Interview: Josie Long: Page 2 of 2

BD: What was going to Oxford like?

JL: I loved studying and loved Oxford because I wanted to have the best things and meet exciting people but at the same time I struggled because I needed support. It took me two years to realise that all these kids from public school weren't brighter than me they were just more confident. There's an idea that if you go to state school you must be thick and if you go to private school you must be clever.

Even eating was weird. Everything was tricky because I didn't have any money. I would be struggling and chatting to a friend who said she was broke then she got a call and said 'mum's just bought me a white jeep.' i thought 'you don't know what you are talking about.'

I absolutely loved Oxford, but I think that it's definitely unequal, there were so few of us that even went to state school, but I loved it and want others to experience it but I had to work six times as hard to get there and stay there. I was a bit fucked for a while when I was there really, but I also worked so hard in my third year. And now I know all about Daniel Defoe!

BD: What was your grammar school, Newstead Wood School for Girls, like?

JL: My school was the best grammar school in the whole borough but it turned girls away from applying to Oxbridge in case they didn't get in and it affected their reputation.

BD: You talk in your show about being partial to posh pastimes…

JL: One of the reasons I loved Oxford was it was brilliant to live in a stately home by the river and have people wait on you and take you into the study and give you port. I want everyone to have that sense of privilege. If you go to Norway/Denmark people are better looked after on the whole. The trains are fucking incredible because of better public investment. It's not mad to want more privilege for everyone rather than this government keeping privilege for themselves rather than spreading it around.

BD: You are not keen on the Coalition are you?!

JL: The Conservative Party are cunts but that is not followed by me saying the Labour Party is awesome - they started fees it and I hate it.

BD: The last Election was what galvanised you politically?

JL: I would have said I was a socialist and feminist but I was becoming increasingly aware of my own complacency.  A lot of people my age didn't hold the Labour government to account because we grew up thinking they were vaguely on our team.

I had the luxury of not feeling aggrieved all the time. 2004 - 2008 was so exciting, everyone making things, crafting etc. People didn't feel they had massive battles to fight. Now every day I get up and i feel sad that the NHS is being privatised. It's all rich white men – apart from the horrible rich white women – telling me what to do. ("50% of whom have arts degrees," adds Neil Griffiths)

BD: So tell me a bit more about Arts Emergency?

JL: 24 people are currently being mentored. We are not paying their fees because that is unsustainable but we are talking about doing a Fees Lottery, selling 10,000 tickets at £2 each every week or month. If you win you can say my money is a donation or pay your own debt off or the debt of friend or family member. Once it is set up get regular donors who will buy every month. There is no catch!

BD: You are not doing Edinburgh this summer? josie long

JL: I don't have a show. I don't have anything to say.

BD: You could have fooled me…

JL: I'm not doing a show but we may do a fundraiser. Last year I did two tours and wrote a new show and made two short films which were nominated for Scottish BAFTAs. What I love about stand-up is it is so independent and so direct. I feel bad I haven't got a TV show in development, but TV has been frustrating. Film can be a lot more on my own terms and script editor Jesse Armstrong. 

I wish I was a band then people would have your albums and understand you a bit better. I wish people could see all my shows back to back.

BD: What are your ambitions?

JL: I've got loads of ambitions I'm just sorting it out. I'd like to be in cool indie films but not be a film star. Every time I get close to being famous I freak out and don't want to do it any more. I want to feel like I'm getting better but don't want to do anything I'm not proud of. I'm doing on Have I got News For You with Jacob Rees-Mogg later this week*

I'm writing a book for Harper Collins. I'm also in a weird position because I'm a lot more experienced than a lot of people my age, but it's hard to temper my own sense of failure and disappointment when I look at Lena Dunham and Girls which I love so much. I watch it and go 'I should have done that, what's wrong with me? why am I not?' But I'm proud of what I've done.

I'd like to work more in America and do bit parts in cool stuff, but I'm never gonna give up stand-up. Lena Dunham is better than me, she's done amazing things I honestly don't think I could do a British version of Girls. I think they'll find someone younger than me! 

BD: Your "epiphany" also coincided with that car crash you were involved in…

JL: That was really pivotal actually, it made me realise life is really short and it did change things. I left a relationship, which was really sad but the right thing to do, I had to make things happen in real life. We were driving through Wales trying to overtake a lorry carrying tree-length logs and crashed and the lorry span round and drove over us and pushed us through a greenhouse. The logs came off it and came through the windscreen of our tiny little car. Somehow we were unharmed. Afterwards I ordered a massive Chinese meal and thought 'I'm alive I'm alive'. 

The funny thing is I'd had premonitions about it. Before it happened I kept thinking about car accidents and  wondering what airbags are like. When it happened we were listening to Mumford and Sons singing "You really fucked it up this time" and Cee Lo Green "I see you driving round town…" While we were spinning through the air I was thinking of Mumford & Sons. I thought of that film Due Date where the guy survives a crash because he is asleep so I was just saying 'relax, relax'. When the car stopped I kept thinking why am I not dead yet? I had to smash the car window to climb out. I was convinced the car would explode but one of us ran back to get the Cee Lo Green CD.

BD: You are 31. How's your biological body clock?

JL: Facebook is a source of constant inadequacy and shaming. Everyone is having babies and getting married, 31. Stand-up does keep you in a regressed state for ages, but I am starting to think yes, I'd love to be married and have kids…but I've been to Adelaide!

BD: You seem pretty happy considering...

JL: I'm definitely not in a fucked up place and I was in the past in a bit. If you come from a bad family situation you worry about repeating it.

I can't believe I made it to Oxford and got the A levels I did because I was getting stoned every day because I just didn't want to go home and I regret that because intellectually that damaged me. It's sad but it gives others a chance to catch up!

BD: Are you leading a healthier lifestyle now?

JL: In my early 20s I barely drank then I started because my then-boyfriend drank. Now I drink once a month, eat sugar once a month and have one coffee a day. I really like sobriety and making things. I like extreme sports - yoga, outdoor swimming, windsurfing climbing. And reading.

 *After Have i Got News for You? was broadcast I emailed Josie to ask her what it felt like facing Jacob Rees-Mogg - the enemy! – on television. This is her reply.

It was a really weird experience. I felt too earnest compared to him clowning around and as a result everything just stuck in my throat - it really shocks me that people with his opinions don't find them so self-evidently incorrect as to be laughable! He seemed like a friendly person but it was just a hard thing because I care so much about the inexcusable things he's complicit in (NHS reforms/welfare cuts/workfare/tuition fees/ etc etc etc) that I didn't feel like I wanted to make jokes or join in. I also felt intimidated because everyone there was so much more established/older than me etc and I was in awe of being there - so basically I feel like I made a very poor show of myself - not earnest or funny enough to be either! I wanted to say something righteous like "it's sad when politicians are clowns and comedians have to be serious" but I didn't.

 

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