Stand-up looks on the bright side

Josie Long
Josie Long

Three-time Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee and cult optimist Josie Long is back on the road with her most personal show to date about love and family.

Whatever life throws at her, that optimism keeps on coming through.

“Yes, I think I am an optimist,” says Josie, who brings her show to the Brighton Dome on Thursday, February 19 (01273 709709).

“Whatever happens in my life, sometimes when things have felt terrible, I keep thinking everything will be fine, that I fully appreciate that this is terrible, but that things will look up and be happy again if I look on the bright side.

“Often, when I am writing a show, it will be about a crisis or a journey, but I always think it will be fine in the end.”

Isn’t she supposed to be shedding the proverbial tears of a clown, though?

“I can definitely buck that trend!” Josie laughs – and does so on the back of plenty of experience.

“I was 14 when I started performing stand-up. I feel like I am married to it. My real love is performing. I suppose I just like showing off. I suppose it’s a desire to get attention.”

She was able to pursue it all to an extent while at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she studied English. For many years only a women-only college, Josie remembers it as an inspiring place.

“I remember when I went to formal hall (college formal dining) and walking around the college, all the portraits were of women. I didn’t fully appreciate how great that was and just how subtly empowering it was until I went to see friends and other colleges and all the portraits were of old men!

“Really, I wanted to go to Oxford because I wanted to learn, to study, to have the intellectual development. I did quite a few silly things at stand-up clubs that I put on. But really, I feel more and more lucky that I got the chance to go there, what a wonderful place it was and what a wonderful time it was. Everyone was just so full of excitement and ideas and enthusiasm. I used to get really excited and go to the libraries and get out books that hadn’t been got out for 50 years!

“After uni, I had to work to survive. I did temping jobs for three or four years, just to keep me going. It was hard work. I was gigging every night and then working, but I never wanted to do anything other than stand-up and performing.

“I purposefully tried never to get a job that was a safety net, where I might start thinking it was an OK job. I wanted to do jobs that I hated so I made sure I would keep trying to do what I really wanted to do, the comedy, the performing.”

Eventually, she was able to take the plunge and go freelance – since when she’s enjoyed trying to work in the full breadth of venues available. As she says, one of the pleasures of comedy is that you have got everything from laddish clubs to theatres, from the nicer clubs to TV.

“I just enjoy trying to do as much as I can.”