Disarmingly eloquent and verbally dexterous Josie Long takes to the stage with her stand-up show about optimism and hopefulness.
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This programme contains some strong language
Hi, guys! Thank you so much.
Oh, guys, thank you.
Thank you so much!
Hi! Thank you.
My name's Josie Long. I am so thrilled to be here
and so thrilled to be doing my show for you. I hope you guys are well.
I should say as well, to introduce myself, if you don't know me,
my name is Josie, I have bad posture, but a good heart,
I'm 34 years old and that is the prime of life.
Thank you. It's the sweet spot, and I'm trying to inhabit it
and trying to live it, but I'm also a woman - I'm so sorry - and...
Thank you for laughing at that!
Sometimes people don't, and I think,
"Fuck, is post-Brexit Britain that bad?"
But I am a woman - ooh - and I've started to feel
societal, sexist pressures impinging on my day-to-day.
The way that I'm trying to ride out any stress that that gives me is,
I've created a kind of karaoke persona.
And the karaoke persona is, like,
"I'm like a fun mum with no kids! Woo!
"Get me a glass of Pinot Grigio! Woo!
"Get me on the Grig! Get me on the Grig!
"Get me on the Grig!
"Get me a glass of that sweet Pinot Grigio."
I thought it was just a stereotype about women in their mid-30s
loving Pinot Grigio, and then one day I woke up and I was, like,
"I know what drink it is I must order.
"Get me a sweet glass of the sweet, sweet Grig.
"Get me on the Grig.
"It's like mineral water, but it makes all your fears go all fuzzy."
That's my new catchphrase as well - "Get me on the Grig!"
You guys all say, "Who's on the Grig?"
and I'm, like, "She's on the Grig!"
"Grig! Grig! Grig!" I'm like, "Grig again!"
You go, "Grig!"
And then we all... You'll pick it up.
I'm 34 years old. I've realised that I'm not a stadium comedian.
Once I did this show and someone there was, like, "Yet."
And I was, like...
"..That ship has sailed."
I'm not a stadium comedian and I'm fine with that,
but the only time I wish I was was with my new catchphrase,
cos if I was, you would all know in advance, you'd be, like,
"Oh, is she ready for the Grig?"
While I was backstage in the stadium, you'd all be chanting,
like, "Grig! Grig! Grig!"
And I'd turn to my stylist and my nutritionist and I'd be, like,
"There's so many Grig-heads in tonight!"
And I'd come out and you'd be, like, "Is she on the Grig?"
And I'd be wearing a jacket and I'd be, like, "Am I?"
Then I'd pull out a sweet glass of the Grig.
All the 34-year-old women in the crowd would just start weeping,
instantaneous gratitude, like, "I connect!"
And I'd be like, "Woo! Get me on the Grig!"
At the end of the show, I'd be doing my final dance number,
cos if you're in a stadium, you've got to really make it big,
and the stadium number, I'd be, like,
"I've had too much of the Grig,"
and you'd all be, like, "Where's Grigie?"
I should say this one - Grigie is my mascot,
like an animated bottle of Pinot Grigio...
and I sell it because I'm a stadium comedian
and I know about making money.
Then you're, like, holding up Grigie, like, "Where's Grigie?"
I'm, like, "He's not here!"
And then at the end of the show, he comes on and pushes me
into the orchestra pit and everyone's crying and...
So I'm not a stadium comedian...
but I am a 34-year-old woman.
I do love a glass of the Grig and I can't believe it.
Now I am safely ensconced in my middle-30s, three things change.
Number one, "Get me on the Grig."
Grig... You'll pick it up.
Number two, the second thing that changed for me when I became
safely ensconced in my middle-30s, I really appreciate architecture.
Never expected it.
I'll be, like, "The thing is, I know it was the right thing to do,
"to break up with him,
"and I feel so sad about it, I'm just heartbroken.
"I just think, 'Where am I going to go?'
"I'm supposed to, have my...
"What is this place, Art Deco?
"Yeah, so I don't know what to do..."
The third thing that changed for me,
this happened on the morning of my 34th birthday.
I woke up, the first thought that entered my head was,
"Adele is a genius!"
Adele is a genius.
And I know the sort of people that might come and see my comedy,
you think you're too young and too cool for Adele.
You think you're too young and that Adele is too mainstream.
Let me tell you something!
Nobody on this Earth is too cool for Adele,
none of you are too cool for Adele.
Adele is a genius and if any of you guys would like to query
whether or not Adele is talented
at the thing she has devoted her life to doing,
you better damn well, fucking well be Serena fucking Williams.
