Cross-dresssing Performance Poet of the Week

I got the Josie Long DVD for Christmas, which I have watched so often I now dream of bags of tangerines and endearingly bizarre flow-charts in a sweaty Edinburgh room. Just booked tickets for her show in February, ‘All The Wonders Of The Universe (Shown In Detail)’, which I hear is meant to be a little darker than her previous two shows, though I imagine she does ‘dark’ to about the same extent that Neighbours does ‘pornographic’. Anyway, she’s pretty much my Favourite Living Human Being That I Don’t Actually Know So Should Probably Stop Talking About As Though They Were My Best Friend at the moment, thanks to her revolutionary brand of comedy that somehow takes that usual comedy kryptonite, earnestness, and proves that comedians don’t have to be arrogant idiots who have to rely on insulting the audience to get laughs. A sample can be found here (about the least funny part of her show, but you have to go with what YouTube gives you). Plus, if you buy the DVD, you get a handmade postcard of varying quality (I got a picture of a Thai woman pointing to a child and saying ‘I love this child! And the music of Jeffrey Lewis’. Tom got a scene depicting a tetchy anteater).

Anyway, in her show, Josie Long refers to a performance poet called Rachel Pantechnicon. The specific bit, and yes, I sadly enough can remember this verbatim, is that she says she has been to see some performance poetry (‘which normally I would despise with the level of hatred that is appropriate, which is all of the hatred you have in your heart’), and that Rachel Pantechnicon, who was performing that night, taught her an inspiring lesson about learning to value your weaknesses as much as your strengths, because your ‘failings’ are as much a part of who you are as your successes, and only then, when you’ve learnt to love everything about yourself, can you move on (for those of you who, like me, break out in a rash at high exposures of earnestness, Josie Long then goes on to put this lesson into practice by painting a giant ocean scene saying ‘Marvellous’ on her belly. Just buy the DVD, it’s funny when she does it).

Since I’m in the excitable throes of a new discovery and have slightly too much time on my hands, I decided to check out this Rachel Pantechnicon (who also goes by the name Russell Thompson, which explains the voice being lower than Barry White), and I wasn’t disappointed. Her poems are delightfully odd and hilarious; imagine if Half Man Half Biscuit wrote for Wendy Cope and you wouldn’t be far off (example line, from ‘Folk Song Girls’: ‘Turn out your pockets –/what’s that you’ve got, another piece of coal?/Have you been listening to that song/About the Durham pit lockouts of 1861 again?’). A slight seeming obsession with pixies aside, coming across her poems made my day. Again, YouTube conspires to make me seem like I have had my sense of reality transplanted with a broken toaster, but it’s the only video of her performing (and I still like it, even if – or possibly because- noone realises when she has finished).

Read a selection of her poems here. Apparently you can buy the book if you send £2 to her nan.


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