For a few years, hand-knitted Josie Long has been tickling our fancies with her brand of fluttery whimsy. Today’s audience of hipsters and their mums perch upon their seat edges in delighted anticipation as Josie coasts through an unusual live pre-set: an ad-libbed commentary on the progress of the pre-set itself and a “sodcast” of naff hip-hop music played through a phone. It is disorientating good fun to enter a show on time but for the performance to have already begun.
For this year’s show, Josie weaves sincere political discourse into the fancy. The Future is Another Place is about her ongoing attempt to engage with politics, especially left-wing activism, and what this means to her as a comedian. She worries that her new-found political rage has compromised her style as a stand-up, but there’s nothing trite about her anger and it adds an interesting edge to an otherwise optimistic persona. It feels like watching a bright-eyed Richard Scarry character chance across a rusting machine from a forgotten war.
Her time spent investigating Tory policy, she tells us, was a waste of time. “I used to think that the Tories were cunts,” she says, and her research only confirmed her suspicions. “Why are you cutting funding to the libraries? Isn’t that just about children reading?!”
She reports on her experiences at UK Uncut protests; on her anger at the coalition government’s ongoing attempts to destroy all that is decent and reasonable (“Don’t take away children’s wheelchairs! That’s like what a Bond villain would do!”); and on her inspiring correspondence with one of the Black Panthers. She fondly quotes a Black Panther press conference: “We say to pigs: Daddy, we will not be held to ransom. The people’s law is lovelier than lovely”.
Perhaps the most memorable segment, however, is not political at all, but a startling account of her near-death motorway accident earlier in the year. The accident involved logs falling from the back of a moving lorry and an off-road skid through an old woman’s greenhouse. That she’s able to wring humour and useful narrative out of such a harrowing personal event is testament to her skills as a performer. When she later notices that her shoes have come off and the police officers aren’t talking to her, she worries that it’s a Sixth Sense-style ghost bluff: “This is classic dead-and-don’t-realise-it”, she says.
Charming, life-affirming and frequently devastating, Josie’s new show is essential Fringe viewing.