That is all I'm saying.
Adele is a genius...
and she's so earthy.
She's so young! What's she going to do next?
I have no idea, but I've got faith in her,
I've got faith in her for her journey.
That's a little introduction into me and who I am.
I'm so excited to be doing this, I'm a little bit nervy.
I'm sure it will be fine, but the show is kind of about politics,
but the show is called Something Better,
and the reason I called it that is for comedy festivals
where you see loads of shows, so people will be like,
"Oh, hey, what are you going to see today?"
"Oh, erm, I'm going to see a middle-aged man bitching and moaning
"about how much he doesn't like safe spaces
"and about Generation Snowflake.
"What are YOU going to see?"
You guys sussed it out. You're a smart bunch.
What I wanted this show to be about is, I wanted it to
be about politics and optimism and hope and about all the people around
the world and from the past
that I feel really inspired by and excited by,
and I started writing it in May 2015 and I was full of excitement...
And then I put it aside and I started writing it in June 2016...
I'm going to let you into a secret - I fucked that up.
I meant to say May 2016, but I feel like the last few years have
been so awful, everyone's, like, "Yeah, it's terrible, innit?
But I... I wanted to write a show that was about joy
and enthusiasm about politics, something that was
something better in itself, like, aspirational, and then...
SPANISH ACCENT: ..Brexit... happened.
Oh, God, guys, do you know about Brexit?
If you don't, don't look it up.
I don't know if you've been paying attention to the world,
but it's really been set on fire recently, so I...
Yeah, Brexit happened. I started saying this...
SPANISH ACCENT: ..Brexit...
..cos I feel like it makes it sound more warm and Spanish.
Brexit happened and the show sort of became about that
and about grief and I feel really guilty,
because I already needed the other show first, like,
I needed the joyful show because for the past six years, seven years now,
since I've really cared about politics, since the Government
changed, I feel like I've had so much fight and enmity going on
in my life, like, nobody warned me beforehand
what it's like to live under a Government
that you ideologically oppose, no-one said to me,
like, what it's like is like being stabbed with a little pin
every single day of your life
and no-one appreciates why you're angry the whole time.
Everyone's, like, "Why are you in a mood? You're fine."
And I'm, like, "Conservatives are pinching me!"
"No! They sent a cat through the window to pinch me!"
Thank you, that's my cheeky crucible joke!
Start at the top with a cheeky crucible joke
and you can find out who likes it, and then you can take
their names down and report those people to the relevant authorities.
It's a double crucible joke. My dream is...
What I really like is doing jokes that are so niche that the dream is
they would only disproportionately entertain one person at a time.
That's my dream. My dream show would be you all laugh once...
..but it's the best laugh of your lives and you do it alone.
It's just, like, "You're done! You're done! You'll all get done!
"Don't you worry about it, you'll all get done!"
Yeah, so I feel like I've had all of that in my life,
I've had so much enmity and struggle for seven years
and I want to put it down and be something better, but then...
SPANISH ACCENT: ..Brexit happened... Brexit.
Oh, I should tell you, politically, I am on the left.
Well done, me.
The best team. I'm on the left.
If you can't tell by literally everything about me,
I am on the left and if you're not...
you should give it a go.
There's never been a better time to give it a go. Give it a try.
See if it's for you. Join the team, it's a great team.
You're thinking, "Oh, what are the perks of the left?
"I don't know whether I want to join the left."
There's loads of perks. Loads of perks.
Number one, everyone treats you as if you are naive as a little child,
and, number two, no money!
Get me on the Grig!
It's not part of it, but it helps, it really helps.
I didn't even mention the best perk.
The best perk - I leave my washing in the washing machine
for three days before I hang it out to dry. Yeah.
And then when people are, like, "What's that smell?"
I'm, like, "Hemp?"
They're, like, "It figures."
And I'm, like, "Thank you! The left, best team!"
I'm on the left, you know, and the thing is, I love my team.
It's a problematic team, it's a complicated team, but I love my team
and I'm proud to be a part of it,
but I wish that when I had signed up to be on the left, they could
have made me a little bit more aware of the fine print of the team,
like, "Oh, it's great that you've signed up to care about
"other human beings a bit more and you're, like,
"trying to get involved with politics, that's brilliant.
"Erm, just while you're signing this, I do need you to know that
"you are signing up to a lifetime of misery, struggle and defeat. OK?"
"No! I just signed up for glamorous marches and free dhal at festivals!
"Sorry, can I change teams?" "No."
