5 PM Saturday 3rd November 2012 Nunhead Heights
Last week, a blind man came to my show in Soho, Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous. My show is the longest-running solo stand up comedy show in London and maybe even the entire UK. You name another and I will take back that assertion.
The Blind Guy was lead to the front row by the woman he was with.
So I am doing my show, not that it is much of a show. It’s just me, messing about. Not even ‘messing about’, cause that would imply that I’m relaxed. I’m never relaxed.
I’m having flashbacks to the wheelchair people at the Pleasance Courtyard in Edinburgh last August. I said the wrong thing and the wheelchair people walked out – rolled out, actually. It wasn’t pleasant. You can read about that here.
My mind also raced to the time in New York in the 1990s when the dead-old guy took off his hat and showed everyone in the Boston Comedy Club audience a hole of blood in the middle of his bald head. I was MCing (compering) and was transfixed by the ugliness of it and didn’t say a thing, making it worse for everyone.
It turned out the open sore was just the round red label from his rain hat that had stuck onto his smooth head skin. I should have asked him ‘What’s with the hole in your head, old guy?’ and found out before I crumbled on stage.
I’ve been feeling down about what I do. I am getting absolutely nowhere in comedy. I’ve got only 1347 twitter followers and that is as an objective a measure as any.
So I start telling my jokes. I’ve decided I’m gonna have to call up every minute of comedy experience to get through this night. Forget about art or genius – I need to make this bearable for the people here. ‘Please don’t make it one of those nights that half the audience leaves at the intermission,’ I prayed.
The Blind Guy is not going to understand everything. In my show I talk to the audience and get them to talk to each other, and even though I am not French mime Marcel Marceau or the American clown-comic Dr. Brown, what I do is very visual.
So I translate everything for the Blind Guy. ‘That girl is pretty and those guys look like cops, and the table of girls are scowling at me…’ et cetera. It’s funny, I guess.
Then I realize: It isn’t fair.
So I put out the stage lights and blew out the candles on the tables. Now we were all in the dark, together.
And I did my act in the dark, which isn’t easy to do even in the light, and which isn’t much of an act. We had a laugh for about ten minutes while I flailed about. Then I turned the lights back on and then the rest of show was pure fun. And was extremely pleased with myself that I did that.
I got an email from his Jewish woman minder a couple of days later.
It turns out the man was a soldier who had lost his sight fighting. She was helping him make a transition back into the world and this was his first night out in two years, since he lost his sight.
I won’t say where but he was fighting for the rights of women to sit with men in a dark nightclub in Soho and drink alcohol and listen to lost New York Jews in late-midlife crisises.
The lovely woman asked me not to post her email so I won’t. I don’t think it would be giving anything away to quote a line or two:
‘If you are ever at a loss to understand why you do what you do or if you should keep on doing it, I hope you will remember us and feel affirmed.
There is a rabbinic story which says that the pious must not think that clowns are unworthy of a place in the World to Come because their work is not real work. Indeed Hashem [God] has said that those who spend their lives cheering the souls of others will find their place first in heaven.’
I don’t know what else to say.
@lewisschaffer – twitter feed
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. Or listen to the show’s podcasts at bit.ly/NunheadAmericanRadio
See Lewis Schaffer live every Tuesday and Wednesday: Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous, The Source Below, 11 Lower John Street, London W1F 9TY. Come on down. Free admission. Or reserve at bit.ly/londonfreeshow