As I sit down in the Soho Theatre, someone tries to hand me a programme. It’s not an usher however, but Josie Long herself. “I’m sorry, do you mind sharing?” she beams, offering a collection of folded paper covered in her endearing and often hilarious scribblings. “Only I didn’t photocopy enough.”
This pretty much sums up Josie’s approach to comedy. Her props are random objects from her personal life, she illustrates her points with hand-drawn graphs, and invites a friend to embroider handkerchiefs live on stage for the entire evening. Throughout the act she will pause, correct herself, comment on how the jokes are being received, and generally chat with the audience. It actually feels a bit like you are watching the directors commentary of a movie – whilst trying to watch the movie proper on a separate screen entirely.
Josie’s latest show is about her new found fascination for science. As a child she felt you had a to pick a side between the arts and science. As she says, she went with the poetry and self harm crowd, because scientists are all nerdy virgins – of course. Now that she’s older however, she’s realised there is no such need to close yourself off from science. She’s been reading about all manner of subjects, from the Enlightenment to astronomy, and whilst the show is far from a lecture it did send me scurrying to Wikipedia to read up on some of her references.
Many stand-up comedians appear constantly miserable, as if the world is all too much for them to take and only dry wit will sustain them. Josie on the other hand seems to find delight in every corner of her life, be it watching regional news reports, buying a bottle of water or gazing into the heavens. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and you can’t help but smile when you realise just how pleased she was with that last joke. This can mean that at times she is so eager to get to the next gag that she forgets to finish the previous one, but this slightly scatterbrained approach simply adds to the appeal.
The show is summed up with Josie’s views on science. It’s not about coming up with an idea and saying “this is the truth for all time.” Rather, you should take the view that “hey, it may not be perfect, but it’s the best we know right now, and maybe someone will coming along and make it better in the future.” A pretty good description of the way science works.
You’re unlikely to come away from All of the Planet’s Wonders brackets Shown in Detail close brackets (as Josie calls the show) feeling that you’ve learnt something, but you will certainly have been entertained, and if you’re lucky some of Josie’s bubbly enthusiasm might have rubbed off on you. The show runs 11 – 15th November at the Soho Theatre with tickets from £10 to £17.50. Do go along – if you don’t get to leave with one of the live embroidered handkerchiefs, you’ll at least walk out with a smile on your face.