Josie Long Interview
How do you introduce Josie Long? She’s a three time Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee for a start. She’s also a writer, film-maker, silly voice maker, and sometimes a radio presenter. We chatted to Josie about her new show Tenderness, how to keep going in the face of horrific global circumstances, and her plans for a new television series.
Can you tell us a bit more about the show?
The way that I always talk about the show is [I’m asking] how can you bring someone into the world when everyone around you is telling you it’s the end of the world?
It’s about the fact that I had my daughter and it’s such a massive massive thing: pregnancy and giving birth is the biggest thing that my body has ever done. When you have children there are heightened emotions: just feeling so vulnerable and so loving and all that stuff. And then at the same time, you’re thinking about climate change the whole time, looking around at the wider world and being terrified. It’s about trying to navigate your way through that with a bit of positivity.
And the positivity is a major focus for you?
I wouldn’t say it’s a show that’s saying ‘HERE’S HOW TO BE POSITIVE!’. It’s definitely about how intense it all is, and about sharing these experiences. In some ways, it’s trying to talk about things like climate change, which is something I find to be so daunting and frightening. It’s also just about me mucking about and things like that, so there’s really something for everyone.
It’s hard to talk about anything these days without talking about the current political situation, and about climate change. That engagement is a positive thing of course, but the stress that comes along with that, that’s a difficult thing for people to have to deal with.
Yeah, I think the reason I’m maybe feeling the stress is partly a result of having my baby, but in some ways, I think that I’m not alone in it at all. With my friends, we talk about everyone inhabiting a secret private apocalypse; just walking around the whole time going ‘The seasons are wrong, why are the seasons wrong? What the fuck is going on?’ It’s something that’s in people’s consciousness all the time.
It’s an interesting thing to talk about on stage because I am definitely a natural optimist who wants to talk about these things and wants to try and find a way to be hopeful. But I also think it’s such a big thing to reckon with, and sometimes it’s impossible to feel hopeful. And then how do we go on, how do we keep going?
The idea of ‘I don’t care if what we’re doing is hopeful, I don’t care if it’s completely hopeless: we have to keep going and we have to do what we can’. I find that so comforting; you don’t have to pretend that everything is ok, you don’t have to be an optimist all the time. What you do have to do is keep going, and to try to create a more positive world. That’s still a worthwhile thing to do.
The way that I feel about it is, I am really glad and grateful that people are having kids now, even if it does seem unfair, and even if it’s difficult, even if it’s complicated. What I have definitely found, from having my daughter, is that it reminds you of what life’s about and of the best things in life. Also, it does tend to help people soften themselves a bit, to find their humanity. When I take her out and about, I do see people just being kinder as a result of being around a child.
I think I can see parallels between attitudes and ways of coping that were common, say during the Cold War, and now. The way that people just got on with it because, as a species, we’re really good at ignoring things.
I think that’s interesting, that one, cause I don’t think it’s a good time to stick your head in the sand. I do think we do need to become more like activists and people do need to bother to get involved, keep going, and do that work. At the same time, I do think that at every stage of history there has been something that has terrified and daunted people. And that’s not to play down the climate crisis, because that’s massive and real. I do think you can totally imagine at every other stage, especially in the 20th century, people having to be like ‘Well, of course, this is happening but we just have to keep bloody going.’ And in that respect, it’s, again, quite comforting.
I hope this doesn’t sound too facile, but with the baby, the big thing you learn is that you have to constantly adapt. On a wider level, it does remind you, that’s what we do as human beings. That’s what human beings without power need to do the whole fucking time. Quite often the people in power are terrible human beings.
Apart from your comedy, you’ve also made some self-funded micro-budget films.
Yeah, me and my friend Doug King met about 9 years ago. Basically we really got on and we just decided we’d make films together and we call ourselves Caledonian Mumblecore: because we have no money and all the films are about people chatting in the west of Scotland.
We were desperate to do a feature from the get go really, but it wasn’t possible to get funding. We spent a few years going by conventional means and not getting anywhere, so then we just decided that we were going to make it ourselves.
It’s about how people try to get on with small things when big things are happening around them. The stuff of life still goes on when things are really difficult. It’s like my standup show, to be honest.
It did really well for a no budget feature, it was nominated for a British Independent Film Award and we got a little cinema tour. We’re now in the process of trying to develop it for television…what we’re really looking to do now is go legit to make some big stuff.
I’m really committed to making films, particularly in Glasgow, cause I think it’s the most beautiful filmic city and I think you have the full range of location, culture, everything here.
Any story you want to tell can be told in Glasgow.
Josie Long will take Tenderness to The Stand, Glasgow on 16th February and Oran Mor, Glasgow on 16th March.