May 1, 2013 Theatre
May 1, 2013
On the way in to last night’s show at the Basement, the girl checking our tickets at the door said: “Enjoy the show. Good choice.” It was such a strange, unexpected comment from a ticket person that it took me a few seconds to figure out what choice she was talking about.
Among a certain demographic, into which the ticket girl clearly fell, Josie Long inspires a more or less unrivalled fervour. I had seen more tweets suggesting I see her show than the shows of all other comedians at the festival combined. Many of those tweets were from other comedians and many were in strong language.
I can tell you now that the reason for that fervour is partly because of Josie Long’s material but mostly because she is the world’s most likeable comedian. Maybe you read that and go, “Oh, yeah, I’ve seen some likeable comedians. I know what he’s talking about there.” But no, you don’t.
She calls the show Romance and Adventure, but early on she tells the audience it is actually about despair. And although we all laugh because that is clearly a joke, it sort of isn’t. The bulk of the show is about her passion for social justice and how painful that makes her life because she feels like she is continually on the losing side.
She talks at length about how the Tories are ruining the United Kingdom, where she is from, and she gets really angry with capitalism in general and the wealthy in particular, including a great bit where she rips into Richard Branson and spoils the end of a Kurt Vonnegut novel.
Anger and despair are not the twin pillars of either comedy or likeability. None of what I have described about her show sounds like it should be either funny or enjoyable; it sounds uncomfortable. And yet, it’s not.
You will laugh a lot at Josie Long’s show, but you will probably never choke on your laughter like you might do at the best stand-up. But there’s the point: this isn’t really stand-up – at least not in any conventional sense. It’s like being at the home of a really good friend, with tea and biscuits and a sense that, although the world is fucked up, and we don’t even really know if that’s fixable, at least we’ve got friends like this in it.