Sam Freeman

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Interview: Josie Long

If.comeddies Best Newcomer winner and three time Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee Josie Long is a comedian, writer and actor. Her sixth and most recent show “Romance and Adventure” is currently touring nationally after a critically successful run at Edinburgh Festival.

What was it that motivated you to start in stand up? Was it a gradual build up, a moment of clarity or a mix of the two?

I’ve always, always wanted to be a stand up comedian since i was a little girl. i was always a bit of a show off and i loved watching comedy on TV. Then when I was 14 i tried stand up for the first time and i was pretty much hooked from then on.

Can you remember your first gig, how did it go, and was there a turning point in gigging where you had an epiphany and your comic persona came through strongly or was is present from the start of your career?

Yes, my first proper gig was upstairs at the east Dulwich tavern, which is now a kind of swanky pizzeria i think. It was a new act and new material night so there were proper comics on. I don’t remember what i said at all, it was a massive flood of adrenaline!

I feel a lot more comfortable now on stage than i did then, like i can speak about anything i feel passionate about and really have fun. I think that’s a gradual thing that comes from experience- i hope that people who come and watch my stuff feel it’s like that too though!

 Whenever anyone enters a career they start with a degree of naivety, is there anything you’d wish you’d known when starting out?

I wish I’d never ever Google searched my own name! When you first start out you’re just so excited about the prospect of people talking about your stand up that it seems like a good idea, but it is never, ever a good idea. Everything else has probably been helpful, or at the very least “an experience”.

How do you develop new material? Is it a desk-bound writing process followed by club development, through improvising ideas live that develop stronger form through performance, or a mix of the two?

I like to improvise around ideas with warm-up dates, then I’ll record what I’ve done and listen over it to try and develop my material. I also like to make a fiendishly complicated spider diagram of a show as a first step to writing one. Oh and near the end i have a lot of writing things on cue cards and then freaking out trying to organise them. I’m not very good at sitting down and writing my stand up at a computer, i like to muck around and bash it about onstage.

Who are the comedians that have inspired you and why?

Every year i get inspired at the Edinburgh fringe, i feel like it’s where people bring their best and most exciting work. My favourite show this year was Bravo Figaro! by Mark Thomas. i think Mark Thomas is constantly inspiring as a campaigning and brilliant performer who not only writes from the heart but helps change the world. Also this year i saw Claudia O Doherty, Tony Law, Pappy’s, Bridget Christie, Sara Pascoe and James Acaster’s shows and they were all properly inspiring in completely different ways.

Have any of them influenced your work or performance style?

I think you definitely get influenced by all of the things you like, but i like to hope it’s not in a direct way- you’d be inspired to be a braver or weirder performer, for example, by a great show.

You have a hugely broad work portfolio, from podcasts (I love Utter Shambles!)

ah thank you 🙂

and stand up to appearances on Channel 4’s Skins and Radio 4 plays: Do you have a preferred medium to work in and how do you balance all the different elements? (sorry if this question doesn’t make sense, essentially it’s about balancing work and the extent to which you chose your projects…)

No it does make sense. I think I’ll always love stand up the most as it’s direct and fast- you think of the ideas and you can perform them immediately, that’s wonderful. I like how much it can be a way of honing and finding your own voice.

What are your frustrations with comedy?

I hate how often people ask me sexist questions (btw i am SO glad you haven’t!) and it can be lonely touring a solo show as you don’t have anyone else who’s shared that same experience, but on the whole i love it!

What are your ambitions for the future?

I made a short film with a friend of mine who is a director earlier this year and I really enjoyed it, we’re hoping to send that to film festivals. I wrote it and performed in it, which for a stand up is the correct level of control freakery! We’re making another at the end of October/beginning of November which i am really looking forward to, we’re hoping to keep writing them. We’re trying to crowdfund our film here: http://www.sponsume.com/project/romance-and-adventure

And finally, who are your favourite performers to watch at the moment, who startles you with their comic ability?

Ha the people i mentioned earlier-

Claudia O Doherty’s show was so beautifully written and plotted, and performed with such an original voice that I felt in awe of her. Pappy’s show too was just so clever and full of heart. Sara Pascoe’s show was brave and completely engaging. After these shows i felt inspired but also a bit crushed at how wonderful they were.

Josie is touring throughout the UK and performing at Liverpool’s Unity Theatre on Saturday 6th October.

Best Wishes & Thank You!

Festival’s everywhere!

I have been considering recently what I’d do if I won the lottery, something that I imagine lots of people muse about from time to time.

