By Martin Docherty
Lefty Scum is the stage name Petrie, Jonny and the Baptists, and Josie Long have adopted for their roving comedy troupe. It’s a bold choice of name, but a good one, because it robs the alt-right, who have risen in today’s political world, the ability to call them it first. And robbing the right wing of power through comedy seems to be the mission statement of this group.
Described as “the David Bowie of standup” by Nish Kumar, Josie Long is a stand-up comedian, writer, cartoonist and social justice activist. She has toured with Stewart Lee and has been nominated for Best Show at the Fringe three times.
What got you started in stand-up comedy?
There used to be an arts centre near me and when I was a teenager I went along to some stand-up workshops. They were supposed to be for adults, and as a 14 year-old, I was a bit like a mascot for them. The first time I tried it I really fell in love with it and I don’t think I’ve ever got over that obsession. It’s been my creative outlet for my entire adult life, it’s been a constant companion and I can’t imagine life without it.
In opening this year’s Comedy Allstar Supershow, one of your punchlines was “this is how fascism starts”. How do you think comedy can be used to combat the rise of the far right in today’s world?
I think comedy can be useful in so many ways politically, and personally, I feel I often provide some support to people who might share my views, enabling them to keep going, and to achieve bigger things than I’m capable of. I don’t know how much I personally can convince far right or alt-right people to change their minds.
JONNY AND THE BAPTISTS
They’ve been featured on Radio 4’s The Now Show, The Infinite Monkey Cage, Sketchorama and Channel Five’s The Gadget Show. They’ve also had the honour of receiving postal harassment from UKIP members and Paul Nuttall after their Stop Ukip tour.
How did the two of you meet, and what made you decide to turn to political comedy songs as a recurring theme?
Paddy and I met at his older brother’s wedding. Jonny wasn’t dancing because he had hurt his foot. Paddy wasn’t dancing because he hates to dance in front of people. We got drunk and talked about music and comedy and politics and found out we had very similar tastes in all three. By the end of the night, we couldn’t remember much but we did remember we’d agreed to form a political musical- comedy band.
Your dislike of Nigel Farage and disgust at the sound his name makes is well documented on tracks from UKIP to Farage, if you were able to say one thing to him in person, what would it be and why?
He’s the most dishonest man in politics, which is quite an achievement, and there are so many things we’d loved to pick him up on. But it’s very clear that he is absolutely not a listener. So why bother saying anything? We’d just spray paint ‘cockhead’ onto his face and body, cover him in wet manure and take photos.
What was the favourite line you got sent from UKIP supporters in the post after your tour Stop UKIP?
“UKIP is the party of free speech, but this tour must be stopped”. It’s extraordinary how stupid you can be in so few words.
Rising to prominence with 2010’s hit ‘Farewell To Welfare’, Grace Petrie is a protest singer/songwriter and activist’ who has written songs for Radio 4. She was voted one of the Independent’s most influential LGBTQ+ people in 2013.
You’ve previously criticised The Guardian for denying the existence of protest singers in the modern era, who’s your favourite protest artist working today?
I’m very into some awesome queer punk bands at the moment whose music is very political from an identity-based perspective. Colour Me Wednesday, Personal Best and Kermes, who are from my home of Leicester, are awesome.
On ‘A Revolutionary in the Wrong Time’, you said you “never understood the books on neo-Marxist thought”, what do you think could be done by the left to better communicate their ideas to the public?
I think it’s getting better; the campaign Labour ran last year did an amazing job of taking political discourse back from the kind of elitist, PPE- graduate-dominated circles it had strayed into when New Labour stopped trying to talk to working class people. Ultimately politics is for and belongs to everyone and I think the upswing in turnout, especially young people last year was evidence that everyday people are getting engaged again.
Photographs: Anna Soderblom
Lefty Scum will perform at Durham Gala on 25th Feb at 7:30pm. Buy tickets here