With ceaseless curiosity and some wonderfully endearing idiosyncrasies, Josie Long has lit up the comedy circuit for half her life. Now after a few lifestyle changes and a long hard look at her own existence she’s heading out on the road for perhaps her most personal tour yet.
As with many great comic pieces, her show ‘Cara Josephine’ exposes the soul of its performer for all to see. “It’s about getting my heart broken, looking at everything and not wanting to make the same mistake again,” she tells me. Named after her niece, who was born during its writing, this 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe hit also aims to reflect the joy accompanying this new addition to her family.
Long is clearly at a stage where analysing what has passed, and considering what might yet be, is occupying much of her time. We won’t call any of this a midlife crisis; it’s more a period of contemplation for the 32-year-old comic. “It does feel like I’ve been doing it for so long. Sometimes I think I’d be better at this by now,” she laughs. There’s certainly no sign of a fast car or bad leather jacket, the calling cards of every middle-aged person failing to muddle through. There are plenty of outdoor pursuits to sooth her romantic distress instead, which she’s fully embracing.
Not bound to treatises on love and life, her show covers Long’s developing other passions. One of which is climbing, starting a ‘heartbreak climbing club’ in the summer with two friends. “The problem is I’ve not got that much better. So we can’t do the same routes any more. I love it and just put in loads of enthusiasm, but I’m always shit.” The active life evidentially has a hold on her now, outdoor swimming, cycling and boxing all being eagerly embraced. She admits all the physical activity works primarily as distraction from emotions.
Whilst this one show proves particularly cathartic, Long has already spent since the age of 14 examining her life and our society, mocking them both for the comic delight of audiences. “I’ve interpreted the world through stand up. It’s part of how I lead my life. It’s helped me work out my feelings about things.” Previously the three-time Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee’s stand-up offered an enhanced version of who she was, but now the realities of her own life are creeping into her output. “I just wanted to talk about the things that were biggest in my life. I also felt that I didn’t have anything new to say about politics. I’d written three shows which had said everything I felt, but nothing has really changed. The government hasn’t changed in the way they were behaving.”
She came to my attention due to her avidly political work, so it’s a relief to hear this still continues. One new venture sees a monthly show, centred on an investigative journalist being thwarted at every turn. Another big part of the Josie Long existence is Arts Emergency, a British charity organisation which supports people looking to work within the arts. “It’s brilliant. It’s all about helping people develop their own sense of entitlement… to try and level the playing field. We work with people who don’t come from any privilege whatsoever.” By mentoring these young people, she’s hoping this growing scheme will act as a force for real change in the long term.
After the tour, Long is even turning her talents to making a feature film, dragging her away from stand-up for as long as she can bear. “I’m always doing something. I’ve always got loads of projects on the go. I don’t do that much compared to some people I know.” It seems the difference between her comedy and film writing is the input and collaboration from others. The former demanding a cycle of rewrites, whilst standup sees her endlessly refining her routines through actual performance.
There’s almost too much to discuss with the Radio 4 and The Guardian contributor, she’s evidentially a creative whirlwind. Drag her on to a subject she loves and a tone of excitability rises in her voice. This is coming from someone who is already, shall we say, rather animated. She’s certainly enamoured by her recent first driving lesson. “If you learnt to drive before 30 you’re a square,” she quips.
Josie Long’s Cara Josephine comes to Brighton’s Corn Exchange on Thu 19 Feb