I had a chat with the incredible Josie Long for Such Small Portions about her upcoming short film tour, climbing, politics and Doctor Who among other things.
S: How are you doing Josie?
Josie: I’m very good, thank you. I realised this morning that I had nothing to complain about, and that was a very nice feeling.
S: Nothing at all to complain about?
Josie: Well just today, I’m sure there’ll be some stuff later, I don’t want you to think I’m being smug; it’s just a nice feeling.
S: It’s nice to know you’re very content with everything today.
S: So, the primary thing to talk about is your upcoming indie film tour. Your two new short films – what are they and why did you make them?
Josie: So there’s two short films. One is called Let’s Go Swimming and one is called Romance and Adventure. They’re both set in Glasgow and they are both starring a character that is like a rubbish version of me. Or like a version of me that is…I’m doing it again; I’ve come on and gone like, “I’ve got nothing to worry about, the character’s not as good as me.” The character is like a version of me, sort of a bit like some of my stand up as well involved. They’re both sad comedies, and they’re about…
The first one is about a woman who abandons her life in London to move to Glasgow, because she has all these fantasies of Glasgow being this musical paradise, where she’ll just become best friends with all these bands that she loves and she’ll have this great life and that the reason that her life in London didn’t work is because she’s not in the right place and it doesn’t pan out that way.
The second one is about, it’s sort of vaguely like eighteen months on from the first one, but it’s not really the same characters. It’s this character of Josie living with a flatmate and the flatmate is absolutely her best friend, but he kind of is just grateful to have someone cooking him dinner, like he doesn’t really reciprocate her feelings and it’s a two hander film about friendship and about how much you can rely on plutonic friends of the opposite sex.
The reason I made them is because for a really long time I’ve wanted to make a short film. But I guess I hadn’t had the idea that I really wanted to pursue. And then a couple of years ago, I went through a really big break up and I really felt like my life was falling apart and I really didn’t trust myself anymore. I felt really confused and I sort of felt suddenly like I had things I wanted to say about where I was and I thought that they would really work in a film, or not work in a film but work best in a film.
Also in November 2011, I met Doug, who’s the director of the films and when I met him I just had a really good hunch that we could work together and then, yeah it’s been really lucky that it’s panned out.
We started collaborating a bit in the writing process, so he kind of enables me to write the films, basically. Then we made the first film for nothing in…April twenty twelve. I looked at the microphone like it was gonna help me then, I was like “You know!?”
In April 2012 we made the first film and then we got a crew together and just really loved the crew and I don’t know, so by the time we made the second one I felt much more capable of doing it.
S: Why choose to make it into a film as opposed to stand up, or something else?
Josie: I think partly it’s because I’ve been doing stand up my whole life and I love it so much, but it gets frustrating sometimes how ephemeral it is. Like, you work so hard, you put everything in to the live show…
S: You do it and it’s…
Josie: Yeah and it’s gone, and even if you record it, it’s never quite the same as the live show. It’s meant to be this live thing that you do for a limited period of time and I feel for it to really work and be true and relevant, it has to be really finite. It has to be you talking about where you are at that time, you know?
I was getting a bit sad after a while because you’re like…all these things that I’ve really loved and done, only a small proportion of people have seen them. And then you end up doing a TV show to help promote your tour or something and then more people have seen that, than would ever see your live stuff and that feels a bit, I guess frustrating.
I also thought, I’ve done a real load of stand up shows now, I would love to just try and see about developing writing in a different way. What I love about making films so far is, how much it goes on a journey from your ideas process and writing process all the way through to actualising it as like a real world, you know? With an art department and with actors and it’s really exciting to be able to…
S: It’s a new process and it’s more of a collaborative process…
Josie: Yeah, and that’s so great as well because it’s really cool to have… sometimes I think with stand up you definitely become a control freak and so sometimes you’re a bit like…”I don’t want you to give me notes, and I actually don’t like that you changed the line.” You know? But actually, lots of times when we were making them…for example Darren who plays the other main character in both films, is so good at just adapting the characters lines just a little bit to make it so much more real.
