Interview: Josie Long

Here is an interview I did with the brilliant Josie Long for the London Evening Standard in the run-up to the opening of her latest show Something Better which is currently at the Soho Theatre. The show closes this weekend but hopefully it will go on tour. It finds Long in optimistic mood and fighting back after a bleak 2016 so far. Read a review here. Please note that the picture here is now slightly out of date – Long has had most of her hair hacked off since it was taken.

 

Josie Long was very pleased with herself when she came up with the title for her new show. “I decided to call it Something Better. That way people could say, ‘What are you going to see?’ I’m going to see Something Better’.”

A smile flashes across her face, even though she is less happy than usual. The award-winning comic is invariably upbeat, brimming over with enthusiasm, but this year life has dealt her several blows. A word that keeps cropping up when I listen back to our chat is “heartbroken”. Heartbroken about the strife in the Labour Party, heartbroken about the EU referendum result and heartbroken about splitting up with her boyfriend.

It is hard to reconcile this sadness with her endearing stage performances, where her sheer sense of fun is infectious. It is impossible to leave a Josie Long gig without feeling that, like pictures of cats on the Tube, she has made the world a better place.

Something Better is her fightback. She promises that it will be full of optimism and hopefulness. She was 34 this year and feels it is a pivotal age. “I’m in my prime,” she tells me. As she jokes in the show, she woke up on the morning of her birthday “liking pinot grigio, architecture and thinking Adele is a genius”. She also plans to discuss Brexit onstage. It will be interesting to see how optimistic this Remain voter can be about that: “The last three months have been so difficult, like the Titanic crashing into an iceberg.”

Long is, however, not someone who mopes around for too, ahem, long. Instead she does something about it, usually plunging into a creative frenzy. Currently there is her regular literary podcast with Robin Ince, entitled Book Shambles, and a journalistic show, Investigations, with writer Martin Williams, in which they expose injustice and corruption. She is also planning to perform specifically to Right-wing audiences. As a socialist and Corbyn supporter she is wary of only preaching to the converted.

She is particularly proud of co-writing and starring in a (currently untitled) film directed by Douglas King in Glasgow. The project was no-budget rather than low-budget. “We realised that we couldn’t get actors to work unpaid for a month but thought we could get them for two weeks, so we did a two-week shoot in May and have another one in October. The idea is that it starts off as a relationship story about slackers and then there is a military coup in Scotland and it becomes a thriller. It was supposed to be a satire, not a documentary.”

When I interviewed Long in 2013 I dubbed her London’s Lena Dunham. Maybe she is now more like Glasgow’s Greta Gerwig — she has much in common with the super-cool actress. The film’s production company is even called Caledonian Mumblecore, a nod to the American lo-fi mumblecore movie movement of which Gerwig is a leading light. “The idea is to make a film a year for the next five years.” 

She plays a librarian. “My ex saw what we’ve filmed and said my acting has got much better, which is both a compliment and an insult.”

Interview continues here.

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