2PM Thursday 27 February 2014 Nunhead Heights.
On Tuesday morning I did a weird gig at the Royal Thames Yacht Club in Knightsbridge.
I spoke to 75 women of the American Women’s Club at their monthly meeting.
These are women with time and money to hang out at a yacht club on a Tuesday morning. I told them I was single and available. I was told they were all married. I told them again I was single and available. Yes, I am creepy.
And the Royal Thames is much posher than it sounds. I thought: How fancy could a yacht club on the Thames be? Really fancy. It is the oldest yacht club in Britain, founded in 1775 and has Prince Andrew as their Commodore. Fancy.
I know my father was a lawyer and all that, but he was broke lawyer, and deep down my family is what the English would call ‘working class’. In America, we’re a bit trashy. I didn’t feel I belonged with these women.
My goal in being there that morning was to drum up business for my Sunday show ‘Lewis Schaffer: American in London’ at the Leicester Square Theatre. Plus, I will pretty much go anywhere I am invited to open my mouth.
Like all shows I do, I couldn’t tell how it was going as I was doing it.
When I’m on stage and it is going well, I think I am bombing. When it is going poorly, I think I am killing. When it going just right (rarely) I have to do something to make it die or to make it soar. I cannot just leave it well enough alone.
I started by praising America and trashing Britain. This wasn’t the right approach.
These were Americans who were new to the country. Old-timers like me – 13 years a hostage – don’t need to hang in groups of Americans.
Even if they didn’t like Britain, Americans think that praising one’s country in the land of another is rude and totally classless (in American usage of classless).
And Americans already know America is the greatest country in the world so they don’t need to hear it from another American, whether here or in the USA. You won’t make it big as a comic in America telling Americans how great America is.
At the same time, Americans also feel America is falling behind the world – even that their country used to be great but isn’t great any longer, or won’t be great for much longer. This fear of a lost American Dream is the engine that drives America to be great. It is panic that motivates one to change. I haven’t seen much panic here in the UK and Lord knows, this place needs it.
So I pumped up the energy and forgot I was in a beautiful meeting room overlooking Hyde Park, on the richest street in London, at 11AM on a rare sunny day, speaking to women who might as well have been at the Kiwanis Club or Republican Club in Sheyboygan, Michigan or is that Wisconsin?
It was a landmine-ridden field that I walked into and I managed to find all the bombs, and brought a few of my own. ‘F-Bombs’. The programmer specifically asked me not to curse. Americans can be very, very prim when they want to be.
I walked out in the sun – past the sparkling embassies and the Georgian townhouses – to Victoria Station and took my train back to Peckham and then Nunhead.
I berated myself.
Why did I praise America?
Why did I curse so much? Why did I curse at all?
Another lost opportunity.
Luckily, I got a couple of tweets from women there who liked it and the organizer emailed me with this comment, which I print without her permission so I am leaving her name off of this post:
“I was expecting several outraged emails from our more conservative members, but in fact most of the feedback has been positive. (One of the most appreciative was another English woman who lived in NJ for 25 years) I think most people were concerned that someone else was offended, rather than being offended themselves, and a few ladies commented that while they would probably enjoy seeing your nightclub act, it wasn’t quite appropriate for this particular context.”
Well, that is my life. ‘Not quite appropriate for this particular context’.
Lewis Schaffer: American in London 8:30 PM Sunday, 2nd March 2014 Leicester Square Theatre, London.