3AM Friday 23 May 2014 Nunhead Heights
Back in 2008 I drove to [name of city redacted] from London, over [distance in miles redacted], to perform an open spot for [name of promter redacted] on the hope [gender of promoter redacted] would like my act and give me work.
[Gender of promoter redacted] hadn’t bothered to show up and I had wasted maybe [amount of money spent on petrol redacted] and maybe [amount of time, in hours, redacted], let alone the lost hope. I was in such a rage that on the way home I got a speeding ticket which lead to my losing my driver’s license.
[Adv – See Lewis Schaffer at the Leicester Square Theatre this Sunday at Six in Lewis Schaffer: American in London. – Adv.]
Comedy is hell.
It is the only job where you can feel bad about going to work, feel bad at work, and feel bad when you leave work, all in space of twenty minutes. Even the guys who cleaned the radioactive water from the Fukushima Power Plant were at least happy when they left the building.
Some comedy promoters don’t have a clue as to how awful it is for the comic to have to wait to go on stage, to not know when they are going on, to have a confidence-killing introduction that puts them in a hole before they even tell their first joke, or to have their performance judged harshly or too quickly. Then some promoters expect us to be nice to them in spite of everything.
But there are harder ways to make money than being a comic. And one of them is promoting comedy shows.
I do three nights in London and it is hard to get people to come in and walk out happy, and not just because it is Lewis Schaffer on stage.
On most Thursdays I travel an hour from Nunhead to Kentish Town to do 30 minutes of whatever-I-want at the end of Martin Besserman’s Monkey Business show. He runs one of the most – if not the most – shambolic nights in comedy – apart from my “Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous” shows at the Rancho Grill on Sackville Street.
Martin will often call me at 9 – I am due at 10 – pleading for me to hurry. I’ll race there only to find he isn’t ready for me to go on until 10:30 or later.
His introductions are infamous. He’s often introduced me as a “nutter” and he really likes me.
He often allows the audience to sit in the back, leaving a twenty foot gaping hole from the stage to the punter. The comic is lucky if the spotlight is shining on the stage instead of the audience.
The reason I am writing this is because a comic complained on Chortle that Martin had insulted her from the stage. I know Martin and he doesn’t seem to have a mean bone in his body and I have never seen him be nasty, ever.
The comic, Katy Truelove, came all the way fr0m Manchester – hundreds of miles – to perform for free in the hope of being approved by Martin and getting a paid spot on Martin’s Saturday show.
She came with such hope but she got a mess of show and a perceived insult. She complained in a Chortle blog that she “deserved better”.
I feel for her. We have all been there. Everyone has Martin Besserman stories. But honestly, who says she, or anyone, deserves a better organised gig?
If Martin doesn’t put on that Kentish Town gig, do you think the Comedy World Head Office is going to send another promoter to The Oxford to run it better so comics have the comedy experience they “deserve”?
There is no Comedy World and no Head Office. There are only individual promoters trying to get punters who will laugh at our jokes. Some promoters are better than others, or more to our liking than others.
Before every Monkey Business show, I tell myself this is the last time. I am not going to be kept waiting. I deserve better!
But the next week I return because he has an audience ready for comedy, and up for anything. His shows are fun. Something odd always happens and you cannot say that about the Comedy Store.
And I actually like Martin Besserman.
He doesn’t have multiple clubs and is not a big player. He is at the bottom of the comedy promoter food chain. But he does provides a small, yet valuable, service. He puts on comedy nights.
Martin Besserman has his faults, as we all do, but he is being attacked because he is an easy target.
I couldn’t afford to show my anger toward [name of promoter redacted] who missed watching my spot. [Gender redacted] runs a lot of clubs. One wouldn’t want to destroy one’s chances of a profitable relationship with her/him if one were to express anger openly towards her/him.
My point is that it is easy to dump all our collective comedian resentments and anger for club owners and bookers onto Martin Besserman. It is easy for comics to call for a boycott on working at his club or even to “take him to the side” as one respected comic suggested.
But it isn’t fair to pick on him and it would hurt comedy if Martin Besserman stopped promoting shows.
Comics should lay off Martin Besserman.
See Lewis Schaffer at the Leicester Square Theatre, London, this Sunday at 6pm in Lewis Schaffer: American in London.
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