Josie Long came back to the Marlowe last night with her new show, ‘Something Better’. As witness to the first show of the tour, Canterbury had the privilege of being the first city to greet her.
As the audience filed into their seats, Josie greeted them happily, already standing on stage filled with banners and singing to herself intermittently. Too warm in her fur-lined winter boots, she took them off, her toes wiggling happily in some jazzy socks.
‘I do think [the show] is a bit partisan, but it’s trying not to be. I know that Kent is very Brexity, but I am not very Brexity.’ The crowd cheers with raucous applause, and she visibly relaxes. The audience is on her side.
‘If you did vote Brexit, you don’t need to feel bad. This is a show about trying to cope with the new political landscape’. Yet, despite this claim, the show fails to infuse itself with Josie’s trademark optimism, often feeling more self-consolatory than anything.
‘The news feels as if someone is sneaking in to my house and sticking tiny pins into me every day’, Josie says, all faux-rage. Despite the humour, there’s a real sense of a comedian and an activist who is struggling to find her way. Larger problems are absorbed by a return to a focus inward, and a lingering sense of ‘is this really what life is supposed to be like?’
It all gradually descends. In her show, Josie speaks out about her recent awareness of the self-defining left-wing of the populace being infinitesimally smaller than she initially thought (10%). This is then compounded by the rise of Donald Trump. The recent infighting amongst the Labour party leaves little room for hope amongst the chaos; Josie now even omits mention of Jeremy Corbyn, a man whom she once fiercely championed.
In combination with that, she deals with her struggles as a single thirty-something who feels that time is ticking. ’34 just doesn’t feel very “on brand”,’ Josie admits, leading into an account of the time where somebody ‘ruined the barbeque’ by asking when she was going to have kids.
‘I thought that I was through my grieving, I thought I was so zen, but then after the women’s march and after Trump’s Muslim ban, over the last few days I’ve just thought “we can’t Brexit, please don’t do it”, but then they’ve voted it through tonight.’
However, Josie punctuates the catharsis with moments of joyous boisterousness. Over the course of an hour, she navigates her feelings surrounding Brexit and politics with a spirit and a sense of fun that is impossibly her own, drawing us into her familiar and comforting sphere. She is a comedian that excels at making you feel as if you’re on the sofa in your friends living room, clutching warm cups of tea while your ribs ache with laughter.
She asks the big questions surrounding Brexit such as, ‘WHY DON’T THEY WANT ME TO GO ON AN ERASMUS STUDY ABROAD SCHEME?’ and ‘WHY DON’T THEY WANT ME TO SEE THE BEAUTIFUL BRIDGES OF COPENHAGEN?!’
Something that is hard not to admire about Josie’s stand-up comedy is her willingness to descend into one-woman, surrealist sketches, involving witches or New York accents or peculiar scenarios snatched from much-loved works of classical fiction. Or a combination of all three. Perhaps, for now, her inner landscape has been clouded by recent events, but one thing is for sure: her passion is relentless, and her vigour and concern for a brighter, better future can only act as a force for good in world where all seems uncertain.