It’s so brilliant to have him in the process and Doug does so much creatively with the script and we have really great DOP’s that we work with who kind of do all the visualisation and it’s just great to…and it’s less lonely and it’s fun to be, like the filming of it was so much fun to be part of that team, and all of us really sort of doing it out of love of wanting to make a good film.
S: Would you like a silly question now Josie?
Josie: No I’m happy, I’m very serious minded, I’m a very earnest human being.
S: What are the key themes and things you want to take away from it?
Josie: Oh god, what I want other people to take away from it?
Josie: Oh god, uh. Well firstly I just like the idea of people liking them. I like the idea of them being good enough that people do not feel their time is being wasted, that’ll be my top goal at the moment.
I guess the first one, a lot of it is about…I guess it’s sort of about a quarter life crisis. It’s about like thinking you’d built up things and then just looking at them and realising you don’t have a clue what you’re doing. It’s about loneliness and it’s about like reaching out to strangers and stuff like that.
The second film is definitely about people mucking around and about growing up and about being scared to move on with your life. It’s these two people who for their own reasons are kind of resisting sinister phase two of life. Which is what they would call it, of like, children and marriage and house buying and things that sort of feel quite inaccessible to them and so that’s definitely what the second one is about. It’s funny because I’m writing a feature that the plan for us next year…
S: I was going to ask you about this…
Josie: Ah cool, well, I pre-empted you. We’re making a feature next year in April – if there’s any producers who want to help us raise money, please get in touch.
We’ll make it for no budget if necessary, but it’s gonna be similar themes really. It’s gonna be about someone who is quite isolated and who gets a bit obsessed with strangers because they feel like a stranger is gonna come into their life and rescue them and tell them what they need to do a little bit.
It’s someone who really likes the idea of community and of political activism and really wants to get involved in those things, but doesn’t really understand how and who finds themselves in this situation where they really feel like they don’t have any family and they’re really lost. On top of that it’s gonna be about trying to move on, trying to grow up and about appreciating your friendships and what they give you and stuff.
S: So there seems to be a similar theme of trying to make connections.
Josie: Yeah, yeah, definitely.
S: Why do you think that’s so important to you?
Josie: Well, I think that’s important to everyone, isn’t it?
S: No, I mean to talk about…
Josie: I suppose, it’s where I’ve been in the last couple of years, it definitely relates to my personal life a bit. Also I think, I like to write things about what I’m trying to figure out. So if I’m trying to work out something about how I think I should live, or what I think is important in life, I try and use my shows especially to like work that out.
I always write stand up shows about what I feel really passionate about or what I’ve really been struggling with, you know? So it’s a similar thing, it’s like…
S: Is it cathartic?
Josie: Yeah, definitely, it is yeah. And I think as well, with this I feel quite lucky that in my real life, I at the moment, really love where I live and I love – I run a charity with my friend and we share an office so I can go and write my stuff but also work on the charity.
I feel really great about my friendships and stuff, so I feel like now I’m in this position where I’m a bit more sorted in my personal life. I feel like I can then write about when things maybe weren’t as easy, or when things weren’t as settled and stuff like that.
S: So are they kind of like parallel universes of what could have been?
Josie: Yeah, I guess. I think all fiction is a bit like that. I’ve got this idea as well about how, people think that when they’re writing fiction, if they don’t classify it as autobiographical – so if it’s not really obviously them, they think that they’re like, so hidden and they can write anything they want and no-one will know. But I feel like anything anyone writes is so obviously where they’re at, you can’t help but just be really honest. Even if your version of your honesty is like, hiding. People can suss you out from what you write.
S: But that’s what people like – to find the ‘truth’ in it.
Josie: Yeah, definitely. So we do a silly one now, yeah?
S: Okay – what would be the song or album, of the soundtrack of your life?
Josie: Oh my god, that’s not silly, that’s intense.
S: It’s important, but it’s not…
Josie: Well at the moment, I really love, there’s a song called True Thrush by Dan Deacon (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnXiXlF7olo
) and it makes me feel so happy to be alive to listen to it. It like builds and builds and builds and it’s so exuberant and positive and joyful and that is what I would like the soundtrack to my life to be, that for me is like – when I listen to that it makes me feel about the all the best things about being alive and it makes me feel like the world is full of potential and magic and wonder.
