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Adam Buxton: A host clearly fascinated by his guests

You can always trust podcaster Adam Buxton to sort the wheat from the chaff, writes Robin Ince
Podcaster Adam Buxton. Image credit: Fabio De Paola / Guardian / Eyevine

Sometimes when an interviewer asks their guest what colour their folding bicycle is, my face may contort into a dismissive shape, but not when it is Adam Buxton asking the great avant-garde artist and musician Laurie Anderson

Adam Buxton’s ‘trick’ is that he is a host who is clearly fascinated by his guests. This is not a daytime TV presenter clawing around in the land of the bland making questions to fill time. As the conversation unfolds, we discover that Anderson is currently collaborating with a supercomputer for her new book and experimenting on how different languages convey different meaning and intent to what are ostensibly the same messages. 

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The Adam Buxton Podcast is normally considerably longer, but due to circumstances beyond his control, he ends up with just 30 minutes. But they still cover the nature of language, social media, what being an artist means now, telepathy and belief in ghosts. Anderson has seen three ghosts, but does not believe in them. She does not believe in telepathy, but has had a telepathic experience with David Bowie. On top of that, she sometimes tries to smell with her ears. 

Once Anderson has left the Zoom meeting, Buxton runs through what he had hoped to ask, having failed to put any of his planned questions to her in the allotted time. Sadly, we have been robbed of the opportunity to hear the two of them talking about the ITV grumpy GP comedy drama Doc Martin that she is apparently obsessed with. It is a dark delight to imagine her sat down watching the Cornish show with her late husband, Lou Reed. With his reputation as a scathing curmudgeon I am sure he would obviously empathise with the grouchy seaside doctor. Let’s hope we soon find out that Tom Waits is a big fan of Open All Hours

In Mortal I found out which whales experience the menopause. You’ll have to listen to find out and why that might be an environmental issue

Bridget Christie’s new show, Mortal, is all about our journey to death, a four-parter that will eventually lead you across the River Styx. It is a sublime piece of work that is strange, funny and wonderfully visual. Each episode starts with MeYou (or as she calls it YouMe), Bridget’s ghost. It is a traditional double act partnership, even though they are not usually between the living and the dead. YouMe is a jovial and facile character to Bridget’s more serious-minded living self. We eavesdrop on Christie’s thoughts as she wanders through the park or fills the washing machine. We experience the process of someone working out what they might think – it is the creative process in action, but so well put together that it is always engaging.

The documentary reality of Christie dealing with her daily life while her mind travels to places of absurdity and surrealism works perfectly in showing the two worlds we live in. Our hands might be untangling a pair of pants caught in the sheets after a spin cycle, but our mind is pondering goat men living within the sewers (that’s me, not Christie). It is daft and serious, something that Christie has shown an innate skill for since her breakthrough show A Bic For Her, in which she said of herself: “I am to Simone de Beauvoir what Horrible Histories are to Simon Schama.” Like Horrible Histories, this is wonderfully entertaining, and you’ll have learned something interesting at the end (my son’s knowledge of syphilitic kings who exploded after they died was particularly impressive when he was eight). 

In Mortal I found out which whales experience the menopause. You’ll have to listen to find out and why that might be an environmental issue. Mortal is not like anything else you’ll hear at 6.30pm on Radio 4. It is a wonderful example of artist and producer working together too, the sort of show that you listen to and then go straight back to BBC Sounds to listen to again. It is all enveloping and delightful company to keep. 

The Adam Buxton Podcast is on adam-buxton.co.uk
Mortal is on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds