1 PM Saturday. Last night I was to perform for a room full of grumpy old Jews in Exeter, south Devon. I expected to face sour, smug faces filled with resentment and bitterness of a people who weren’t living where they thought they belonged – in New York or at the very least, north London – and with no respect for me for having been crazy to leave New York and not successful enough for them to have heard of me.
But the Power of Worry kicked in – the Power of Worry is the theory “that what one worries over won’t happen”. So instead of old Jews, the Barnfield Theatre was packed with “regular” English people and only a few Jewish university students, and they were smiling. There was even a enthusiastic Muslim woman wearing that head-thingy they love to wear – a New York Yankees hat.
It is hard enough to perform for regular English people, let alone English Jews. The English think they are the funniest people in the world. They sit there thinking they are funnier than you are, or that ten of their mates are funnier than you. That is probably true. Every nation thinks their sense of humour is the best because people who know you are always going to make you laugh more than strangers. Your family knows which buttons to push to make you laugh. In this way comedy is the opposite of sex. Sex often isn’t very good with your family.
And the English need to prove how funny they are all the time. From the moment they wake up they are telling each other jokes or making funny comments. “Rainy enough for you?” – said when it is rainy – is a a common English joke. Pause for a second and you’ll be heckled.
But at least the regular English enjoy stand up comedy shows. It gives them another opportunity to drink, heckle and have someone talk to them – the English being a very, very shy people. Sometimes I think people here in England are happy just having someone talk to them. They need a little attention having been ignored by their children-hating parents, such as the Queen. My friend, the late Patrice O’Neal once told me that an Englishman is “three drinks behind Americans.” (Patrice was called the ‘Late’ Patrice O’Neal even when he was alive as he was late getting to the gig and even later getting off stage.)
On the other hand, Jews know they are funniest people and don’t need to prove it. Jokes leak out of Jews like diarrhea from a Mexican tourist visiting America. I don’t think Jews joke to make the other people laugh, as regular English people do. “Irving, I have to. But you?” is one of my favourite punch lines – I don’t have time to tell you the whole joke but the attitude is all Jewish.
Jews don’t drink much and seem very capable of talking to each other on their own. I have never been heckled by a Jew, here or in America, even when they didn’t enjoy my award-winning Holocaust material. They just go to the manager and demand their money back, and some additional restitution for having their lives ruined by my jokes.
I think Jews have little respect for comedians. Why would you need to make strangers laugh unless being a comic makes you a lot of money? And my playing to 100 students at £5 a head in Exeter isn’t exactly a money maker. “Jackie Mason,” a Jew might say “sells 900 seats at £40 a seat and he doesn’t have to pay an orchestra and no opening act…oy, that’s a racket to get into.”
Or maybe Jews don’t like me cause I am one of their own. Or maybe not funny enough? I am not going to accept that – okay, I may accept that.
The lovely Hannah Warman who I shared the bill with in Exeter and is extremely funny in the shruggy and aside way, claims that I make too many blanket statements that aren’t true and never back down even when I am shown to be wrong. I think there may be few of those in this post. Then again, I think the main difference between men and women is that men love generalisations and women don’t.
I know John Fleming never makes wrong assertions in his posts. Also on the bill is was the amazing Ruth Levy So who sparkled, Rosie Martin who was graceful, and handsome Michael Kossew whose bit about men who never ask for a date was spot on.
See Lewis Schaffer live every Tuesday and Wednesday at the Source Below. Free admission but you will be guilted into giving me money to get out. Reserve at http://bit.ly/londonfreeshow
Listen to me live on the radio every Monday at 10:30 PM GMT – Nunhead American Radio. Streaming www.resonancefm.com and 104.4fm Nunhead.