29 January 2016

Sometimes you stare at the goat. Sometimes the goat stares back at you.

Unkie Dave stares at goats. The goats stare at Unkie Dave. Neither is harmed in the process.
Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, 18th December, 2014
Thanks to a scheduling error on the part of a family member, I found myself this evening the proud possessor of tickets to see Jon Ronson in conversation with Adam Buxton.  I enjoy reading Ronson, though occasionally I find his documentaries uncomfortable viewing, his slightly awkward yet very direct interviewing style creating a palatable tension that never quite bursts, just builds and builds. As for Buxton, I was a big fan of The Adam and Joe Show way back when the Interwebs were just a new born lamb, and the chance to see the two sitting around having a chat was an unexpected treat indeed.

The evening was funnier than I was expecting, a mix of stories, dialogues and video clips, but as funny as it was at times it was also quite uncomfortable, for both men were brutally honest with each other (and the audience) about their own difficulties, anxieties and personal problems. This openness was disarming, and the awkward directness of Ronson's interview style came across a number of times, leaving you sitting there wondering, "seriously, did he just ask that?".

When discussing Buxton's working partnership with Joe Cornish, he asked how Buxton felt when Cornish went off to Hollywood and became a huge success and Buxton was left sitting alone in his garden shed. This wasn't an attempt to goad or belittle him, it was a genuine question from a friend who was meaning well, but wanted to get to some level of truth. Buxton replied with a long and thoughtful answer, brutally honest, which basically said the experience hurt him, despite how much he cared for Cornish.

I've seen this effect before in Ronson's documentaries, where the interviewee is somewhat thrown by how unsubtle the question is and yet completely asked without malice, and they answer from a similarly unguarded place in sympathetic response. After watching him for a few hours this evening, I'm pretty sure that's not an interview technique, a style affected to get past his subject's barriers. I think that that is just who he is and how he talks. When you see him on screen chatting with people he is really just being himself, awkwardness and all. Ironically that seems to open people up far more than if they were totally at ease.

When he tries to put people at ease, well, that doesn't go so well. His response to Buxton's honesty was, in an attempt perhaps to make him feel better, to share that he himself didn't get over his own sense of self-doubt until George Clooney made a film of his book.

I think it wasn't meant as negging or a humblebrag (they're real words, I swear), but seriously, ouch.

A very enjoyable evening, but sometimes, as the singer says, the honesty was just too damn much.

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