Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

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:

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!