Photo credit: IDIL SUKAN DRAW HQ
Polite small talk about in-yer-face cousins and strawberry bonbons murmur from the rows behind as a delicate layer of dry ice lines the stage. A familiar voice comes over the loudspeaker introducing herself – the headline act: Josie Long.
Long bounces onto the stage brimming with excitement, her voice fluctuating as she greets the Brighton crowd. She seems genuinely enthused by tonight’s performance, a humble side to a comedian who is no stranger to fame having recently performed on hit shows such as 8 Out of 10 Cats and Have I Got News For You. After a couple of minutes and another introduction Long has leapt off stage right and her support act stands centre.
Tom Allen opens his mouth as an overtly camp voice projects into an obvious introduction as he quips, “I can’t give my parents grandchildren but I can give them lovely cushions”. Although entertaining, I couldn’t help but dread a full 30 minutes of easy and predictable gay material, however quickly enough the theme changed into a well rehearsed and delivered, fast paced set. Allen was very well received with a routine on primary schools forcing squawks of laughter from all around the venue. With 5 minutes to go Allen commits the cardinal sin for a comedian; running out of material, announcing, “what should I talk about” after glancing at his watch, “any straight people in tonight?”. Allen jumps back into a familiar gay-themed ending which despite his little preparation is greeted well by the audience: perhaps slightly lucky that he’s in Brighton tonight.
After a short interval Long announces herself back on stage, “weighing between 10-12 stone depending on how lonely she is…” bouncing into an hour long set about relationships, broken hearts and family. Long’s delivery matches her style of comedy, her body language oozing comfort; the cocked leg, funny accents, and interjections into her own set show she is at home on the stage. Her relaxed manner makes it feel as though we are just mates having a chat in the pub rather than a professional comedian performing in an 800 capacity venue, however at times it is obvious this is a large crowd for her. On several occasions Long places her hand over her eyes in an attempt to see the rows of people before her, perhaps a habit used to picking out faces in smaller venues, but slightly off-putting during the middle of a joke. The feat of this evening does not alter her confidence though, she conveys total comfort being in front of such a large audience and confessing at the end of her performance “this is the biggest show I have ever played as a solo comedian, so thank you,” suggesting a lot of potential in the future for Long to easily fill larger venues.
The content of Cara Josephine varies a massive amount, ranging from recently ended relationships, to choking Nigel Farage with marshmallows on a romantic trip watching meteor showers. Coming from a background of politically focused comedy, Cara Josephine is Long’s first autobiographical show, however I felt she lacked the courage to really delve into her personal details. On several occasions it seemed Long merely scratched the surface and evaded in pursuit of another tangent, to which I was left longing for more information. The one occasion in her set in which she really does get personal (to a very graphic extent – too much so to reproduce on the walls of the Verse), generates by far the biggest laughter of the evening, with chuckles resonating around the hall minutes after the routine has passed. Despite this, the whole set was consistently funny and Long as a performer had total control over the crowd, switching the tone of the room in a matter of seconds from pin-drop silence to gaggles of laughter
Long’s personality really shone through this evening and that is why I enjoyed her performance so much; she is a joy to watch on stage. Her show ‘Cara Josephine’ still has a month left of touring, and is definitely worth a visit.
By Gavin Jones