06 May 2013

Josie Long

Josie Long: Romance & Adventure
San Francisco Bath House
171 Cuba Street, Wellington
5 May 2013

Josie Long is far, far from home, but that doesn't stop this self-professed 'whitest girl from Orpington' (and one whose predominant stylistic motif is most accurately referred to as 'Norwegian Boy') rapping in the style of (but, parenthetically and obviously, nothing at all like) Jay-Z, or Jasper Zed as he is known in the UK. It was a real treat to see her stand-up act so close to home, when for all the years I lived in London and meant to go see her perform, I wilfully neglected to do so.

This was my loss, because of course Long is utterly charming, mixing goofy whimsy and heartfelt political satire with a dedicated penchant for self-deprecation and cod philosophy (which is philosophy devised over a meal of fish and chips). Long mines the insecurities arising from being a person with unassailable left-wing convictions who is sorely tempted by the glimmering trappings of fame but is also repulsed by the contradictions they present. I particularly loved her description of working comedy gigs on Euro ski-fields (playing to audiences of, in Long's words, 'ski-c***s'), noting that if there's one audience that can be guaranteed to be a hard sell for comedy underpinned with a fervent commitment to social justice, it's the apres-ski audience. And the unseemly competitiveness she saw arising in herself when climbing Mt Kenya for a telly charity gig, which led to the revelation that it's all well and good mocking your fellow climbing celebs as you pass them on your inexorable ascent to be the first one to the summit of Africa's hardest mountain climb, but then you actually have to pass them again on the way back down. The simple solution to this is of course to make sure your rivals never make it to the top - the Sherpas clearly have the right idea.

There was also time for a truly lamentable (and therefore hilarious) stab at the New Zealand accent, and an attempt at cultural blasphemy when Long admitted to having rude lady-thoughts about our five dollar bill. And not about the little blue-eyed penguin.

Seeing Long perform reminded me of an interview with comic actor Jessica Stevenson (now Jessica Hynes), in which she expressed a wish to just be as silly as possible, but also that it was hard because there weren't many avenues for a woman actor portraying silly characters on the screen. Josie Long is the perfect heir to Hynes' legacy.  (Not that Hynes isn't still going strong - she is marvellous as the nonsense-spouting PR flack Siobhan Sharpe in 'Twenty Twelve'). It took a great sitcom role to catapult comedians like Bill Bailey into the next level of fame (c.f. Black Books). Someone should write Long a role and get her the big audiences that she deserves. Is Miranda Hart listening? Could she put in a good word at the BBC? For the time being, Long has indeed had a few acting roles. There's this sweet little piece from a recurring guidance counsellor role in 'Skins' to hint at her potential:


And of course there's plenty of great standup on offer on Youtube too. But to be honest she'd probably even make a video of her sitting on a bench enjoyable. Oh, right.

See also:
Blog: Stephen Merchant, Wellington, 17 December 2012
Blog: Bill Bailey, Wellington, 29 September 2012
Blog: David O'Doherty, Wellington, 4 May 2012
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