S: Sounds like a very special song.
Josie: Yeah, and then I would say, quite a lot I’ve been listening to Have One on Me by Joanna Newsom and that is the most incredible break-up album in the world. And for about two and half years my life was sort of…I spose yeah, there’s been quite a long period of my life, maybe nearly three years I guess where lots of things have really been confusing me and I felt very all over the place and I feel very pleased to feel like Joanna Newsom’s Have One on Me is no longer the soundtrack to my life, so that’s quite good.
S: And you’re doing lots of personal development or proactive stuff, like climbing and maths?
Josie: Oh yeah, but I’m always like that I think, I’m always trying to do stuff like that. About four years ago I was doing my maths as well and I got two thirds of the way through the course and then my job got in the way and I couldn’t finish it in time to do the exams and so I only did a couple of the exams and, so this year I’m determined to like finish it, get my A and then move on.
S: And then what?
Josie: A2 maths, and then I’m gonna do further maths or an MA, I don’t know. I really like trying to keep learning my whole life and sports has been like a revelation for me because I did start exercising regularly when I was about 24, 25 and I actually did stand up about it because I was like who would have known that I liked exercise? But just recently it’s kind of been a whole new level of it, like especially with climbing because, you just learn things about your body that you would never…
S: Well you don’t often…climb.
Josie: No, not enough.
S: And you’re like “I can climb, who knew?”
Josie: Yeah and it builds, your strength builds and your techniques build, like just the other day I was there and me and another comedian called Ben Target and a friend of mine, ours, well a friend of his really, but he’s my friend now, called Tom Meltzer, we go and we’ve got a little climbing club once a week.
This week, I found myself doing things that I knew I couldn’t do two, three weeks ago. Like there’s this one thing – this is so boring probably where, as you’re coming down, you kind of take your weight on your bent arms and I couldn’t do that before and now I can and oh my god, it feels incredible, so I’d recommend it.
S: It’s also a psychological thing of…climbing a thing.
Josie: Yes, totally.
S: Like, “I climbed a mountain, or a thing!”
Josie: Yeah, and also it’s like, “Look at that, you didn’t think you could do that and then you did it.” And it gives you this presence of mind that I feel like I’m trying to develop and also it makes you feel really spatially aware of yourself the whole time. So like now, say I dropped…
S: Like how long your arms are?
Josie: Yeah but, literally that, like I grew up and I was like this chubby kid and I’ve always been quite awkward with my physicality and quite awkward as a person and suddenly to sort of have this new awareness. If I dropped a penny under the table, I feel like I’d be able to like slither under and then pull myself back in a way that before I’d be like “Oh, now I’ve dropped a penny blublublub” you know?
S: Leave it.
Josie: Yeah, someone else can have the penny. So it’s good yeah. I hope I don’t sound to wanky about it, but I would really recommend it to people, it’s really good.
S: I know lots of people doing it…
J: You should do it.
S: I’ll think about it.
Josie: I will not be happy until you agree to do it.
S: Speaking of you growing up, do you remember what the first thing was that made you laugh?
Josie: No, but that would have been when I was a tiny baby really.
S: The first thing you remember that made you laugh.
Josie: I remember thinking of a joke when I was about six or seven, and coming down the stairs and it was about a giraffe, I made it up and it was awful, but I was so pleased with myself and I remember getting my parents attention and being like “Mum, mum, dad, dad, I’ve got a thing to tell you.” I remember that and I really used to love the Mary Whitehouse Experience when I was about eight, seven or eight I guess.
My parents had a black and white TV in their bedroom and I used to sneak in, they’d be downstairs and I used to sneak in to their room when they weren’t there and watch it and I’d be lying on the bed and it would hurt me how much I was laughing, I would be just dying. But at the same time, I didn’t know any of the things they were talking about. I think it was just cos they did silly voices, I was like “this is incredible.”
What else did I like? I can’t really remember what I used to laugh at when I was a kid, I think I took myself quite seriously, I was very theatrical and very, I was quite a showoff and very precocious, like precocious at school and all that sort of thing, yeah.
