The only puzzling thing about Adam and Joe’s 6 Music show being nominated for four Sony awards is why it took so long for recognition to come. The duo have been producing consistently astonishing radio – funny, warm, endlessly likeable – ever since they started on XFM in 2005. Without fanfare, their BBC show has quietly become essential listening, woven into the comforting fabric of Saturday mornings.
Buxton and Cornish make for unlikely media darlings. Two rambling, late 30-something, irredeemable poshos whose only shot at mainstream success (‘The Adam And Joe Show’ on Channel 4) fizzled out almost 10 years ago, and whose only real features involve making up daft musical pastiches and, erm, getting people to text in on a given subject – their technical abilities as broadcasters are limited.
What they do have is authentic chemistry. The cliché here would be to say they’re the kind of guys you want to have a pint with. Actually, their appeal is precisely that you can’t imagine them down the pub (Joe rarely drinks anyway). Theirs is a more innocent world. Much of what they talk about revolves around childhood memories. Friends since school, they see the world through a child’s eyes.
The show goes out on Saturday mornings and, to me, there’s something about the atmosphere they create that bodies forth the unique quality of a Saturday morning when you’re a kid: the wide-eyed excitement, the endless possibility of it. But that makes them sound more bland than they really are. Anyone can do nostalgia. Adam and Joe’s brilliance is about more than blocking out the big bad world with cosy banter.
Like the alternative comedians of the early 90s, their knack is for building a sense of comradeship among fans. The relative under-the-radar quality of 6 Music – Adam and Joe pull in 70,000 listeners a week, with about half that number again downloading the podcast – facilitates this communal, club-like feel.
The minor-phenomenon of bellowing “Stephen!” in public places – it’s hard to explain, head here for the backstory – reminds me of the feeling my friends and I used to get reciting puerile Vic Reeves/Newman & Baddiel sketches in the playground, confident in the knowledge than no-one outside our immediate circle would get the joke. I suspect many 20-somethings feel the same.
How else to pinpoint Adam and Joe’s appeal? There’s something powerfully Seinfeldian about the way they obsess over minutiae, mining unwritten social ‘rules’ for comic potential. One recent skit had Adam confessing to the absurd theatre involved in realising you’ve been walking the wrong way down the street. In these instances, Adam plays the bumbling, neurotic George Costanza to Joe’s sunny, easygoing Jerry Seinfeld.
They make us feel better, then, about our own weird little obsessions and self-delusions. But I think it’s less a question of summoning up universals, and more to do with the unique closeness of their relationship. We feel grateful to be invited into their private world. To paraphrase a sweet compliment Jon Stewart paid Michael J.Fox when he interviewed him on ‘The Daily Show’ the other day, the world seems a better place when Adam and Joe are in it.