Gig Review : Josie Long – The Wardrobe, Leeds

Last night my wife and I had a very rare midweek night out, heading off to see comedian Josie Long at The Wardrobe in Leeds. Just getting out seemed a major achievement in itself. Since Frida was born we hadn’t previously made it out anywhere further than a ten minute walk from our house of an evening, despite a couple of abortive attempts (see previous post on The Decemberists). Managing to make it out without Frida refusing to go to sleep, being ill, or finding some other way of prematurely interrupting our evening, meant victory for us before the night had even begun.

After a brief introductory set from Long, support act Grace Petrie, a folk singer performed. I’m a fan of comedian getting non-comedians to support them and vice-versa, so this was an unexpected treat. The fact that Grace Petrie’s songs of protest and heartbreak were so direct, powerful and affecting was a bonus. One particular song, about leaving Glastonbury early to arrive at the hospital in time to greet the birth of her niece particularly struck me. It was really touching to hear that joy of the arrival of a new baby from a slightly different perspective. Annoyingly I can’t remember the title, but here’s one of the other songs she performed

Post-interval, Long herself returned to stage to perform her main show. I had first seen her perform back in 2009 at the Melbourne comedy festival, whilst on an extended holiday in Australia (mainly to visit my aunt in Hobart, but also having a little explore of a few other areas whilst I had chance). It was sheer coincidence that I happened to be in Melbourne when the festival was on, and travelling alone with little else to occupy my evenings, I bought tickets for a few shows that looked interesting.(Reginald D Hunter and Mark Watson were others, and an Australian comedian whose name I can’t recall). Of these, Long was by far my favourite and I still have her little handmade programme at home. That trip to Australia was the beginning of a very happy period of my life (a few weeks after returning I met my wife for the first time), so she brings back many fond memories and associations in my mind.

I’ve followed her writings, podcasts and so on since then, but I don’t actually get out to that many comedy shows, so last night was the first time I’d seen her perform live since then. I hoped it would live up to my memories of that Melbourne show and was far from disappointed.  ‘Cara Josephine’ is a show about love, loss and happiness that manages to be fragile, beautiful and gut wrenchingly funny, often almost simultaneously. Trying to write a comedy show that addresses serious themes, but is still laugh out loud hilarious is a tricky act to pull off, but she manages it perfectly. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a comedy show more. She even managed to work in a reference to Joanna Newsom’s ‘Have One On Me’, the album on which the song this blog is named after appears.

The added poignancy of the show for my wife and I was in its’ title and inspiration. ‘Cara Josephine’ is the name of Josie Long’s niece, born in 2014 not too distant from the birth of our own Frida Josephine in May that year. In the finale of the show Long talks of the joy and love she has found for her niece, an almost animalistic love that we may not have been able to relate to quite so strongly before our own Josephine came along. Frida gained that middle name after my wife’s grandmother, but sharing a name with Josie Long certainly didn’t hurt. An intelligent, political, creative, passionate, hilarious, feminist, she is pretty much everything we would want our daughter to grow up to be. A better namesake it’s hard to imagine. Go see her if you possibly can.