Josie examines the humour in love’s heartache

London-born comic Josie Long
London-born comic Josie Long

“This show is about heartbreak really,” confides 32-year old standup Josie Long, who seems super-witty, laid back and kooky and describes herself as being like a “12 -year-old bully tapped in an adult’s body”.

London-born Long has been performing as a standup since she was 16 and has carved a nice niche for herself in first left-leaning political and then confessional-style comedy.

After a recent break-up she decided to channel all that pain into the subtance of making people laugh - a cool act of transmutation if ever there was one.

“This is all about falling in love and then thinking about how to get over it when it all goes wrong.

“A huge part of my cure for heartbreak is adventure sports - doing things outside and in nature, and getting yourself strong physically, swimming in the sea or in lakes, rock-climbing, hiking; my friends and I once formed a heartbreak hiking club. And you need to have so many other things going on in your life that will help you to move on because you have less time to think about it.

“Another thing I talk about and recommend for the heartbroken is reading the poetry of Walt Whitman - who made me think about nature in a really different way, and Raymond Carver, who is really cool.

“Yes there’s a lot about heartache here, but it’s a silly show with lots of little light-hearted tangents too.

“Particularly with something like heartache it is kind of cathartic and great to try and turn it into something that makes people laugh. You’re taking the sting out of it all by making it into something lighthearted and hopefully entertaining.”

Long describes herself as ‘very Zen’ before shows, though the terror of standing before an audience and trying to make them laugh must be one of the most nerve-wracking human experiences imaginable.

“Well, I have been doing this for a long time,” she explains, “I started when I was 16. At first I was terrified but then something switched in my brain and I was just like ‘I cannot be sick with nerves every day if I want to do this’. And the fear just went.

“But I also think it’s about your personality type. I am a natural born show off and this feels natural to me.”

Fearless, whip-smart, a proud socialist who loves the comedy of Mark Thomas, Stewart Lee, the emerging Sarah Pascoe and the sureally brilliant Bridget Christie, Long seems like she would be an ace person to hang out with - full of funny quips and interesting riffs around all subjects she touches.

Her shows are scripted, of course, and the best standups are great comedy storytellers, great writers and great observers who turn their vision of the world into something that makes people’s sides ache with helpless laughter - so bang-on point is their truth and wit.

“But you also always want to have time when you can just muck about and ad lib and see what the audience are saying,” adds Long, and that is probably the mark of the best comedian, someone who can do expert comedy writing but also someoneone who can vibe off the mood of the audience and have the best banter right off the cuff.

Do her mates get jealous that she has such an awesomely non-conventional non-office-based job? The life of a comedian has to be a barrel of laughs, surely?

“There is a whole boring side of it too!” she insists. “Like the loads of admin you have to do and all the travelling from gig to gig on your own, and if you do shows on your own nobody else is there to really understand what that is like.

“But when a crowd laughs at what you have to say that feeling is just lovely and kind of indescribable.” Must be ecstacy itself, really.

See Cara Josephine by Josie Long, The MAC, Belfast, March 27. Visit themaclive.com/.