Fringe 2012: An Interview with Josie Long

By Chris Purnell in, 9th August 2012

‘All those waiting for the show, Uncoupled, can now go into theatre two,’ the sturdy woman with pig-tails, in a tight event staff tshirt bellowed over the general din of chatter, eating and drinking that normally accompanies the lunch time rush in the cafe at the Teviot, one of the biggest venues at the Fringe.
This broke Josie’s train of thought, as she turned around to see who was shouting. ‘…Actually my show is a little bit like that,’ she continued ‘about liking the 1%, not liking the 1%, but liking nice things and feeling bad about liking nice things because I don’t like the idea of being wealthy, and I think the idea of being wealthy is kind of sickening, and gross, and wrong and like how do you quote that?’ Josie spoke so fast I worried if she were ever to do coke her head might explode.

Winning the BBC New Comedy Awards at the age of 17, Josie Long has gone on to become the woman from that thing – you know the one – that smart one – no, the other one – that’s her – due to her countless TV credits, her radio show, and her many live shows. Now, Josie, tired from performing the night before, spoke about her 5th year at the Edinburgh Fringe while sipping on a large black coffee.

‘I turned 30 this year, and I think I sort of had a bit of a, I want to say crisis but it was like a re-evaluation of everything in my life.’ She said. ‘A lot of it was panic about growing up, and I moved house and I was in a really big relationship and that ended, and it was like a mid life crisis – but I really want to live longer than 60 – so call it a quarter life crisis.’
Many journalists and reviewers once saw the UK Uncut activist and political commentator, as a whimsical comedian, and labelled her more recent shows as overtly political, but the only thing Josie claims is different is now she is angry, ‘but I like to think it’s kind of funny as well,’ she hastened to add. ‘I don’t like to talk about it because it sounds so… ‘Oh wow, that will be a great hour,’ you know?’

The growing anger and a growing political awareness is something, perhaps not so coincidentally, which sprung forth after the last UK Government election, not just in Josie, but among most apathetic Labour voters, Lib-Dem voters, and anyone that crossed the ‘anyone but Tories’ box on their ballot paper. ‘I know there are a lot of people who are similar,’ Josie said. ‘Under the last Labour government, for good or for bad, I was really quite complacent. I was upset about the Iraq war and I did a load of protests about that, and you would hear about protests against other things, but it didn’t feel like it was really prominent in my heart.
I didn’t feel under threat in the same way as I do now, where this government, pretty much everything they’re doing and everything that they’ve put forward is onerous to me.’ It wasn’t anger so much as disbelief in her voice. ‘And they’re actually doing it!’ She said becoming more and more animated. ‘And to me it feels like it’s done with contempt!’ Far from actively changing her act from the whimsical to the political, politics is a large part of Josie’s life now, and as she has said in countless interviews, she talks about what is going on in her life at the moment. ‘I have to try and manage that,’ she said. ‘I don’t want to be an angry person. I think there’s a lot more power in being joyful and creative.’

Instead of aiming to change the minds of those from the opposite end of the spectrum, Josie wants to empower those that feel the same way she does, but at the same time she is weary of the line between activist and comedian. ‘Edinburgh lends you to thinking really seriously about what you do,’ Josie laughed wearily hinting at the vast amounts of press she had done that forced her to examine her life and work to such a degree that Freud would think it was a bit much. ‘I’d love to be able to hear that some day what I did might mean that people were less cynical about politics. That would be nice.’
She smiled. ‘Or that people were a little bit inspired to see more done.’ She rubbed her nose. ‘To be honest, I mean obviously I would love it if every person who came to my show at the end was like ‘I’m incorrect, I’ve seen the light’ but, I don’t know, I don’t know what I can and can’t do.’ She took a sip of coffee and shrugged her shoulders. ‘To be honest I would be happy if you just came and enjoyed it and that was it. That’s all I’d really like.’