S: You collaborate with a couple of people.
S: Probably most people know you do Utter Shambles with Robin Ince.
Josie: Yeah me and Robin.
S: How did that come about?
Josie: Oh, it’s really lucky really. Robin’s been such a great friend to me forever. He used to do a club called the Book Club, which was in 2005, I wanna say five, yeah. We were friends because I used to go and write in the BBC with my friend Dan, he’s one of the only people that I’ve ever written with in my life, my friend Dan Harkin. We used to see Robin and we’d always muck around cos he’d be writing and we’d like take the mickey out of him and hang out with him and stuff so we became friends.
I ran a little club called The Sunday Night Adventure Club, which was like based around a different theme each month and Robin set up the Book Club which was supposed to be a safe space for nerds and weirdos and a space for like, more cabaret and more performance art style of comedy.
It was so brilliant at that time because there wasn’t so much going on, there was a lot of a scene, but there wasn’t so much going on that was so self consciously like “We’re doing a different thing if you like it.” There was the comedian’s graveyard in Palmers Green I think that was themed around death – that was kind of amazing. But we um…
S: That sounds good.
Josie: Yeah it was really good, they had a wheel of death that you had to spin – it was really cool. Yeah so we sort of made friends through that and he let me be a regular at the Book Club, so I’d write for it every month and we got, he got offered this podcast and he got me on it years ago so, this is like two thousand and five and it used to be called, uh…
S: Show and Tell?
Josie: Show and Tell With Robin Ince, yeah! And we had to bring things, yes, and then we did…
S: To a podcast.
Josie: Yeah, which I thought was hilarious because no one could see it. So we did that for I think a couple of series and then it sort of morphed into Robin and Josie’s Utter Shambles and he’s just been really generous in that respect, like everything he’s done, he’s always looked out for people that he liked and wanted to support and he tries so hard to like, yeah, share anything he gets really, he’s really great. I on the other hand, do not, ha, ha, ha.
Yeah we’re doing a tour of that at the moment and we’re sort of, we’ve decided to kind of perpetually tour it, so each month we’ll do a couple of dates together with Grace Petrie who’s a folk singer, who is incredible, she’s so talented, she’s so good, yeah.
S: So you’re a big proponent of experimental comedy and like spaces that people can be more creative without fear, like The Invisible Dot…
Josie: I love The Invisible Dot, yeah.
S: …And Lost Treasures of the Black Heart.
Josie: Yes. I’m really glad that my club lets people do that kind of thing, cos that’s absolutely my dream, to have clubs where you take over the space and you make it your own and yeah, yeah, sorry I interrupted you, I got excited.
S: Do you prefer those kinds of things to touring a show?
Josie: Ooh, that’s tricky, because I do love touring a show. I suppose the difference for me is…by the time I’m touring a show, usually I will have taken it to Edinburgh and possibly I will have taken it to Melbourne festivals as well and I will have previewed the hell out of it, so by the time I’m touring a show I feel so comfortable in it and so pleased with it.
Over the course of touring and developing it and premiering it, you add in so many little jokes and stuff so by the time I’m touring a show I’m so comfortable with the fact that I think, I think for me it’s full of jokes and it’s good and stuff so that if people don’t like it, it’s more a disagreement than me feeling like yeah you’re right to dislike it.
I do tend to really love touring my shows, especially because the people that come and see it are just really cool and nice and give me like, gifts. They give me fanzines and stuff and it’s my favourite.
Whereas with experimental clubs like, at my club sometimes it’s a lot of…I feel like it’s too much pressure for me to keep it up, because we’ve been doing it for four years and so sometimes I feel like I’m the weakest link in the chain.
Also sometimes for me, trying out new stuff no matter how funny it is, it’s never gonna be as fun as really performing something that I feel is like…my best. You know?
Josie: But I don’t know. I feel, luckily there’s both and I don’t have to pick. So it’s alright.
S: No, you don’t have to, no.
S: Alright, lets do a silly question now.
S: I read that you’re a big fan of Doctor Who.
Josie: I do love Doctor Who.
S: What do you think of Peter Capaldi?
