In Something Better, Josie Long grapples with the difficulty of being on the left in a world where the far right is gaining power and popularity. Playing between different comic devices and forms, she confronts the pain and hurt that comes from observing the popular vote favouring politicians and political agendas that lack kindness and compassion. Her discussion is frank, honest and heartfelt, tempered with an exuberant hilarity.
From the beginning of the ‘pre-show karaoke’, a light-hearted riffing on song lyrics that initiates the audience into venue, Long imbues the space with an infectious warmth. She proudly proclaims that she is ‘an optimist’ and even through the more serious topics she discusses, you can feel a bubbling hopefulness, a streaming of light through her words. Her energy in the space brims with the kind of joy that not only makes you feel at ease within the performance, but makes you feel actually excited to be alive. While sometimes dipping into the self-deprecating and cynical, she maintains an encouraging positivity throughout, rallying the audience in a collective desire for a better world.
In Something Better, Long cuts between personal anecdote, intellectual humour and character play with a brilliant sense of form and timing. Her comic intelligence and deft is clear in the way she crafts her material, layering content and jokes in a way that is constantly pushing the work further and surprising the audience, keeping everyone in hysterics. Her ability to upend and reach unexpected places in her material had me almost crying from laughter at several points in the show.
Long presents the peculiarities, contradictions and the complexities of ‘joining the left’ and the ‘starting to care about things’ that this entails. Her discussion is relatable and amusing, and for the most part politically sensitive and savvy – something that can be disappointingly rare in the comedy scene in general. As a politically aware white cis woman, Long acknowledges the limitations of her privilege, speaking of the fear her POC and queer presenting friends face on the streets in England under a conservative government and acknowledging one of her idols, trans American Samoan soccer player Jaiyah Saelua. However, considering the transgender WOC’s poster features in the space, Long could pay more than brief lip service to queer and racial politics. The other point in which she doesn’t quite live up to her politics is when she physically mocks a male right wing politician in a way that is unfortunately somewhat reminiscent of the mocking of people with disabilities. While these things took me out of the show, she has a way of drawing the audience back in with the sincerity and kooky-charm she exudes. And really, despite these things, the careful, intelligent and genuinely caring way she unpacks left wing politics is a rare treat.
Long jokes that she named her show Something Better so that when someone comes up to you at a comedy festival and says they are going to see a middle aged white man talk about how PC culture is ruining everything, you can say you are going to see something better. Josie Long’s show truly is this something better. With its ability to take warmth, earnestness, political awareness and compassion and make it very, very funny, this is the show I wanted to see at the comedy festival this year.