Once you start caring, you won't stop caring.
You'll think you have,
but you'll just be weeping alone in your mansion.
"Can I do that?" "No!"
I don't want to sound cocky with you guys
cos I know I've just met all you guys, and you seem lovely,
but I really thought that, with me on the team...
..we would have won by now.
I didn't realise we'd keep losing.
I don't understand why we keep losing.
I am retweeting so much stuff.
Every day. I thought we'd be winning
and I thought I could go back to the sort of shows I used to write
before I got interested in politics cos they were
so much more fun. They were, like...
"I love it when bus drivers talk to each other."
Just my whimsical way of looking at the world.
"I wonder what cats are thinking.
"Maybe they're thinking that, the UN recently said that,
because of soil erosion, we've probably only got 60 harvests left."
Or they're thinking, "I don't care who feeds me."
I don't know.
I want to go back to that sort of show, like,
I don't want you thinking at the outset that I'm an angry ranter,
I'm not an angry person, I'm not, and I don't want to
spend my life being defined by opposition to some jerks, I don't.
I want to be something better, I want to be useful to society and,
weirdly, the day after Brexit,
I didn't feel as devastated as all of my friends seemed to,
and I should say at this point, I didn't want Brexit.
I think it's catastrophic.
But the day after Brexit, I didn't feel as bad as all my friends.
I had all my friends texting me that day
and I felt able to be useful, and my friends were texting me,
like, "Oh, God, what are we going to do? This is awful.
"I feel so devastated, I feel so frightened,"
and I didn't, and I am an optimist. That's why people were texting me.
I'm an optimist, I'm proud of being an optimist, I feel blessed
to be an optimist, but that's what I WOULD say.
"Stupid optimists! Live in the real world! What's wrong with you?"
They were texting me all day and I found, the day after,
I didn't feel despair,
I felt this incredible, evangelical zeal all around me,
running through my blood, the like of which I have not felt before or
since and I felt desperate, I felt so desperate to do something.
I was texting everyone, like,
"Listen to me - we are all still here and we keep going
"and we are all going to keep trying and despair is a luxury."
I was so pleased with myself for that tweet.
I was, like, "I've got 100 characters left,
"don't even need 'em - despair is a luxury."
But I felt it cos for the first time in my life,
when everything seemed to be bending and falling apart,
I felt so keenly and acutely aware of all the privilege that
I have in our society, the fact that I am young...
34, young, please!
27, sort of, please!
And I'm fit!
Well, I have better cardio than you would expect
for somebody of my build.
Don't look at this, this is insulin resistance. Look at the calves.
It's a more representational picture.
I feel immediately self-conscious! I'm, like, "Look at me!"
and now I'm, like, "Don't look at me, please!"
Just look at this. Anyone who looks at anything other than this...
I'm young and I'm fit and, also, I felt for the first time,
skin-crawlingly, sickeningly, fully aware of what it means
to have white privilege in our society,
the fact that I could walk around passing as white British
when friends of mine didn't have that luxury, when they were
having to put up with more shit than they were already putting up with,
and I felt sick and desperate to do anything to be useful in
any possible way, so I spent all day texting, tweeting, everything,
contacting everyone I know, saying, "Listen, don't despair.
"Despair is a luxury and we keep going and,
"no matter what happens, we will keep trying and it's not over yet,
"and I'm not being naive - I know it's hard, but we'll keep going."
And that night I went to bed and I thought,
"I have a purpose in all this and it's going to be all right."
And I went to sleep and woke up the next morning
and it hit me what had happened.
And then I freaked out! I freaked out!
And what I've learned is that I am very good in a crisis...
..but I am not excellent in the two weeks following a crisis.
I also, like, I don't want you to think I'm sneering about Brexit.
I know there's this whole narrative now about, like,
"Oh, liberal elite sneering at normal people, liberal elite,"
and I do think, like, am I really the liberal elite?
Because I live in a rented basement
and I always seem to have yoghurt on me.
I had wished for better of the elite.
But I don't want you to think I'm sneering, I do
get that there are lots of different reasons why people vote for Brexit.
I get that there are parts of this country that have been
systematically alienated, degraded and deprived for 35 years,
and then snake oil salesmen show up and they go,
"Hey, I've got the answer to all your problems
"and if you don't believe that, why not shake things up a bit?
"And if you don't believe that,
"why not kick those wankers back in London right in the teeth?"
I get why people would vote for that, but what I don't get is...
why do people not want me to go on a study abroad scheme?
Why do they want to hurt me?
I'm only relatively privileged.
