Circuit Training 36: Josie Long, the Agitatress

By Si Hawkins in, 7th July 2011

Smoky of voice and funky of T-shirt, Josie Long is the smiley face of furious left-wing agit-comedy. Her new Edinburgh show, The Future is Another Place, rips David Cameron a new asshole in feel-good fashion, and previously apathetic fans of Long’s less-militant TV and radio work may well find themselves unexpectedly agitated into action. Ed Miliband’s people would be well advised to get along and take copious notes.

We catch Josie a few days before it all kicks off, wandering the streets of London and pondering the great trek north…

We’re almost at the other festive season. How are the previews going?

I’m near the end. I’ve got three left. It’s sort of crept up on me this year so I’m hoping it’ll be alright.

I noticed the word ‘ramshackle’ in the blurbs for both last year’s
and this year’s shows: is that code for ‘not quite finished?’

No! No! I think it’s just how I seem, I seem quite cobbled together always, and I don’t mind that. I like it, I like the idea, it seems a bit more human.

The show is about politics, the fact that I feel constantly tormented and angry and how can I deal with that. It’s about going to protests and dealing with failure and disappointment. Cheery stuff! All the fun stuff. I like the idea that the show might inspire people to think.

Indeed, we can be an awfully apathetic nation.

Oh I disagree, especially most young people I know, they’re super-politicised.

But out in the Daily Mail-reading suburbs, where I’m from…

I think I see a lot of normal, regular people, I go to all kinds of towns. The thing I’ve learned from going on protests and demos is that there are so many people out there of all ages and walks of life and they all feel the same way.

I always think that it’s helpful to agitate and to be like ‘people aren’t apathetic, and I can make them not apathetic.’ I’m supremely evangelical at the moment, you’ve caught me on the wrong day!

You have to rein it all in for your current radio gig though, on
6music. Is that the first proper radio presenting you’ve done?

Gosh, do you know I think it is. I’ve popped up on [London arts station] Resonance, but this is the first time on a digital nationwide. I think it came about a little bit from doing a podcast but in the long term I’ve done little bits of Steve Lamacq’s show, I’ve made a couple of pilots and been trying to scheme to get in at 6music for a long time. It’s my favourite radio station, it’s the one that I listen to. It really is my dream job.

Do you get to choose all the records you play?

No, but you can pick three songs a show, and I’ve managed to get a couple of bands on that I really like. It’s good man.

TV-wise, as well as the regular stand up-related stuff you got quite
involved with Skins…

I did, I wrote for them for a few years, and did a few bits of acting. I found the acting a real thrill actually, because they put me in as a bit of a lark really, I really ended up enjoying it a lot. I didn’t think I was interested in it but actually it was really fun and exciting to be part of a show that’s got that big a crew, quite a huge budget. But the whole process was really exciting, because the people who ran it were so generous, really helpful, gave people loads of advice about scriptwriting and screenwriting and TV – a really brilliant learning atmosphere.

You’re quite a popular TV face now: you must be getting to the own-show

Well, we’ll see won’t we? It feels like the strangest alchemy, because you don’t know what people want or whether you’ll get stuff commissioned or anything. So I like the idea of it, but then I really love the idea of doing live stuff, because you are in control of it, in a good way.

It’s not the same culture as the US, it’s not like we’re doing it to get into movies. I mean, there aren’t any movies. It’s a brilliant culture of stand-up here, there’s so much going on, so many places to perform, different types of performance. Especially Edinburgh. It amazes me and delights me, I think it’s wonderful.

A lot of people find it completely harrowing.

It is really, really hard, it’s a test of strength and everything, but sometimes it’s brilliant as well, and it’s worth it. Even when it’s shit it’s worth it.

Do your Edinburgh shows usually sell out these days?

Oh god, who’s to say, you never know. But I don’t read reviews and that’s helpful: you just remove yourself from a whole world of pain.

I’m doing a lot of extra gigs – that’s what I like about Edinburgh, everyone ends up doing about three extra gigs a night. But what I also like doing, I’m going to go swimming in the sea as much as possible. That’ll be my main hobby. I love it so much.