As the papers have been reminding us all week, Melbourne is buzzing. This is not just the sound of Formula 1 cars wasting good petrol pointlessly circling Albert Park, the generators powering the floodlights at the MCG for the first round of the AFL, or groups of holidaying bees who've flown in especially for the flower and garden festival. It could just be that I don't get out much, but it does seem the Melbourne International Comedy Festival's opening weekend has brought the city crackling and fizzing to life.
All over the city pubs are trying to cajole unsuspecting wanderers into sitting in the dark to hear people try and make them laugh. The normally deserted Town Hall has been turned into a condensed Las Vegas strip, with strangely attired and over-friendly spruikers stalking anyone who looks slightly unsure of what to do with their evening with coloured bits of comedy-related advertising. Fortunately I know that tonight I want to eat my Lord of the Fries soggy chips as quickly as possible and then run across town so I don't miss any of the lovely Josie Long performing her new show Be Honourable at the Bosco Tent in Swanston Street.
This was my first time seeing Josie in action, and something I'd been waiting for. I failed to see her last year when I ran out of money, and I was a bit grumpy because I kept hearing how great she was and how she was just my cup of tea and that if you like Daniel Kitson you should definitely see Josie Long, Custard old chap. So anyway, thanks for that timely and salt-rubbing-in-wound advice unhelpful people; here I am 12 months late.
And I'm very happy to be here in this hexagonal (or perhaps octagonal) wooden big top that just about covers the sound of passing trams but doesn't quite cover the clippy-clop of passing horses. Firstly because Josie's show is indeed very much my cup-of-Tetleys, being as it is about making the world a better place by not being dicks to each other, cheering for people who are doing just that and and not just sitting on our bottoms drinking chai-lattes. And secondly because its wonderfully refreshing to know that regardless of my own micro-sleep of sympathy for an old lady last year there are people (yes, Josie again) who will stand up in front of a crowd - a paying crowd at that - and call the Tories cunts. Even in Australia where people don't care. Hooray.
Josie punctuates Be Honourable's other main subjects (trying to befriend a man who posts photographs of his daily breakfast online, intentionally talking to strangers, sweet sweet porridge) with conversations with an A3 sketch book. This is filled with her hand drawn illustrations (some endearingly naff) of people from the show, including 1940's Welsh politician Nye Bevan and folk troubadour/Red Wedger Billy Bragg, both of whom she'd like to be adopted by (though she confesses to already being a bit sick of going on anti-fascist marches with Billy on his parental weekends).
Kitson comparisons may be lazy but they are fair and, I'm assuming, meant as a compliment. He is after all just about the best around. His declared weltanschauung is closely aligned with Josie's search for a team she belongs to - people who at least try and put others first and not succumb to 21st century me me me-ism. However she is a practiced enough performer to bring her own angle to the mission and a unique way of sharing it. It's hard to imagine Daniel wandering the stage in a halo handmade from an aluminium baking tray.
No doubt a great many of you will already be aware that these are Josie's charms, given this is her fourth Melbourne Comedy Festival, and she has been a regular around the UK for half a decade. You'll probably know already that you have to go to the Bosco Tent in the next three weeks. However if you're as slow on the uptake as me and have an hour to spare, I'd heartily recommend heading over to your nearest Town Hall spruiker and asking for one of those little little cards marked Josie Long.
Josie Long's Be Honourable is showing daily (except Mondays) until April 18 at the Bosco at the Corner of Swanston and Collins Streets (where the Melbourne christmas tree lives). Follow her Comedy Festival blog here.
She is also hosting Josie Long's Supper Club Bake-off ('a special pie-based event offering a unique chance to eat, laugh, eat again and maybe even take home a blue ribbon') at the same venue on Saturday 10 April from 3.30pm. Yum.