And I earned that privilege through luck.
It's not fair.
Why do people want to vote to hurt me and make it harder for me
to travel easily to the beautiful city of Copenhagen?
Seriously, guys, Denmark is so great.
All the men are so tall and emotionally unavailable.
And there are so many fit dads with prams.
And that's not creepy cos there's, like, a 50% divorce rate
so it's always worth a punt.
That's the creepiest part of the show, but I refuse to retract it.
It's there, it's true. Also it's got a sculpture museum, I've heard.
All I've ever wanted to do was study in the beautiful city of Aarhus
in Denmark and, if I'm honest, I've never researched whether or
not there's a university there, but it's not worth me trying now!
I'm so angry about it.
That's the thing as well - I can't seem to get over my enmity
and I keep thinking, there's this quote from
To Kill A Mockingbird that I want to remember and rely on, right?
You'll know the plot - in it, Atticus Finch is defending a man
from trumped-up, completely false charges,
but he's defending him from everyone he knows,
and what he says is, he turns to his daughter and he says...
"..Let's kill that mockingbird."
Not one of you has read that book. Not one of you.
Not one of you has read that book.
Not one of you, like, all of you are just, like,
"Oh, that sounds plausible."
That's not even what I was setting up, like,
I was trying to set up something about unity and division
and then I'm, like, "Let's kill a bird,"
and you're, like, "Oh, that sounds good."
That's fucking how Brexit happened, you dickheads! It's not right!
Obviously that's not a quote in the book!
The book is about justice and about kindness!
Not one of you was, like, "Excuse me, that's not right."
You were all just, like, "Oh."
I'm so annoyed with you guys!
That book was on the GCSE syllabus...
or it was until Michael Gove decided that it wasn't written-by-a-man enough.
Took it off.
Took it off, but, luckily, once he finished being
Education Secretary, he couldn't fuck up the country any more.
No, I'm sorry, that's not the real quote.
If you guessed, it's not the real quote, so I'll do it properly.
Sorry, I don't want to fuck about. This is the real quote.
It's kind of beautiful. It's genuinely important,
cos everything's been so divided
and it's about trying to come together again.
What he does is, he turns to his daughter and he says...
"You must remember, when we're done fighting these people,
"that they're still our friends and, also, to kill a mockingbird."
The last bit's not part of it,
but I feel like if you don't put it on, it'll never end.
That's the bit that I can't get to, I can't get to this idea of,
how do we become friends? There are things I don't want to forgive.
There are people who voted knowingly alongside racists
and were pleased about it and I don't know how to get over that.
I want to, but I can't, and I feel like, ever since Brexit,
I have not been showering myself in glory as a human being.
This is what I feel like, a near year...
well, not a year, this is how I feel, like, six months
of hand-wringing, this is what I feel like it's taught me, right?
Because I do feel like I am this,
and this might not be useful in the modern world
and I feel sad about that, I feel desperate,
cos, more than ever, I want to make a change to society that is
positive, I want to be more humane, I want to fight back.
The worse things seem to be getting, the more frightening things
seem to be, I believe in what I believe in so much more.
I feel like I will be a socialist at the end of this no matter what
because I love it and I care about it,
and I feel desperate to be useful to society and I want something better.
The reason I called the show Something Better is not because
I think I'm something better, it's because I want better for all of us.
I feel like what is happening at the moment is such a waste,
it is despicable, and I want better for us and that's the reason
why, at 34, I became single, because I want love in my life
and I want a family and I do live in a trailer park with my mum
and I'm still here to say, "Fuck the free world."
That last bit is from 8 Mile by Eminem.
You've got to break up the tension, otherwise it's too earnest,
but the thing is, other people are better than me already, like,
I wanted to find people in the past
and around the world to look up to, but the truth is that in London,
there are people who have been getting on with stuff
since before I decided to get involved and will continue to do so
and they're people who are young enough and bold enough and
brave enough to see all of this disaster, all of this fear,
as an opportunity and not as the end of the world and I thought
I would just explain one activist event that I feel blew my mind
and changed my perspective, and I thought I'd tell you about a
book that I'm reading as well, and that's kind of the end of the show.
So this is what happened.
Now, on the 6th of September, I was in Denmark.
Don't hate me because you ain't me.
Please, it's so great.
Middle-aged women have specially adapted bicycles there
so that they can put two dogs in the front of it.
If I moved there,
I could go on maternity leave for, like, six years!
