Richard Higgs speaks to Josie Long about her Edinburgh Award-nominated The Future is Another Place, a show consisting of the story of a near-fatal car crash, UK Uncut, The Mitford Sisters, The Black Panthers, Harvey Weinstein, a one-person play – 'The Life and Times of the Bronte Sisters' and of course, righteous political ire – 'Let's start a 1980s tribute government!'
Josie, can you tell us a bit about your show – The Future is Another Place?
My show is kind of about starting to become more politically active and about how I feel about the Conservatives – and about how to deal with my anger with them!
I guess my aims are generally to make people who might agree with me feel better, and give people who might feel alone in that way, hope.
I think your kind of political satire, while that's not strictly what you do, is an excellent way of disseminating information or opinion, not necessarily with a sort of soapbox, or even having a rally in mind…
Well I have that feeling of not really knowing what sort of effect you might actually have, so you might as well aim them in the right direction. Also, I wanted to see if their ways of talking about sometimes divisive things that I love – like with UK Uncut, I don't like the way people have been fed certain information about them, so I feel that genuinely, from first-hand experience I can say 'This is what I think of them, I trust them – they're cool!'
As well, even if all it does help people let off steam, it means they can have more energy in their own lives. It's like that [Finley Peter] Dunne line – 'Afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted!' I really like the idea of being able to give strength to people who feel like sometimes I do – alienated, powerless and scared…
Your comedy definitely feels like it is 'about something', not just whimsy…
Thank you! I try and write about the way I feel and the things that matter most to me – things that I'm interested in and what I feel passionate about…
So where exactly do you draw your inspiration from? And what are your 'weirder' muses?
I just try to be open all the time, and it does just come from the weirdest places. I have a few friends that I really spend much time around with, and I always seem to get stuff from them, but then pretty much anything I do I try to write a joke about – just for the taxman – but yeah, you just kind of carry it all about with you.
You've definitely inspired me politically, as well as to try out stand-up – what kind of advice would you give to newer performers?
Ah, cool! Thank you! I don't really like – I feel stand-up is so generically broad, you can do anything you want with it, you can go anywhere with it. When I was 20 I looked at people I really admired like Daniel Kitson and David O'Doherty and thought 'I wanna' be like them, I wanna' tour my shows!' And then you sort of do and realise that you can only do yourself – so it's all about trying to find your voice, write and perform as much as possible, and not shut it down – go to as many areas as you can.
But don't feel like stand-up is 'this' and it's not 'that' because actually, it's anything you can get away with onstage and in front of people.
And mainly, write for yourself and don't write for other people because then hopefully people who are like you will come to you, whereas if you try to write for other people, you won't have something that really belongs to you…
Ah thanks! Lastly, you were here [at The Electric Cinema] last Autumn too…
Yeah, with 'Be Honourable' and Johnny [The Pictish Trail] and James [Acaster]!
Yeah, that was ace! The Electric is one of the best parts of Birmingham – what do you think of the venue?
It's gorgeous. Tom [Lawes], who got it all together, really had a vision for it and put loads of effort and time and I think it's amazing. All the fittings are Art Deco, and have all been so carefully considered. It's just fantastic. I wish every Arts Venue in the country was like this. It's like one person's beautiful bespoke dream with its own integrity… I love it!
Richard is currently directing 'Raw Animal Magnetism' for the Birmingham Footnotes, on 10th February in the Amos Room.