Josie: Oh my god, I’m so excited, are you not excited?
Josie: I think it’s a wonderful choice because, whether or not it was intentional, Doctor Who was getting younger and younger and what are you gonna do after Matt Smith? You can’t go with someone whose 21, that would be unbearable, and so it’s such a brilliant choice to go – okay we’ll have someone who’s much older. Secondly, Peter Capaldi is an incredible actor, just like -range, style, poise, oh my god, personality, charisma.
It’s a treat, I can’t think, I don’t know of anyone who wasn’t really excited by it, it was absolutely the opposite of disappointment. It was really good, so I’m really excited about it.
S: Interesting way to describe it, the opposite of disappointment.
Josie: Well, do you know what I mean like, for some reason I can’t think of a word…
S: It’s because people were probably expecting to be disappointed.
Josie: Yes, exactly, and instead it was like “Ooh, this is a real lift.”
S: Have you got any plans for any other medium, TV or radio of any kind?
Josie: Yes, I’m writing a radio pilot at the moment for…again it’s basically set in Glasgow, I play Josie, Darren plays Darren, it’s definitely things that I’m interested in developing in this style in these people and stuff. I’m also working on developing something at the moment with Objective about…but I can’t, I don’t think I can really talk about it yet, but hopefully it will be kind of…it’s not a version of the sitcom, or the film, it’s kind of a lot more about my stand up and about politics and about situationism and silliness and stuff like that so, I’m hoping that, that will come off, but I don’t know. You never know with this stuff.
S: Lot’s more Josie stuff to come?
Josie: Yeah, basically I’m…
S: Another tour maybe at some point?
Josie: At some point I’m hoping, ideally, possibly I will be able to write a show for Edinburgh next year, but a little part of me is thinking – having two years off from Edinburgh doesn’t feel crazy, like, if I go back and nobody wants to come see me, like I’ll just keep trying, what else am I gonna do? I’ve got no other skills.
S: I don’t think you’re gonna have that problem.
Josie: Well, you never know, but I appreciate that. So yeah, I’m either going to go back to Edinburgh next year or the year after.
I want to do more shows in America because I just had the most wonderful time out there doing some shows for Jesse Thorn, who runs Max Fun, which is this incredible podcast and radio empire. Their attitude is just wonderful so, gonna do more stuff in America, that’s my hope, and make my films. Yeah.
S: I saw your odd gig, where you took over a tram?
Josie: What, you were in Melbourne?!
S: I wasn’t there, I saw it online…
Josie: Sorry that was too high pitched, but I was like, I would remember you because there was like only four people on that tram.
S: What’s the weirdest gig you’ve ever done?
Josie: Do you know what, that was actually not the weirdest gig I’ve done. I’ll tell you something funny about that. I did this thing in 2011, which was one of my favourite things I’ve ever done in my entire life, which was…
Me, Tom Parry from Pappy’s, Grace Petrie and a collection of other stand ups who came and went, and a few really brilliant activists, got together, got a van – a minibus, drove round the country performing in places that people slag off uh just off the back of the van.
So we would perform like in a hut in Margate, on the beach in Sheppey, in a commune, in the front of a library when it was raining at like ten at night in hull, at the bottom of the ruins of a castle in Bedford, in Milton Keynes it was in a park, in an underpass in Leicester, on Westminster bridge, in a weird bus shelter in Devon and by a shopping mall in Gloucester and somewhere else as well that for some reason I can’t remember.
Those were like some of the best gigs I’ve ever done and some of the weirdest gigs I’ve ever done. We did tweet, so some people came who were fans, but most of it was people who are…maybe have alcohol problems or people who live on the street or thirteen year olds that were smoking in bus shelters. It was a really mad collection of people, like a big mix and they were weird.
They were sort of…me venting my frustration at the government and trying to preach weirdly, like optimism and stuff to people and so those were definitely some of the weirdest gigs I’ve ever done.
By the time I was doing this tram gig, it was organised really well, by a radio station and they were like “Woah this is crazy.” A little part of me is like, yeah this isn’t crazy, lets just do it – this is easy, you know? Well not easy but, to me it didn’t feel so crazy, it was fun though, it was very fun because the police showed up. There was this car and I was trying to flirt with this guy in the car and then I was like, “are you a police officer?” and he was like yeah, and I was like “fuck!” That was quite fun.
