Wednesday, 27 May 2015


IT would be difficult to find anyone more upbeat and cheerful than comedian Josie Long.
It might be something to do with the fact the Sidcup-born three-time Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee has been entertaining people on the stand up circuit since she was 14, bar a brief stint at university.
But whatever it is, during our chat she comes across as friendly, likeable and one of life’s optimists and it seems impossible to imagine the 33-year-old ever being grumpy or miserable.
But she tells me she isn’t always so happy, as was the case when she and her then boyfriend parted company in the summer of 2013.
However not one to let an opportunity pass her by, she decided to use the experience as the back drop for her latest show, Cara Josephine, which she is bringing to the Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room next week.
It has resulted in a much more personal show, emphasised in the title which she tells me is inspired by her baby niece, and with whom she is clearly besotted.
“She’s my sister’s baby and in the show I talk about how cools she is,” Josie laughs.
“I really wanted to do something to celebrate her arrival in the world and thought this was something I could do to say I love her.
“She's the most amazing and incredible baby!” she adds. “And her arrival helped me move on from the break up.
“My sister really helped me too and I talk about her in the show as well. She is very different to me and doesn't take my nonsense. She's matter of fact and practical whereas I'm more sensitive.
“I realised we are at the start of a whole new generation and that we should look out for each other. It sounds so serious but the show is about appreciating what we do have.
“She's cool with me talking about her on stage.”
As well as her sister and her baby, Josie reflects on her own childhood, but the main starting point is about the breakup and it’s here that Josie momentarily becomes a bit more serious.
“Throughout the show I explain how I tried to move on from it,” she says. “It’s a serious subject but I make it silly with a lot of fun and theatrical touches to it.
“I hope I am able to reassure people if they are going through same sorts of things.”
She says the process of writing it was cathartic although she admits it has been an intense experience bearing all on stage and there have been moments when she has felt it was “dragging” her back to old emotions.
“It gave me perspective though which has been a good thing,” she says.
And while she’s not giving tips she explains through a series of anecdotes what she did.
This involved reading a lot of poetry, taking part in outdoor adventures and “getting in touch” with her emotions.
At which point she starts laughing again.
"It makes me sound pathetic and poncy but it wasn't like that," she chuckles. "But I really like reading poetry - stuff by Walt Whitman who wrote about nature and positive things which is just my style.
“I also weirdly got really into climbing which really surprised me.
“I went with these two guys. We had all had a relationship that had just ended and we talked about our feelings. It was like a support group but the really good thing was it toughened us up - we called it the Heartbreak Climbing Club!
“I also went camping on my own – in fact anything that got me outside and learning to be on my own a bit more. I wanted to enjoy being a whole person and not having to rely on someone else.
“I joined a group that camp under the stars. I had never done that before and was really frightened initially, dreaming the police would come but it was very empowering. You should do it!" she adds enthusiastically.
The show’s subject matter has been a departure for Josie who has traditionally focussed on politics in her act but she says she has loved the experience.
"I have never written an explicitly personal show before,” she says. “However, it was just what I wanted to talk about at the time and I didn't have anything new to say about politics.”
However, she admits it’s hard to let go of her political opinions and says the recent General Election is a case in point.
"It was thoroughly depressing for me," she says. “It's so hard not to be angry about being under a government I'm ideologically opposed to.
"Austerity has caused massive suffering in this country and people are either not aware of it or have decided not to care and that’s sad.”
But true to form, Josie doesn't feel down for long, advocating “doing something about it” rather than moping about.
“I believe we have got a massive social responsibility to look after each other especially those affected badly by austerity,” she says. “We can't waste time feeling sad or angry.
"I want to do as much as I can to help those who need it."
And this is shown in her work with Arts Emergency Service, a charity helping young people access further education which she set up with her friend Neil Griffiths in 2011.
It helps support and encourage people to study through a team of mentors which she describes as an “alternative old boys network”.
"It started with just the two of us mentoring young people,” she says. “We had 12 young people initially and now we have more than 500 mentors and loads of students.
“I love it and I’m really proud of it. It’s my most favourite thing I have ever done and I want more people to get involved.
“But it shows what can be done – anyone can come up with an idea and go for it. You will be amazed at the amount of people who want to help.”
Some of this will feed into her show at the Southbank Centre, a venue she admits she's never played before.
"I love the Southbank Centre," she enthuses. "I love the poetry library and going to see classical music there. I'm so excited to be there - it's going to be amazing."
I ask Josie whether the show has a happy ending.
"Yes, I guess it does," she says warmly. "It has been an amazing process and I discovered a whole load of things that I liked doing, things I probably wouldn't have done otherwise - so I'm very happy.”
And this includes having found love again.
"I'm moving to West Norwood with my boyfriend very soon so it's all good,” she adds.
"I lived in Peckham for a long time before moving to Hackney a few years ago. I always thought I'd be there forever but it's too expensive - I can't afford to buy anything unless Hollywood comes calling," she laughs.
"Besides I was born in South London and I guess it never leaves you so it will be nice to come back."

Josie Long is at the Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre on June 3 and 4. Tickets cost £15. Visit or call the box office on 020 7960 4200.

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