2 February 2013 Saturday Nunhead Heights
Two days ago I was in a panic over Jonathan Schwab’s film. I didn’t want anyone to see it.
The film makes me look fat, sweaty, failed, still failing, and small time. In other words, it is realistic.
See the film here until 7th February when it will be withdrawn for film festival entry. Lewis Schaffer / Free until Famous by Jonathan Schwab.
At one point, the filmmaker, a German, filmed me bending over to pick up coins that had fallen on the floor of my Soho venue. Coins that were given to me at the end of my ‘free’ show. I predict that someday the scene will be used in anti-Semitic propaganda films. If I didn’t know the filmmaker Jonathan Schwab, I would have thought he was being evil.
I am filmed saying my life is ‘tragic’. My life isn’t any more tragic than any one who has squandered a million opportunities and accomplished little. But there I was, saying ‘I’m tragic’.
Most people who have seen the film think it’s amazing. The FILM is amazing.
Amazing in the same way a David Attenborough footage of a whale chasing a seal is amazing. I wouldn’t want to be seen as either the harassing whale or the harassed seal. The whale is never invited to pick up the Bafta (Emmy, in the USA) with Attenborough. The seal, sadly, is dead, and couldn’t attend even if he wanted to.
But this isn’t the film I would have made.
One good friend, though, comic John Monty Smith of Newcastle, felt that viewers who didn’t know me would think I was desperate and pity me.
Lewis, he told me, ‘your story about moving to the UK and fucking up but now you’re on your way back, about Stewart Lee saying he was a little bit envious of you. Tell a couple of jokes and show how you’ve done 300 gigs in the same venue and you’re getting good reviews and are consistent. Maybe talk about your living conditions, etc.’
The narrative John proposed would be good if a filmmaker came up with it himself. One filmmaker, who I won’t name, did.
He had filmed one of the most successful comedians in the world, around the world, and set out to make such a film about my comeback. Up from death to finish the race. He filmed me a few times, seeing me die horribly under the pressure, and never called me again.
He probably ran because the story line isn’t true, no matter how many times I’ve postulated it. I wanted everyone to believe I was ‘coming back’ and I wanted to believe it, too.
I wasn’t a somebody when I was in New York to come back to. I haven’t changed all that much as comic, in the past 20 years. I am not any more consistent.
The only difference is that the comedy industry or the comedy community – which isn’t industrious or a community – have gotten used to my inconsistency and now seem to enjoy it. Their appreciation has given me the confidence to be even more inconsistent.
If I did have total control over a film about me it would be a bland as those BBC FOUR documentaries which are produced by the artist’s own company – the Bon Jovi film comes to mind – ‘When We Were Beautiful’.
Self-authored films can only be mildly interesting because they never get down and dirty.
‘Why, Mr Bongiovi’, I wanted the film to ask, ‘do you insist on pretending that Bon Jovi is a band of brothers when you own the entire lot and the others just work for you?’
Now I am in a panic that not everyone who matters is going to see me in MY film.
*Stewart Lee, for my American readers, is one of the two or three most respected comics in the Britain, and a leader of the new comedy generation, if there can be a leader of that. He name checked me in his latest DVD and did not trash me, which was really nice. Then again, I wasn’t asked to be on his TV show for ‘alternative’ comedians.]
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