British sci-fi action/comedy Attack the Block became a sleeper indie hit in the US after debuting at South by Southwest earlier this year. But back in UK, its selling point for many people was the man behind it — writer and director Joe Cornish. Over the past 15 years, he and his comedy partner Adam Buxton have garnered a die-hard cult following in Britain for their silly, pop culture-infused brand of comedy.
Adam and Joe met as teenagers, sharing a love of legendary British sketch show Not The Nine O’Clock News. They began their careers by creating weird, funny videos in the mid-90s for Channel 4 (home to some of Britain’s best comedies, including Spaced, Brass Eye, Peep Show, and the original Whose Line Is It Anyway?). This led to their own Channel 4 program, The Adam and Joe Show, which aired from 1996 to 2001.
It’s hard to describe The Adam and Joe Show — essentially, they sit in a crappy studio apartment consuming way too much pop culture, whilst wearing their names on their t-shirts. They more or less made the entire show themselves — filming, lighting, recording, writing, and hosting — making it feel like the two funniest people you knew in college happened to stumble upon a camcorder.
Probably the most memorable running feature of The Adam and Joe Show was the toy parodies of movies and television shows. Elaborately constructed spoofs of popular films and series, adapted to a toy world and “performed” by puppets and dolls, they hold up surprisingly well.
A “best of” DVD of The Adam and Joe Show was eventually released in the UK, but there doesn’t appear to be any (entirely legal) way of getting the episodes stateside. Various clips can be found online — an adorably outdated clip about how rubbish the internet was back in 1996, Adam’s dad Nigel reviewing the pop music of the time , and a lot (I mean, A LOT) of toy Star Wars spoofs.
From there, they popped up on television in a variety of different spots: a series about American animation, covering the Glastonbury Festival for the BBC, and fronting a series in Japan entitled Adam and Joe Go Tokyo. Here, the boys try to make some cash by charming ladies at a host bar.
Their next stop as a duo was radio, initially filling in for Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant while they were off making the second series of The Office. They were a hit, eventually moving to BBC’s 6 Music station in 2007 to host a three-hour show on Saturday mornings. (6 Music, incidentally, has hosted an impressive collection of comedians, including Russell Brand, Phill Jupitus, Russell Howard, Jon Richardson, Richard Herring, and Josie Long).
It’s the 6 Music show that’s brought them back into the spotlight, albeit a small, quirky spotlight. As of 2009, the show was pulling in 70,000 listeners, making it the most popular show on 6 Music (which is available only on digital radios and the internet). There’s not much of a format to the show per se, just the two of them riffing and rambling. The show also relies heavily on listener participation and interaction, and their fans are as enthusiastic as the hosts.
The show went on hiatus in 2010, while Joe was making Attack the Block. They came back to host a Christmas special and a few episodes from the Glastonbury Festival, before briefly reviving the series from April to June of this year. When, or even if, they will be coming back for weekly episodes still seems to be up in the air, much to the disappointment of their legions of fans. But for now, there is a considerable backlog of podcasts to catch up on.
Attempting to explain all of their running segments and inside jokes would take up most of the Internet, but here are a few key elements to getting Adam and Joe.
1. David Bowie — Adam and Joe regularly and openly discuss their obsession with all things Bowie. They both do spectacular impressions of the Goblin King, which they can in slip into nearly any conversation, replete with the noise they’ve decided encapsulates him: wuzza wuzza wuzza.
2. Stephen! — Several years ago, as part of one of their regular interactive segments, Adam and Joe asked listeners to submit juvenilia: artistic works they produced as children. One particular entry evolved into a call and response meme for Adam and Joe listeners, still to be found on YouTube comments and the occasional Fleet Foxes concert. Stephen! Just coming!
3. Song Wars — In this regular segment of the show, Adam and Joe compete to create funny songs on an idea or theme, on which the listeners then vote. Songs have focused on internet piracy, the royal wedding, and instructions for cooking Ikea meatballs. Two of their strongest entries came when they attempted to make theme songs for The Quantum of Solace.
Joe’s song – “The Sontum Of Quolace”
Adam’s song – “The Quantum of Solace”
Further listening might bring out some stellar Australian accents, Adam’s incredibly respectful impression of the Queen (based on singer and TV host Cilla Black), and Joe’s undeniable crush on Pierce Brosnan.
As a borderline obsessive Adam and Joe fan, I eagerly await news of their return as a duo. In the meantime, Joe has co-written the upcoming The Adventures of Tintin, and is said to be writing the new Ant-Man movie alongside Edgar Wright. Adam now hosts a regular live show, Bug, which focuses on music videos and the brilliant YouTube comments they inspire. He also uploads regular videos of his own, including this odd but catchy ode to being an ungracious winner.
Elise Czajkowski is a freelance journalist and comedy nerd. She gets unreasonably excited when she gets a mention on Twitter.