If Josie Long wanted to write an optimistic show after the breakup of her relationship, then she absolutely needed to post-Brexit. Avowedly, self-harmingly of the Left, conceding that she didn’t read the small print when she signed up to being perpetually beaten at the ballot box, Something Better is a typically playful but defiant howl of pain.
The political and personal have grown inseparable in her stand-up, with her incomprehension at the rise of the alt-right underscored by her newly-found millennial angst and a ticking biological clock as she approaches 35. Few comics exploit the differences between their lofty ideals and feet of clay with such effectiveness. Yet Long revels in them, open about her messy contradictions in a spirit of inclusivity. There’s a fun preamble to the show in which she karaoke-deconstructs Rupert Holmes’ ludicrous but catchy infidelity number Escape (The Pińa Colada Song), setting up her usual mood of girlishly infectious enthusiasm and delight in the ridiculous, even as it introduces an undertone of betrayal that she pursues in regard to the UK leaving the EU.
A grammar school girl who’s anti-grammar schools, she’s certainly checked her privilege. But she muddies class distinctions, a so-called member of the metropolitan liberal elite with slobbish tendencies. When she references The Crucible and To Kill A Mockingbird, those egalitarian texts that supposedly everyone should have read in school but perhaps haven’t, she’s mischievously goofy, indulging in a hilarious, patience-testing routine about Harper Lee’s masterpiece, wilfully misreading it from a perspective closer to Dastardly and Muttley trying to catch a pigeon.
Yet she also notes the government excising Mockingbird from the curriculum, and the witch-hunt paranoia of the books echoes her desire to unmask and fight those Brexiteers she belatedly comprehends moving among us. Resisting her inclination to dismiss rather than debate, she arrives at a message of hope almost in spite of herself.Being churlish, you might grumble that the show is slightly too long, but time generally bounds along in Long’s company, even when she’s decrying the state of the nation, and the assured set of her fast-rising support act Tez Ilyas only adds value for money.
Tellingly, there’s a lovely little coda, almost mentioned in passing, in which she reveals that in her personal life at least, she’s now back on the winning team.