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10 April 2024

Josie Long Q&A: “I wish Keir Starmer had a functioning spine”

The stand-up comedian on Joanna Newsom, expressionism, and the dream of being a forest ranger.

By New Statesman

Josie Long was born in London in 1982. She won the Best Newcomer Award at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2006 and has since appeared regularly on television, radio and the festival circuit.

What’s your earliest memory?

Being woken up because my mum had to take my older sister to school, and my being annoyed that I had to wake up too. I’ve never been a morning person.

Who are your heroes?

When I was a child I was very religious so then it was probably Jesus. Now I most admire artists who contributed to politics – such as James Baldwin – and I love deeply every single climate activist who has the guts to put themselves on the line for our futures.

What book last changed your thinking?

The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine by Rashid Khalidi. It has filled the gaps in my knowledge.

Which political figure do you look up to?

The Black Panthers, Malcolm X, Angela Davis. I want to be more deeply committed to liberation politics.

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In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

The older I get, the more I wish I could simply revisit my own past, to see my grandparents again or not be freaking out about climate collapse.

What would be your “Mastermind” specialist subject?

The music of Joanna Newsom. But recently I was with friends and one of them said “And of course the vocal surgery she had completely changed her tone between her first and second albums” and I felt like a fool for not having noticed.

What TV show could you not live without?

I’d be gutted if Doctor Who ended.

Who would paint your portrait?

Marc Chagall. Any vivid expressionism makes my heart sing, so it would be nice to be painted in that way, alongside a giant chicken or something.

What’s your theme tune?

“Don’t You Worry ’Bout A Thing” by Stevie Wonder. I love how he makes a funny “ee-ee” noise at the start of the song.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

My grandma told me not to worry about what other people were doing. I think I am good at it now but it took me a long time.

What’s currently bugging you?

That it feels like the people in power inhabit a different reality to the one that people are seeing on their phones every day from Gaza. That if the Labour Party wins the next election it won’t be a cause for anything other than the relief that the other right-wingers are out. How little is being done about the climate crisis. Wes Streeting’s smug face. The grim transphobia fomented by the media and a large number of MPs. That plumbers keep ghosting me about fixing my shower tiles.

What single thing would make your life better?

If Keir Starmer was struck by lightning and it created a functioning spine.

When were you happiest?

When I did some gigs at a festival on a cruise ship in the Bahamas. They had a meal between brunch and lunch.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

I’d be happy if I was a forest ranger who gave talks to kids. I would love being able to forage like a little truffle pig. 

Are we all doomed?

Even if we were, it would be far worse to think like that. Despair is a luxury. It’s always worth trying.

Josie Long’s short-story collection “Because I Don’t Know What You Mean and What You Don’t” is published by Canongate

[See also: Camilla Nord Q&A: “I do at least one handstand every day”]

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This article appears in the 10 Apr 2024 issue of the New Statesman, The Trauma Ward