But I’ve done gigs on the London Eye with Robin in 2005 or 2006, and those were pretty weird. You end up doing all kinds of weird shit.
S: It’s like the comedy equivalent of climbing.
Josie: Yes, exactly, it is, because you have to develop these weird skills and then…
S: You know what you’re capable of…
Josie: Yeah, I like that with stand up. I like trying to challenge myself and push myself and that was partly why I didn’t go to Edinburgh this year and why I might not go next year. It’s because I want to learn some new things so I’ve actually got something interesting to say, so I’m not just going “Oh well I’ve done that before, I’ll just write in the way that I’ve written before and do it again and again and again.” I want to keep trying to feel like I’m at the very least, I believe I’m getting better, even if everyone else thinks I’m getting worse or whatever, I don’t know.
S: So you endorse a lot of charities and you’re involved with a lot of action groups, is there a particular cause that’s closest to your heart?
Josie: Yeah, my charity – I run a charity called Arts Emergency that me and my friend Neil have set up and it took us three years. It was in June this year, June 11, we moved into our office and we incorporated as a charity.
Basically it came from, to begin with, my frustration at student loans and how unfair they are. Especially, I was just thinking about my own circumstances which was…I left university with like, fifteen grand of debt and my posh rich friends left with none, because their parents could pay for it and just how, as a system that’s so unfair on the students and just how frustrating it is and how much I believe that society would be better and more civilised if university education was properly state funded through a more fair taxation model and maybe if there was just some tax justice and you know, we as a country worked globally to help try and change the tax situation things would be better.
I would talk to Neil, again I’ve met a few people in my life and I’ve had such strong hunches about them and when I met Neil I knew that we were gonna do something good together. Something political and we would talk a lot about it and initially I was like – I want to raise a hundred grand and pay ten kids to go through uni, that’s all I want to do, I just want to help someone from my sort of background, like a scruffy background with no income to help them.
But then in twenty ten when they raised, tripled the fees and stuff…we thought about it a lot more and we talked about what we’d done particularly in our lives and both of us were sort of really passionate about studying, having studied humanities subjects. I’m really passionate about art and about how much creative thinking, critical thinking frees you and empowers you and about sort of internal empowerment, I spose, if that isn’t too wank?
And so we thought a lot about that and then the concept of Arts Emergency really sort of grew. It really came from the fact that the government cut the block grant that funds arts degrees by a hundred percent, so they took away all the of the funding for arts degrees, so all of the funding for arts degrees now has to come from loans and it means that there’s this horrible constriction of funds, there’s not enough funds, it’s like…it’s fucked basically.
S: It’s also that whatever you do then has to make a return – otherwise it’s seen as a waste?
Josie: Yeah, the monetisation of it – so this whole thing of universities as a financial transaction, where I’m doing this to get a good job. That for me is nothing like what I believe it should be, what it was for me and what I would like for the society that I grow up in and grow old in. So for us we wanted to try and contribute as much as we could to changing that for some people at least.
So Arts Emergency is there to defend studying art, as a viable option for anyone of any background, to empower young people to study art who’ve been told it’s not practical, or who’ve been told they want get a job and stuff. Because basically, there aren’t many jobs anyway, you’re gonna have to try and hustle a living in a new way that most people wont have had to do and so why not hustle a living that you love, why not give yourself the privilege that all the children of the rich get without even thinking about it. If you’re from the richest possible background you would decide what you loved and do it and your parents would pay for that and they wouldn’t care. I mean, okay that’s very simplistic because I know that a lot of people from privileged backgrounds are forced into careers…
S: But it’s a possibility?
Josie: That’s at least a possibility, and at least you’re given, often with privilege a lot of connections and a lot of support and a lot of basic support i.e. having a place to stay in the holidays, having financial support during the holidays and throughout the year, having emotional support, you know these are…
Josie: And yeah so what we’re doing, is we run a mentor scheme with kids in Hackney and E6 and we match them up with creative professionals and ideally people who understand their backgrounds and who’ve been through similar things so we can be like – we are you but ten years on and you can do whatever you want, and you can have the life you deserve. You deserve the best possible life.