I was in Denmark, but while I was in Denmark, there was
an action that took place that
was orchestrated by the UK branch of Black Lives Matter
and that's an organisation that was set up last year
and it was righteous and necessary and important,
but what they did was,
the people who ran the organisation worked in partnership with
some green activists, and the green activists were largely white people
and what happened was,
the activists who were allied to the Black Lives Matter movement
stormed the runway at London City Airport and they stopped a plane
from taking off and the reason they did it was to highlight
the fact that climate change is an issue
that disproportionately affects people of colour
and that air pollution in London is an issue
that disproportionately affects people of colour,
and the reason the activists who were affiliated in the movement,
but not running the movement, did that bit of the action was
so that the people who ran the movement could then use
the press in the manner that fitted their campaign best, right?
And the reason that they did it like that is because the activists
who were people of colour get treated completely differently
by police than the white activists,
and I realised that I spent all last summer hand-wringing, like,
"Why don't people take me seriously cos I'm on the left?
"I don't smell of hemp. I don't even know what hemp smells like.
"I smell of damp."
"Damp is different to hemp!
"And I smell of these branded deodorants that my sister
"brought home from a hairdressing competition. It's complicated."
But I realised that is like this lovely privilege I have
as a white British person, that I get called stupid and ridiculed
in this quite soft way, but when people of colour protest, they
get called thugs and they get beaten up
and harassed by the police, right?
And so these people, by working together, the people who had
that privilege, could be useful to the people who ran the campaign,
and the people who were running the campaign took the press,
and they used it, and they got their message out there,
and the action was a success cos people watched together, right?
And I was, like,
"Wow, I didn't realise how little I am being useful with
"the privilege that I have,"
and if you're lucky enough to be in the position that I'm in,
you have a surplus and it is important, now more than ever,
to try to be useful to people...
And this is the bit where I get really, like...
You know what I'm trying to say. Now... Or you don't.
I'm so awkward, it's appalling!
Secondly, what it taught me is that the Daily Mail
is the stupidest thing in the world and doesn't understand anything...
because what happened was, the Daily Mail did a big report about
the action and focused entirely on those activists who had blocked
the plane and did a big photo spread about them
and underneath each of the activists,
they did a little epithet to describe them and, I swear to God,
it was the most unintentionally funny thing I have ever seen
in my life, and I'm going to prove it to you by reading them to you.
So overexcited at the end of this. OK.
This is the team of them, and this is their nicknames...
"Self-proclaimed expert on lesbians."
It's a great start! It's a great start!
"Climber who lives in a houseboat."
What I like with all of these is, some of you are thinking,
"Which one of them is her?"
And none of them is me.
"Buddhist Ben, the arms trade critic."
If that is not the most lefty children's book
you've ever heard of...
"The ultimate green activist.
"Cousin of Ralph Fiennes."
That's just Britain, innit?
"The luvvie Corbynista."
That's not me - but are they single?
"Organic farmer and scourge of capitalism."
You can be both, Alex James of Blur!
But I think of that action all the time
because I think of people working together for a common goal
and people realising that the future is there for the taking, and this
is a thing that I want to recommend to you just at the end of this.
It's a book by Rebecca Solnit and it's called Hope In The Dark,
and, I swear to God, it has got me through this past year.
It's wonderful. And I'm recommending it to you even though
I haven't finished reading it yet,
which is a gamble cos I feel like the last page of it could be...
"..and the true hope in the dark is white supremacy."
And I'm, like, "No! No!
"Not you as well, Solnit, not you as well!"
But she talks about hope
and she talks about the fact that hope is active, not passive.
It's not just being blithe and saying, "Everything will be fine, don't worry about it,"
and it's not being pessimistic either, it's saying, "Yeah, things are shit, but we still have
"to get on with it," and I thought I'd read you this bit just
to end my show and I really hope you've enjoyed it and I'm sorry I'm
so awkward when I'm trying to talk about privilege, but it's difficult.
I would say it's hardest for me out of everyone in society.
"Hope locates itself in the premises that we don't know
"what will happen, and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty
"is room to act.
"Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable,
"an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists.
"It is the belief that what we do matters, even though
"how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact,
"are not things we can know beforehand.
"And let's get that bird. Stupid bird.
"I've got a knife. Let's kill it, the stupid bird! He's dead!"
Guys, you've been such a lovely crowd. I've been a nervous wreck
and I've really appreciated you being here.
My name's Josie Long, thank you so much for having me.
I hope you have a great night, and goodbye.
Just back from an international sell-out tour, the disarmingly eloquent and verbally dexterous Josie Long takes to the stage with her stand-up show about optimism and hopefulness.