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The Comedy of Errors

Interview: Josie Long

1 February 07 interview: Nathan Miller

"When I was growing up my mum always made us do loads of crafts and it just really makes me happy to be making something"

Josie Long is a craft master, founder of the World Boggle Championships, liker of books and one of the best new stand-up comedians around. Since winning the if.comeddie Best Newcomer award at the 2006 Edinburgh festival, her profile has risen in the comedy world and she lists Ross Noble and Stewart Lee among her devoted fans. Her first full length show is called Kindness and Exuberance and it’s made from equal parts of both. She’s currently taking it on tour and we spoke to her just before it all kicked off...

Are you looking forward to the tour?
I’m really psyched! I’ve just found out we’ve sold 72 tickets for Norwich tomorrow which is just amazing. Aw man, I’m chuffed. In Edinburgh you said the show might seem amateurish but that was what you wanted.

After winning Best Newcomer did you fall into the trap of becoming slick and polished?
I did, but luckily my lack of forward preparation and inability to remember an hour’s worth of material have combated that successfully. So at least the first half of the show is going to be properly shambolic.

You make lots of stuff for the shows: badges and posters and visual aids. Is that something you’ve always done?
When I was growing up my mum always made us do loads of crafts and it just really makes me happy to be making something. It’s relaxing. Also I really like the idea of DIY culture, making your own magazines and things. That’s what’s been really nice about doing my own show, because I can really think about what I want to do and what I would want if I was going to see a show. ‘Cos if I went to a gig I’d love to be bombarded with little bits of paper and free gifts and stuff like that.

When you’re a big international star with million dollar merchandising deals, will you still make all the badges yourself?
Luckily, I don’t particularly think that will be a worry… I tell you what though, I did the show at the Soho Theatre after Edinburgh and we extended the run. And it did make me really tired to keep making all the badges. I’m worried that for the next three months badge making is going to be my only hobby because I need to make two sheets of badges for every… Fuck! If I’ve sold 72 tickets that means I’m gonna have to make three sheets of badges for Norwich. This is hard work man, I’ve gotta get cracking! I’ve got to do that today!

Is that something you can do on the train?
Yeah, you can do any craft anywhere, pretty much. Except for welding and using a lathe. Which is more important, kindness or exuberance? If you’re exuberant but not kind you could be punching people in the face excitedly. So kindness is the big one. That’s the one that I wish everyone would exercise more.

You’ve been to Nottingham quite a few times, what do you make of it?
Page 45 is awesome. What else? It’s a really nice city. It feels like there’s a lot of cool adults choosing to live there and choosing to set up businesses there and it has music nights and bands. My friend Joe runs Raffles music and comedy night, he used to give away a free birthday. Hidden under a sheet he’d have loads of balloons and cake and party poppers. Whoever won, it’d be their birthday and they’d get a song. That is a fine idea.

I read you played Nottingham once and the audience debated whether you were any good…
Yeah, I was compering Just The Tonic and basically there was a stag night down the front. It ended up someone saying “you’re shit,” and I said “no, I’m not shit, I’m just not what you want.” Then someone else said “you are shit,” and someone else went “she’s not shit,” and then literally half the audience were screaming “she is shit,” and the other half were going “she’s not shit.” It was like a pantomime, and as a compere you never want to have to silence an argument about whether you’re shit in order to bring on the next act. It was so harsh!

Is that the weirdest heckling experience you’ve had?
What’s really nice is that doing stuff about books… like, I once asked “Has anyone here read Richard Yates’s short stories?” and someone shouted “No, I’ve only read Revolutionary Road.” I was about to go “fuck you, you fucking dick!” and then I thought, “Oh
yeah, that’s not really a nasty heckle.” The cutest one is I said I went to a club with my friend Daniel and someone went “Weeaaaaay!” So I said, “Wow,do you know Daniel?” and he said “No, I was just excited by the idea of friendship.”

What’s the best thing you’ve read recently?
Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road! I decided I was going to buy it. It’s genuinely brilliant, I can’t tell you how good it is. I can’t give too much detail about it but it’s just wonderful, I’d recommend it to anyone. If you don’t like it you’re a div, so there’s a little bit riding on it…

Why is Boggle better than Scrabble?
Where do I start? It’s quicker, more competitive, it makes you feel more alive. It’s like sprinting compared to a marathon. You’re not supposed to do a marathon very often because after seventeen miles your body starts eating its muscles.

Does the same thing happen to your brain when you’re playing Scrabble?
I expect so, that’s why Scrabble players are so tedious and dull. Anything else you’d like to say to LeftLion readers? Just, thank you for your time and your patience and I hope you come to my show because it’ll be fun if you like that sort of thing. If you don’t like that sort of thing, please, stay away and don’t talk about me on internet message boards.

Josie Long is compering at The Maze on Thursday 8 February. Her show Kindness and Exuberance is at the Lakeside on Friday 9 February.

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