I quickly passed through the obvious ones (house, car, driving lessons – not in that order), before moving into the deliberately charitable ones (i’d help someone so I seem like a nice individual and the money’s not changed me… come on, we all think it…) before finally settling on the lifestyle choices section. To work or not to work.

To be honest i’m not sure I could deal with not working (although i would improve vastly at FIFA (read more…)) but I also had the idea that I could become a comedy festival junkie for a year on maybe a year out… Like students do without the hassle of going to Australia where I will get sunstroked in 5 seconds.

Yes, going from previews to Edinburgh to Liverpool to Brighton, one gig a day. It’d be amazingly good fun, new places, gig every night and nice meals, I could take my friends, get a VW camper van…

However, back to reality, and a couple of comedy festival’s have caught my attention post-Edinburgh.  The first (for my southern readers) Dave’s Brighton Comedy Festival, and the second (for my northern readers) Liverpool Comedy Festival. Both events look absolutely terrific so I thought I’d pick out a few people to recommend from each!

Dave’s Brighton Comedy Festival

(top 5 to see!)

  1. Ross Noble – The man is a genius, possible the quickest improviser I’ve ever seen, every gig feels like you’ve taken part in a unique event, massively confusing at points but a superstar of comedy.
  2. Russell Kane – A few people I know dislike Kane from his TV appearances, but please, make no mistake, he deserved his Perrier award (or whatever it’s called now), he’s sharp, funny, and is another comedian you warm to instantly!
  3. Dara O’Briain – So let’s get this straight, in the space of 5 years he has gone from an unknown into a national treasure. Let’s be honest without Dara, Mock The Week would be rubbish, a great improviser too who manages to combine wit and warmth. I imagine he could insult you badly and you’d thank him for it afterwards..
  4. Tony Law – He’s crazy, I saw him for the first time in Edinburgh this year, my last show of the fringe, and, it was like a long happy sing-along hallucination, but enjoyable without dizziness or a rampant desire for a Big Mac afterwards.
  5. Terry Alderton – When I ran a comedy night in York we booked Terry not knowing what to expect. His split personality comedy divides opinion a bit, however, it’s thrilling to watch, and Alderton is slick, knows his act inside out and is sure to get you excited!

Liverpool Comedy Festival 

(top 5 to see!)
  1. Alun Cochrane – I have no idea why Alun Cochrane isn’t playing to stadiums.  He should be, or at least in a big theatre. He’s brilliant, funny, sincere and one of the best comedians around. At some point he will become a superstar, I’d see him before that point and say you saw him first…
  2. Markus Birdman – I saw Marcus in Edinburgh in a room with 20 people. The man is a genius, not many people can make a show about death genuinely inspirational while avoiding vomitting moments… He does it…
  3. Seymour Mace – I’ve not seen this new show, but his last show was a dark brooding laugh-fest that ended in a bizarre way and felt very confessional, it was a little disturbing, a little mad and I really enjoyed it… I was hopefully meant to..
  4. Josie Long – I’ve a confession to make. I’ve never seen Josie Long live. Everyone I know raves about her. And everyone can’t be wrong.
  5. Simon Munnery – Probably the best joke writer in the country, and a bit of a comedy legend. Enough said really…

Edinburgh 2012 Reviews

I’ve just returned from four glorious days in sunny Edinburgh (it seems wrong to say…), basking in comedic and theatrical genius with the odd road bump along the way. Last year I reviewed in depth everything I saw. However this year it wasn’t possible for 3 reasons.

1# I was there with my girlfriend who wakes up early (unlike my mate Chris who I went with last year who sleeps like a corpse til 11am) so my writing time wasn’t there.

#2 I didn’t take my laptop and have stubby fingers so didn’t attempt writing on Louise’s iphone, also the hostel no longer had a free-to-use PC in the lounge.

#3 It was a holiday so I thought i’d just enjoy it.

Anyway, here’s what I saw (in 3 and a bit days) and what I thought!


 Andrew Bird’s Global Village Fete
: A bit of an average show to be honest, thematically inconsistent, using the framing device of trying to organise a tour of his previous show felt staged and unconvincing, he’s really funny and you warm to him instantly, but this show didn’t really feel as well thought out, structured or planned as last years brilliant show.

4 StarsAl Pitcher – Tiny: An improvised show based around a series of funny pictures that Al’s taken round the city. Sounds like a recipe for disaster but actually showed how stunningly good a comedian he is with a little material. Reminded me a bit of Ross Noble, a great fun performer to see.

