Josie Long’s fifth solo outing, The Future Is Another Place, was nominated for an Edinburgh Comedy Award. But then, Crash won the Oscar for best picture.
Tonight’s Out to Lunch appearance is Long’s first time in Belfast with a one-woman show, and she seems nervous that we might not 'get' her. ‘I’m going to entertain the shit out of you,’ she promises. If only.
The basic gist of this set seems to be that the Conservatives are bad. Who knew? Jim Davidson, Made in Chelsea and the Daily Mail get it in the neck too; while UK Uncut, Scottish indie-pop and the Occupy movement are the heroes of the day. It’s like Socialism for Dummies, shrieked aloud by a 15-year-old punk who has been given an hour on stage as a birthday present.
For non-converts, Long’s nervy, twee schtick can truly grate. The 29-year-old Londoner fiddles with the microphone stand, showily removes her anorak and cardigan and distributes hand-made programmes amongst the crowd. Sure, she seems like a nice person, but you could argue that the best comedians aren't.
The audience appears to be split between those who reckon Long is the funniest thing since the last time Stewart Lee farted, and those who, well, walk out after half an hour.
In between lamenting the loss of her favourite bobble hat and making jokes about being a lesbian, Long rants plaintively about government cuts and unfair taxes, and wonders why rich people can’t just share out all their money.
The endless, earnest spiels about the importance of hospitals and libraries and children are more cringe-inducing than eye-opening. Long even has a go at people in the 1950s who would salute the national anthem when it was played on television.
There are a few nice lines, such as when Long wonders if David Cameron and Co had set out to be ‘a 1980s tribute government’, or when she likens the Tories to Bond villains. But, for the most part, it’s just glib and condescending. ‘They hate libraries?’ Long howls. ‘They want to sell the forests? Why?!’
Elsewhere, the comic touches on the notion that bad times can inspire good art, but doesn’t illustrate her point. She also gives a sombre account of a car crash that nearly killed her that in the hands of a more gifted performer could have been comedy gold. Possibly the only successful routine is a mock play in which Long pretends to be all the Brontë siblings.
Mostly, though, Long just batters her limited political agenda. She reads aloud a letter from a Black Panther activist who has spent the past 31 years in prison. She talks about doing a gig in an Occupied branch of Barclays. She witters about there being ‘a lot of energy on the Left right now’. You half expect her to get out a copy of The Guardian and just stand there giving it the thumbs-up.
Comedians who do politics need to be ruthlessly informed, subversive or nihilistic, not just simply put on silly American accents and gibber about how mean bankers are. Maybe Long will look back on this show in a few years and shudder, the same way people do at their teenage diaries. But with so many people willing to indulge her, maybe she’ll just get worse.
Out To Lunch festival continues until January 29.