New Internationalist

A word with Josie Long

Web exclusive

The comedian and activist has no time for monarchs, politicians or estate agents. But, as she tells Jo Lateu, positive people get her heart racing.

Comedian Josie Long [Related Image]
© Giles Smith

What are you politically passionate about?

Social justice. I want to live in a more equal society; I don’t want a class of super-rich. It’s creepy to want to be rich, mad to want to be super-rich. I am strongly anti-privatization of services and am against educational inequality. I want tertiary education, healthcare, water and social housing to be taxpayer funded and not for profit. And fuck estate agents. They should all change careers immediately. I’m anti having an aristocracy, not to mention a bloody monarchy! And I want world leaders to make unpopular decisions to save the earth in the face of climate change. Oh, and fuck the [British] coalition and their disastrous policies on welfare, health, education, everything. And fuck UKIP [UK Independence Party]!

If you could banish one person from the earth, who would it be and why?

Gosh, there are a few to choose from in politics at the moment. Maybe Boris Johnson, because then we might get a Mayor of London who made lives easier for the people at the bottom. But, to be honest, singling any one person out seems a bit harsh.

Who or what inspires you?

People who are positive and get things done. A little tiny community garden or local project sets my heart racing!

Can comedy be a tool for political and social change?

Definitely. People are lulled into trusting you and listening to you onstage and you can plant a little worm in their brains. I have had a lot of people tell me that they have started actions and community projects as a result of comedy gigs, so I think they can be helpful in inspiring more useful people than us comedians to be more useful!

Can you tell us a bit about your Alternative Reality Tour? Will you resurrect it in the future?

In October 2011, I took a van full of my friends around the country – comedians like Tom Parry and Henry Widdicombe, the musician Grace Petrie, activists from UK Uncut and even the writer Alan Moore got involved. We had a proper tour manager and would take the van to places that often get slagged off as dumps. We would perform off the back of the van, using a sheet as a backdrop and the van’s headlights as stage lights. Some fans found out about us via Twitter, but mostly [our audience was] young people and people who were out on the streets. It was a brilliant thrill to try and find a venue, convert it to a performance space (underpasses, parks, the beach, you name it) and then summon up a crowd. I did it for two main reasons – because I wanted to do some kind of activism against the [austerity] cuts (a lot of our stand-up and songs were politically themed) and because I wanted it to be a fun adventure. It was absolutely both – on the way, we stayed with activists and in communes and it was one of the most magical things I have ever got to do. It’s my dream to make it happen again!

You are an Edinburgh Fringe stalwart. What makes the festival so special?

I just love the atmosphere. It never ceases to be inspiring and crushing and terrifying and exhilarating. I love the types of crowds that come to see me, always very friendly and good natured. I also really enjoy going and swimming in the sea down in Portobello. Every year a big group of us go once a week and it’s COLD!

If you didn’t live in Britain, where would you live and why?

I would love to live in India, or on a little island in Japan – something very different from London.

What is your biggest fear?

No longer being physically healthy, losing my mobility or my strength.

What would you like your epitaph to be?

Ha! Maybe… ‘I really tried!’

Josie Long will be appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe from 1 August. For details and tickets, visit The Stand website.

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