Having a baby is about as far from unique an experience as it’s possible to get, so it’s impressive how Josie Long makes it her private property with her new show, Tender. “I’m the only person this has ever happened to!” she jokes – but Tender does make you realise how seldom pregnancy and childbirth are given this attention on the comedy stage. Long revels in the emotional intensity and physical indignity of the process, making comic hay in the tension between baby-making as commonplace and as the most extraordinary experience of one’s life.
The show really benefits from Long’s tight focus: childbearing isn’t the subject of a few routines, it’s the whole show. She sets out her stall early, spluttering in dismay at being asked, 13 months into her daughter’s life: “What else have you been up to?” To Long – never one to underplay emotional response – there is nothing else, not since her period tracking app failed and the journey towards new parenthood accidentally began.
That’s not a problem for her audience, given how delightful she makes the ride from choosing a name (she hates all names) to applying for Baby on Board badges (now a lifelong accessory) to her improbable analogy for the pain of contractions: childbirth is “like a cross between MDMA” – pause – “and death.” It pitches her into a new way of seeing her body, herself and – now it is lit up by the smiles that her daughter inspires – the world.
Little of this is new information to those with kids of their own. But it bears reacquaintance with, through the filter of Long’s steamroller enthusiasm to relive every moment, the highs and lows, as vividly as she can.
Then there are Tender’s closing stages, when she weighs up how to be hopeful for one’s kids at a time of climate crisis. Her material on Greta Thunberg and teenaged girls saving the world runs wonderfully counter to idealistic type, as she thinks aloud about optimism and duty at the 11th hour. For a show made under the shadow of the apocalypse, it is full of love and defiant joy.
• At the Stand Comedy Club, Edinburgh, until 25 August.
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