Josie Long is a stalwart of the UK comedy scene, performing stand-up since she was a teenager, with fans following her life via on-stage anecdotes ever since. Now that she’s a “40-year-old mother of two”, her work is as vibrant and political as ever, and she’s excited to update us on the big changes in her world: the birth of her second child, her ADHD diagnosis (and discovery that “every other comedian in the world has ADHD”), and a permanent move from London to Glasgow.
Re-Enchantment picks up from her previous show Tender, which explored her worries about bringing a baby into a world of climate change and inequality, and her conscious effort to find joy all around her. That see-saw between hope and despair is also present in Re-Enchantment, as she skewers society’s ills while searching for glimmers of optimism.
Long draws us in gently with endearingly uncynical snapshots from her life. We hear about her eldest’s first fart-themed attempt at joke-writing, some surprisingly original lockdown material including a great segment on handwashing, and highlights from her Glasgow existence where she lives next door to a “gentle baker” and sends her daughter to an outdoor kindergarten that’s imbued her with “a Mad Max: Fury Road vibe”.
We get a comprehensive run-down on who qualifies as a scab: “If you’ve ever watched The Crown, or you still think David Walliams is a nice person.” And don’t forget horses: “They work for the army, the police – and hunting.”
She weaves in nice one-liners (“The pandemic answered the question: what will I look like in 10 years’ time?”) and pleasing puns. Her impressions are highlights of the set, as she brings to life smugly tidy people, “London-era Josie”, Keir Starmer advocates, and her family’s incredulity at Scotland’s baby box scheme.
But there’s a tougher core. Long is a socialist and explains she has had to reconcile with recent political losses and blows dealt by the Government to the most marginalised.
She has a platform, so feels like she should “bear witness”, but as a comedian: “I want to be good vibes only!” At times, segments on repressive policy and police brutality threaten to stray too far from laughter and into nodding agreement, but generally Long punctuates the tension without underplaying the seriousness of her subject matter.
She tackles that tired refrain: “You can’t say anything anymore!” In fact, Long tells us, people are saying the right-wing stuff non-stop, it’s radical left-wing ideas that’ll get you into trouble. Could she tell us what she really thinks, she wonders, about wearing poppies?
Reflecting on Glasgow’s radical history and the city’s 2021 action against Immigration Enforcement, which Long found herself part of, she ends on a call to fight for something better. Re-Enchantment is an enjoyable melding of the personal and political, with a finale that leaves the audience buoyed.