We also have this thing called the Alternative Old Boys Network, which is at the moment 500 people who are on side with the idea of Arts Emergency, or who are creative professionals, or who are just creatives, or who are just doing something interesting and want to share their skills. The aim of that is to give privilege to kids without privilege in a manner that, if they were again from the wealthiest backgrounds their parents would know people and we’d be able to hook them up with people. We want to have that but in a really beautiful way, it’s almost like the polar opposite of someone’s parents setting them up with a banking job, you know? In ethos, in style everything.
I don’t want to sound crazy but we’re trying to make it bigger and bigger and as I say we’re a full time charity now, we’re setting up a lottery to fund people’s student loans…to pay off some people’s student loans. We just got our lottery license through, so we’re so happy about that, and we’re just trying to build and build, so we’re gonna do more and more campaigns just to encourage people to study art, encourage people to make art, encourage people to let themselves be artists.
S: Future comedians?
Josie: Yeah exactly, create future comedians. We’ve got a lot of future rock stars and music makers, and a future artist.
So this year, our pilot year we’ve mentored twenty-two kids and it was bloody great. Like, just little stories like: a girl who really needed her math’s GCSE to stay on to do her A-Levels and we found her a maths tutor free of charge in the network and so that meant that she got her grade and she could keep going and a girl who didn’t want to go to uni…didn’t think she was able to go to uni has now changed her mind and she’s now applying to uni. A boy who was too scared to do a foundation art and we convinced him to do it.
I know critical people will be listening and be like “Oh what, so you’re taking people away from decent careers, blah, blah, blah.” But, I’m sorry, if you’re an artistic person and you love these things, then you deserve to at least have a go at the things that you love, you know? You really do and I do see it…yes it’s a risk, in a way but everything good is a risk and you don’t have the life you want unless you try.
Also what we’re trying to do, I even joked about it in the show I did in 2012 about how we’re creating sleeper cells of socialist children. But we are really thinking about, how can we best try and have some influence in a good, positive way?
I really feel like, by trying to empower as many young people as we can to say, live artistic lives. Live lives where profit is not the ultimate goal, live lives where you think about yourself in a positive way and about kind of helping and sharing before you think about money making.
S: So a long term game?
Josie: Yeah, because then when they’re politicians they won’t be total arseholes, you know? When they’re artists they won’t be solely there for commercial profit and then…I don’t know, who am I nobody, but you know.
S: Eddie Izzard is running for mayor of London in 2020…
Josie: I know – I’m so pleased with that, unless he turns out to be really right wing.
S: Yeah, because that’s going to happen…
Josie: No, no, no.
S: Have you considered…
Josie: I think a lot of performers sometimes go “Yeah, I should be a politician, cos like I’ve got shit to say, blah, blah, blah.” And I think often that can be a massive mistake because, as a performer it’s the best kind of being in front of a crowd. If you’re a teacher it’s hard work and if you’re a politician everyone hates you, like so few people love you, it’s so hard not to be a hypocrite as a human being. So it’s very rare that you’re not gonna get people being like “You’ve, you said that but then three months later you did that!” and you’d be like “I’m sorry.” You know, it would be unbearable and also I don’t think I’m a very good politician in so far as I like champagne and fancy foods and I feel like I’m just that little bit lazy and feckless because that’s much more of a performers way and I just think I’m not a good enough person to be a good politician and I’m not good enough at…
S: Oh Josie…
Josie: I don’t mean that in a bad way, I just mean that honestly…I think it’s a really difficult thankless task and I respect people that go into it for the right reasons, I really do and I respect people that go into it and don’t take bungs off of lobbyists and…stick to their guns and stuff like that, I think it’s very difficult. So I don’t think that I would ever do it…maybe I will when I’m older…
It’s like with the charity, I like the fact that I’m not affiliated to a political party, because for me the Labour party for all the good people that are within it and for all of the good things they can do…New Labour have let me down so badly in so many ways I would hate to have to spend my whole life explaining that rift you know? And I love the Green party but at the same time I feel glad that I’m not a party member of anything, it feels really good and it feels good to be able to kind of always write stand up that’s just my own personal…
S: Observing, rather than?
