First Night: Josie Long: Trying Is Good, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

Slow-starting comic builds a head of steam
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The Independent Culture

There is, by her own admission, a sluggish start to Josie Long's show. Perhaps she was acclimatising to the heat of her Pleasance venue, the most ironically named venues on the Fringe. I know I was all but passed out by the end.

Though slow out of the starting blocks, by the end, last year's winner of the if.comeddie newcomer award warmed her audience's hearts in accordance with the temperature of the rest of her body.

Long's stock-in-trade, she says, is to point out the truth and beauty in the humanity around her - rather than make it funny by shoe-horning the pleasure of, for example, eating amazing wheat-free bread, into an easy gag. Instead she tells a long story about how she tracked down the maker of the bread. "I realise that story sounds like, I ate some bread, I liked it and I found out who baked it," the comic admits.

But it is not just charm that has carried the story. She explains how the pictured bread-maker (or the "breadlebrity") looks like he is incredibly angry and riffs on that and imagines a family feud where his brother may have diversified into "bagels for lactose intolerants".

There's a lot of pleasure to be had in this tomfoolery. Slightly less so in her deconstruction of why she loves Edward Hicks' 19th-century painting, Peaceable Kingdom, the fact that he painted variations on the Old Testament scene leads to the obvious gags and she presents her own variations aided by cut-outs from magazines, such as "The Dita Von Teasable Kingdom".

However, the above routines are where the beaming and enthusiastic comic finds momentum in her show, embellishing here and there to good effect.

Elsewhere, her shorter observations sometimes pay less return, (eg, Keith Allen is the father of invention according to a contrived family tree) but some show off that the playful comic, who is busy playing "Minesweeper" as the audience enters, has edge.

Pontificating on the democracy of smiling, she describes how someone could be happy for any number of reasons. Perhaps they have a treat waiting for them when they get home or alternatively "they might have a boy hidden in the cellar".

The aforementioned humidity does not create the right atmosphere for subtlety and so much of the 25-year old shtick (her painting of a sea scene on her belly) initially seemed isolated and laboured rather than a building of whimsy that rewards later when the pieces of "Josie's World" fit together.

To break the spell of languor, Long's observations are punctuated by her exaltations that act as punchlines, delivered in almost the style of an American preacher. For example, she considers herself to be a Renaissance woman because she is on the large side and because: "I like lying around the house in the nude!"

Last year, Long's show was akin to being invited into the bedroom lair of the left-field indie kid and consumed with joy in the trivial. This year, Long attempts the same invitation but the stifled and stifling start (she pauses at one point, comments on the pause but can't summon the postmodern ironic cover to get out of it) means she has a lot of ground to make up. She does that admirably and if the Pleasance allowed its artists and their audiences to have enough air to breathe, then her endeavours might have elicited more rapture.

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