Comedy Review: Josie Long @ Soho Theatre

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Josie Long / image © Idil Sukan

If you’re aware of Josie Long’s reputation as the kooky DIY zine maker, playing Boggle with her audience, you might be taken aback by the opening to her Edinburgh-nominated show Be Honourable. Belligerent and shouty, it takes a moment to realise she’s in character as a former nail technician, now astronaut, from Orpington. Going up space hasn’t changed her; she’s still needlessly confrontational and a little bit racist. Some people have criticised this opening but this is our second viewing and we’re still hooting with laughter. Any suspicion that Long’s coming at the character from a snobbish point of view is undermined by her later deconstruction of her own middle class identity.

By way of the 100 Days to Make Me a Better Person project and her obsession with a man who posts photos of his breakfast to Flickr, we find out about Long’s realisation that being a nice person isn’t enough – to match up to her heroes, she needs to actually do some good. This leads into a brilliant riff on the Hackney hipster lifestyle, the idea that making your own rye bread and going to Glastonbury somehow constitutes activism. And as this coincides with the coalition government and the tearing down of lots of things she holds dear, the show takes on a much darker tone.

What makes Long’s anger and political invective so powerful is that she is still the gawky, determined-to-see-the-positive, relentlessly honest person she has always been. She’s still quirky, with her team of activist cross-stitchers on stage, but now she’s tackling bigger issues and appealing to us all to be better than we are, to be honourable. It’s inspiring stuff, and shows what comedy can do when it aspires beyond one-line rape gags.

Josie Long: Be Honourable is on at the Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street W1, 9.30pm, until Saturday. Tickets £10 / £12.50 / £15. For more information see the Soho Theatre website.

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