A few ideas structure Josie Long’s new show, the central one being simply that “not everything is for everyone.” In the hands of a lesser comic this sort of truism could seem trite, but with a stand up as politically and socially attuned as Long, something like this can take on a much greater significance.
More than enough raw material here for Long to carve out yet another fascinating show
In the context of Long’s new show, which she has been previewing over the course of three nights at the Fringe, the ‘everything’ here means the internet – specifically social media. The backlash provoked by her response to a recent terror attack on a mosque in north London has caused Long to log off completely, to down Twitter tools due to the abuse suffered at the hands of right-wing trolls. It’s at times onerous stuff, not least because the misogynistic invective and threats of violence aimed at her seem to genuinely have taken their toll.
Long, as ever, is looking for something better. She is nothing if not a top-class host: her core audience is such that they will go with her whatever, but the vim and verve of her stage presence alone is enough is to get any stragglers onside. A few warm-up anecdotes about life as she enters her mid-30s and we’re into the meat of the show.
Or are we? For all that it’s flagged up from the outset, when we get to the discussion of the deplorable abuse that caused her to choose to step away from the keyboard, she seems reluctant to talk about it openly. Fair enough, we don’t want details of each and every vile threat, but Long hedges her bets somewhat by focussing on how it influenced her relations with others, specifically with her boyfriend (or her ‘wife’ as she calls him, avoiding heteronormative nomenclature).
These sections are undoubtedly sharp, working gags based on her domestic situation into the wider context of society’s attitudes toward women. However, without really ever getting an insight into the thought that she put into leaving the online world behind, or her mindset while the abuse was happening, things feel a touch more impersonal than the Josie Long we’re used to, normally so adept and teasing out the finer points of the intersection of the personal and the political. She says on a few occasions that she doesn’t want details of the abuse to be a “Debbie downer” but in this case it feels like it would be no bad thing in terms of balancing the show.
Her experience has taught her that, for now, reality is more rewarding. Her descriptions of a mini-pilgrimage to a commune-type estate, and a discussion with an entomologist who specialises in bees, wasps, and ants, make you wonder how anything could ever pierce her seemingly bullet-proof aura of positivity. Though the gig definitely had a work-in-progress feel to it (there were a few references to notes, along with a hint that Long had briefly considered a employing a belligerent audience-member plant, à la Brendon Burns in 2007), there’s more than enough raw material here for Long to carve out yet another fascinating show: something to watch out for.