Josie: Well, I wouldn’t say that I’m like disconnected observer, because I do care and I do join in and stuff yeah it feels good to…
S: Commenting on, rather than…
Josie: Having to give a party line.
Josie: But with Eddie Izzard I was thinking, what a great use of his power I guess, of his platform, for him to do that because…
Boris Johnson – fucking cunt that he is, has really done his best to make sure the city has as much influence as possible in London, make sure that foreign investors can buy as much of the property in London as they want, make sure that social housing is demolished and rebuilt notionally with mainly property for foreign investors, you know? Close fire stations, close rape crisis centres…he, okay actually I said that, but I don’t know for sure if I have evidence to back it up and I don’t want people telling me off. But he is closing fire stations and he is cutting funding for rape crisis centres.
Basically, Boris Johnson is a nasty human being pretending to be a joke, right. And he is trying his best to force London into being a more conservative place, and if you look at the history of London in the eighties it was such an incredible vibrant place and it had really like…left leaning local governments.
I just read this book called Ground Control by Anna Minton, you should read that, it’s about how they brought these things in who could override local councils and buy up spaces. I think maybe the Tories brought them in and New Labour increased them or something, oh fuck, I’m so bad at this sort of thing. They could buy up an area if it was deemed that it could be more profitable, evict all the people living there, build yuppie flats, build commercial things and then the place is run privately and that happened all over London and it’s happened loads and it blew my mind.
So basically all of that’s happened in the nineties and in the 2000s, so the idea that Eddie Izzard with all of what he’s accrued as an entertainer could use that popularity and instead of just being a grisly joke, actually be a good helpful force for good, oh my god, incredible. I love the sound of my own voice too much, I talk too much and I know that.
S: What achievement are you most proud of?
Josie: I think what I’m most proud of is Arts Emergency because it’s so bloody great to know that we’re all in it just because we really want to be able to try and do something that’s positive and helpful. All the rewards of it are so like nourishing and wonderful, genuinely to be able to meet these sixteen year olds and be like – we’re gonna try our hardest to help you. It feels so simple, cos you can see what they need and you know people and it’s just a question of hooking people up and so much of it is not about money, it’s about time and energy.
I’m so proud of it and I’m so proud of the fact that Neil who’s my partner in it now does it full time and I’m so proud of the work he does and to be able to facilitate that, so I think I’m most proud of that.
And then secondly I guess I’m quite, I don’t know…I’m not really displeased with anything that I’ve done, I’m very pleased that I’ve managed to, for whatever reason to not have to do gigs really or do commercial things, or do anything that I don’t feel that comfortable with. I’m very, very lucky as a human being in that respect, yeah.
S: So my final, silly question, which I like to ask everyone – if there was an afterlife, what would you like it to be like?
Josie: Oh my god, I would like it to be like the song True Thrush, that’s what I’d like it to be like, (drums).
I would like it to be, what would I really like? So there’d be lots of, there’d be like a beautiful lake…I did a gig once on the top of Mount Kenya, it was for charity, that was a weird gig. It was by a beautiful lake that we jumped in, it was icy cold – it was at the top of Mount Kenya, like just down below the summit.
I would like it to be like that – natural amphitheater, beautiful lake, you can get in the lake, someone else is cooking your dinner – preferably a buffet. There’s dancing, and it feels really like, I don’t know, like you’re really buzzing…with the dancing and then you get in the lake and there’s a lot of music, people playing music, I like music a lot…and it would be really nice to get to see all of my friends and family who are dead again, that would be pretty great, that’s a classic afterlife move, but it would be really marvelous to have that.
I suppose it would be nice if there was an afterlife to feel like…your body was super healthy, you never lose energy, so it would be like dancing, cold water swimming, buffets, champagne but no hangover, buzzing, on the top of a mountain, the sunrise, you know classics. Classic afterlife.
S: Thank you Josie.
Josie: Thanks for having me.