4 AM Friday 16th March 2012.
Last night I was given a free ticket to see Jackie Mason at the Wyndham Theatre on Charring Cross. My friend, Gerard Telford, landlord at the Source Below, asked me if I had seen Jackie (I can call him Jackie because we are in the same business). I thought Gerard wanted to go with me. He is a good dude and also appears to have money. I like people with money because I don’t have any. Sadly, he bought only one ticket for me, which, I assume, was so he wouldn’t have to go with me. People with money don’t like hanging out with people who like hanging out with people with money. Still, it was very generous of him (£25).
My alone-ness at the show reminded me of the time I showed up at my good friend Dan Naturman’s flat in New York expecting to stay the night. He sounded a reluctant host over the phone but even so I was surprised when his doorman handed me an envelope with 10 $20 bills ($200 or £140) and a note suggesting I spend the night at a hotel. We are still friends as I cannot afford to be picky.
Anyway, Jackie Mason is funny. He was even funnier in the second half after I had a cider (£3.50 or about $5). I saw him in New York in 1986 (?) and didn’t have a drink during the interval. And I didn’t have a drink after the show. I was an American then.
Jackie Mason is funny. He was so relaxed up there I thought he might die on stage. It isn’t unusual in England for comics to actually die on stage. My favourite dead English comic – if you don’t count Bob Hope – is Tommy Cooper and he died performing. This is an indication of how horrible English audiences are.
Jackie thought the Olympics were a colossal waste of money. If the idea was to draw attention to London then that was ridiculous because “Who doesn’t know London?” I felt a bit proud to be a Londoner, not that I have had anything to do with the notoriety of the place. I had nothing to do with the notoriety of New York, either, but I was proud of that place, too. Frankly, I am not as proud of New York as I once was as nobody from there has made the slightest effort to get me back home to New York and save me from anonymity in London. Screw them.
Had I been Jackie – and some people have described me as the broke man’s Jackie Mason because of my show “Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous” at the above-mentioned Souce Below – had I been him, I might have put at least one local reference in the act. Instead of Pittsburgh, put Sheffield. Instead of Coney Island, put Blackpool. Then let the audience know, Jackie Mason-style, that “I’m a hit. I don’t need to change the jokes for you.” But I’m quibbling.
There were a few bits of Jackie’s routine that didn’t quite translate. The English aren’t obsessed with the weather. The English talk about it a lot because they are shy and use that topic to connect with other people. There isn’t much weather in England. It is pretty much the same every day. Some cloud, some rain, some sun and a temperature range of 8c to 22c (46F to 73F). I learned this from Bill Bryson.
Americans study the weather because they – or “we”, I guess I am still an American – have real weather: Hurricanes, tornados, ice storms, blizzards, thunder, lightning, torrential rain and heat waves. These weather events come across the continent and are easily filmed. Overturned buses and trucks make good television.
English weather comes across the Atlantic and affects no one en-route. Weather is seen only as isobars on a weather map. It is not very real or interesting. And even if there were islands out there in the Atlantic, it is hard to film dampness. Not good television.
The second comedy premise that doesn’t quite work here in England is calling a straight guy “gay”. That gets a laugh in the USA because Americans believe in God, and homosexuality goes against God. That is why gay sex is so much fun in the USA and calling someone gay gets laughs. It is like saying you think a Muslim dude is a Jew. Big laughs in Tehran.
England is the gayest country in the entire world, or at least it is in my flat. In England, if you point your finger and call a dude “gay” he is likely to say “yes” or at the very least “make me an offer.” After all, they teach homosexuality in the better private schools of England, just in case one gets elected to Parliament.
After the show, I walked over to connect with Martin Witts at his Leicester Square Theatre. Leicester is pronounced “Lester” and it is a hack joke among the English how the American visitors pronounce it “Lie- cester”. It never occurs to the English that maybe, just maybe, their spelling is rubbish.
Martin gave me two glasses of wine, which I drank lustily, having decided to become an English drinker. As a reward, I guess, he arranged for me to see Joan Collins at the theatre this weekend (£45 a ticket) and forgave the debt I owed him as my producer for my Edinburgh Fringe 2008 show “America, the Greatest Country in the World”. In return I am to make a monthly contribution to the Notre Dame de France Refugee Centre, based in the church above the theatre. This was very generous of him even if he is doing very well touring the brilliant comic Doug Stanhope around England and Scotland.
In addition, comedy guru John Fleming’s funny post which was, in part, about me, was picked up by the Huffington Post. How cool is that?
All in all, a day of generosity bestowed on me.
PS I stayed with my friend Doug that night and gave Dan back his $200.
Listen to Lewis Schaffer on the Radio.
Nunhead American Radio with Lewis Schaffer every Monday evening at 10:30PM on www.resonancefm.com and 104.4fm London.
See Lewis Schaffer live every Tuesday and Wednesday at the Source Below. Free admission
Reserve at http://bit.ly/londonfreeshow