4 Stars Hal Cruttenden: Another great show, a political edge examining the contrasting sides of Hal’s personality, actor or hardman, which ended brilliantly. A really strong piece, that felt well structured and well rounded from a performer it’s really easy to like.

4 Stars Guilt & Shame: I wasn’t sure I’d like this to be honest, it sounded a bit like a classic, “we did some drugs now look at us”, and to an extent it is. However, while it’s not the deepest, most effecting show I saw, I really enjoyed it, it was silly, clever, filthily dirty and with some absolutely terrific acting and the best use of music I’ve seen.

4 Stars Jollyboat: Genius. From the free fringe, this is how musical comedy should be done, the songs are witty and clever, long enough to get the message across and extract the juicy potential of the joke yet short enough to feel they’re not milking it. A bit of work on persona and developing interlinking sections and maybe audience interaction and this would get the extra star to make it five.

4 Stars Max & Ivan are… Con Artists: Character based comedy based on the recent glut of heist movies. Two brilliant performers who stormed and sweated through an hour of the most entertaining heist movie references developing strong and nuanced characters. The story was loose and ridiculous and it felt like the ending was perhaps a little rushed, maybe to fit in the time slot, but a good play for anyone!

 Axis Of Awesome: 2011 they were brilliant, 2012 made me really angry. I paid to see this, poor interaction, pop culture references 10 years out of date, lazy execution and tedious songs… WHY WHY WHY. Sorry chaps, didn’t enjoy this one, it felt a bit like meeting a girl who’s really hot, and in the past she didn’t know she was hot and that was adorable, but now everyone’s told her they want to do bad things with her and she’s changed. Axis, you’ve changed. I love your work and I really want you to blow my mind.

4 Stars Mark Watson: The Information: A solid hour from Mark Watson, he’s very easy to like and this show about the information we freely distribute around the internet was both fascinating and a little scary. It also reminded me never to mess with Mark Watson as behind that chilled out friendly exterior is a bit of a demon. A very very funny demon.

 The Boy With Tape On His Face: Amazing, funny, silly, daft, silent. Sometimes you see someone doing something really original and different and it makes you curse and wish you’d come up with a concept so good. This is one of those.

 Daniel Kitson: Where Once Was Wonder… I’m a big Daniel Kitson fan, he’s brilliant, the master of a turn of phrase and one of my comedy heroes. This of course sets me up for a fall, but he delivered again, and we laughed so much our faces hurt and I left feeling inspired and rejuvenated.

4 Stars Daniel Bye: The Price Of Everything: A really clever show about value, how we attribute it and how we want to live our lives. It’s clever and uses techniques and elements commonly seen in standup, it maybe feels like it needs a bit of polish, but it’s inspiring, well written and makes you dream of a better world.

4 Stars Daniel Kitson: As of 1.52pm GMT on Friday April 27th 2012, This Show Has No Title: Genius. Or massively arrogant and we’ve all been conned. I suspect a bit of both, and fair play, it worked for me, a great show, insightful, clever and structurally perfect. I can’t tell you what happens in case someone searches online as I don’t want to spoil it, I imagine some people will hate it (as they are well within their rights to), but I thought it was great. It should also be noted that Daniel (or Mr Kitson) walked into the theatre just in front of us and I froze and couldn’t ask for a photo – I have now done this with 2 of my heroes (Richard Schiff – who I met at York Theatre Royal), and I can’t decide if this makes me a better person or a cowardly twat.

 Piff The Magic Dragon: Didn’t really like it to be honest, it’s a magic/comedy show, and it’s shy about containing the magic part. A clever idea, maybe inspired by Tommy Cooper thematically, but he made comedy from his failures and then just as you doubted him, added in a showstopping successful trick. This needed some overwhelming tricks to counteract the undewhelming deliberate failures.

4 Stars The Magnets: Louise talked about them constantly for an hour afterwards (I didn’t see them) and said they were really good! So yes, go see it!

 Markus Birdman: A brilliantly under rated comedian, funny, clever, with a great narrative to his show, brilliant comic timing and an impressive ability at artwork. One of our favourite shows, and, I really, really hope he gets a break and is seen by a wider audience!

4 Stars Tony Law: Utter Noonsence: And something mad to finish with, Tony Law is surreal, he doesn’t do conventional, he breaks convention with a stick then kicks it to death. He’s also tremendously funny, and honest, it’s rare a comedian admits he doesn’t know how to end a show, but to embrace and use that? That’s genius.

(Apologies for the writing of these mini-reviews, I’ve just got back from a 5hr train journey and I’m really tired… Best, Sam)

 

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