Josie Long’s comedy has something of a DIY mentality. Introducing herself from the side of the stage in full view of the audience, then chastising people in the crowd for looking at her and spoiling the illusion, she takes to the intimate stage of the Nook café, wending her way through the crowd, thanking them earnestly for coming and handing out her own handwritten programmes. It’s an informal start to the show representative of everything that makes her brilliant- conversational, frank and honest. Her stand-up has the quality of an open dialogue between friends, with no contrived links in her material or false showmanship. In the frequently insecure world of stand-up comedy, Josie Long is refreshingly comfortable being her own wonderful self.
The Future is Another Place, her January mini-tour, started life as an Edinburgh show at the Queen Dome last year, but in the intervening months appears to have been developed and retained its relevancy.
The central theme is very much her finding a political voice in modern Britain, and exploring her own ideas and responses to the harsh government of the Tory Party. She focuses on a relatable theme to our generation, not only in our shared suffering under the public sector cuts and the rise in tuition fees, but in our shared helplessness towards fighting against it, or even voicing an opinion on the subject.
It is Long’s complete openness and honesty in sharing these view points that is so identifiable – she frequently apologises for ranting, or for the very act of voicing these doubts. In today’s apathetic climate, it is sadly often not taken seriously or even deemed socially acceptable to discuss this outrage at the injustice of the system. Our parents, who have lived through it before, perhaps protested and went on marches then but are now weary and jaded, fed up of being completely ignored by the administration. Whether it’s a million people taking to the streets to protest an illegal war or hundreds of thousands of us peacefully protesting the rise in tuition fees, the collective voice of dissent is ignored by those in charge and the minority of anarchists singled out. The entire movement callously smeared by the media. It’s enough to make you give up and embrace those selfish Conservative values yourself, looking out for number one in these times of enforced austerity.
A hard message to sell but a vital one, and one which is thankfully underpinned with a wonderfully original comic voice by Long, taking in imagined feuds between the Bronte sisters, and a meeting between Ringo and the other Beatles in which they call him up on ruining their albums by slipping children’s songs in the middle, which had me in hysterics.
In balancing the serious subject matter she is dealing with, she often consults lists of things she likes (Stewart Lee’s favourite comic prop, the piece of pre prepared paper) to show that she isn’t all anger and frustration, a convention which relieves the tension but also heightens the gravity of her message. Next to a story about the kettling of UK Uncut protesters, where a girl was left in her own vomit for an entire day (which raises an audible “oh God” from the audience), the fact that she really enjoys swimming outside now seems somehow insignificant.
But the show is far from insubstantial left-wing pontificating. Long is clearly doing something about it – not only does she present well-reasoned and well-researched arguments, she cites personal experiences in her work with the aforementioned UK Uncut and countless other thoroughly sensible organisations, details for which are listed in the programme, leaving you with no excuse but to get active in any way you can.
Almost unaware of her own inspirational qualities (she has this audience in the palm of her hand from the very start) she sees herself as passing on the message of others, more well informed and articulate than herself. Her vitality and encyclopedic knowledge of her subject matter are infectious. Much like her regular podcast with Robin Ince, Utter Shambles, far from being relentlessly furious, she is brimming with recommendations of things she loves; music, films, books, other comedians that share her cause.
Josie Long is able to educate and inform in a way that never seems condescending or preachy. If anything, she is unashamedly the voice of socialist reason our generation so desperately needs. This is comedy with open eyes and a beating heart, and I feel sure she has made a few more converts tonight.