mum with Joe Cornish last year.
It all builds toward Palin talking with disarming frankness and fondness about the last moments he spent with fellow Python Graham Chapman, as Chapman lay dying of cancer in 1989. Palin remembers sharing bad reviews which mutual enemies had recently received, and gossiping with the unconscious Chapman. “I just hate this dreadful solemnity that happens,” he says. It’s a prime example of Buxton’s empathetic style and, staggeringly, found another dimension to Palin’s all-round good dude status. Listen now on Acast >>
Episode 34: Joe Cornish
Buxton cut his teeth as an audio broadcaster on XFM and 6Music with his Adam and Joe Show co-host and best friend Joe Cornish, and it’s now a Christmas tradition for the pair to meet up for a catch-up and some low-grade gift-giving. (Their mutual school friend Louis Theroux is a regular too – start with episode 26, in which Theroux sings Baccara’s ‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’ in a truly haunting falsetto.)
Really, all of the Buxton-Cornish collab episodes are essentials here, with the easy, silly chat between the pair both deeply endearing and . Go back to the first, though, to get in at the ground floor of The Doodle Story, a fairly pedestrian anecdote Cornish tells about being in a meeting with Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg while working on The Adventures of Tintin, and which ended up being thrillingly serialised over three years. Listen now on Acast >>
Episode 130: Zadie Smith
One of the many things which separates Buxton’s podcast from the many billions of other celebrity chat podcasts is its literary streak – Philip Pullman, Marlon James, Kazuo Ishiguro and Candice Carty-Williams have all featured. Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth, is in many ways a perfect guest: she’s lucid and earnest about big stuff, and just quick to laugh and be daft.
This episode is exactly in the sweet spot between talking about very biggest things – in this case what the point of art is, and what it means to make art at a time of global turmoil, and whether Smith makes art to escape her fear of death – in a laidback, funny way. Doesn’t sound like it’d be possible to have a laugh about all that, but Buxton and Smith manage it. No other podcast interviewer would be quite able to get away with asking, “What is it about death that’s such a downer?” Listen now on Acast >>