When Louis CK dropped my clipboard onto West 3rd Street.

1AM Sunday 6 April 2014 Nunhead Heights.

image

Five years ago, comic Steve Best took my photo.

He told me he was taking photos of all the comics he worked with. We were in the hallway of a club in Wimbledon, Southwest London. I didn’t ask what he was going to do with the photos. I just thought it was ‘naff’. ‘Naff’ is an English way of saying ‘not cool’.

I had considered taking photos of the comics at gigs. Comics get famous and it would be good tell people I knew them before, or during, their fame. At least I would get something out this business. But I’d stop and think “No, that’s naff.”

Sunday, 6th April 2014 in London.
Lewis Schaffer: American in London at the Leicester Square Theatre.
 - (
Advertising Insert)

I can’t tell who’s going to be famous and it’s weird to ask a non-famous person to take their picture. I worked with Sarah Millican and Jack Whitehall before they became famous. I worked with Frank Skinner and Jack Dee before I knew they were famous. Every comic meets everyone.

In New York, I worked with everyone, too.  Zach Galifianakis, Jim Gaffigan, Jeffrey Ross and Louis CK. You name them. Every comic meets everyone.

Jim Gaffigan and I started together in 1993.

We used to go to the same open mikes – the grueling, joyless gigs used by new comics to get stagetime. After he began to get enough paid work to not need to do the open mikes, Jim kept on doing the open mikes. And doing them. And doing them.

Three, four, five open mikes a day. Day after day. Year after year.

If I remember correctly, I respected him for putting in the work. But probably I don’t remember correctly. Most likely I thought it was naff. I didn’t see my hero, Dave Attell, doing open mikes.

At the time I  was doing my own naff thing.

I was spending hours hustling for customers in the street. I was begging for people to come inside for live comedy. For the effort I got to compere shows – or MC – first at the Comedy Cellar and then at the Boston Comedy Club. Nine shows a week at the Boston. Maybe 25 hours of shows for three years. That’s a lot of stagetime.

I know many comics thought what I was doing was naff.

At least with open mikes, most of the comedy community couldn’t see the naffness. But I was out in the open in the nexus of Village comedy.

Louis CK once dropped my clipboard – with the show’s running order – onto West 3rd Street.

He was doing a spot at the Boston Comedy Club. I was standing outside, as I did. He asked to see my clipboard with the list of who was on. He looked at it, then looked at me expressionless and let the clipboard fall out of his hands onto the street. It landed  at my feet. Then he climbed the stairs up into the club, leaving me to pick it up.

At the time I didn’t understand why he did that.

Now, I am pretty sure it because he didn’t have respect for me, or what I was doing, or who I was.  But that is a guess. I will ask him one day if our paths ever cross.

I must have liked barking (or as it is called here in the UK ‘flyering’) more than being on stage. I was better at it than performing. It was a form of performance. That is why I did it so much and for so long. I didn’t care what anyone thought of me.  Other comics did and wouldn’t do it.

Yesterday I went to Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia – or whatever they call that area of London – to pick up a copy of the book that Steve Best has made of the photographs. Comedy Snapshot by Steve Best.

There was my photograph and photos of Sarah Millican, Harry Hill, Sean Lock and Andy Parsons (and about 420 others). Those people are mega-famous in the UK. (See above photo.)

That naff thing I thought Steve was doing – well he turned it into something amazing. I bought an extra copy. If you love British stand up comedy you must have this book. I am sure it will only become more valuable as more of  of the 400 non-famous people rise to stardom.

Jim Gaffigan was in London last night for a sold-out show at the Leicester Square Theatre. So that is what all that naffness has gotten him: Proper famous in America and a sold-out  show here.

Tomorrow at 8:30pm I’m at the Leicester Square Theatre with my show Lewis Schaffer: American in London.

You can see if those thousands of hours of stagetime at the Comedy Cellar and the Boston amounted to anything.  And maybe, for old time’s sake, I’ll go into the street and bark for customers.  Arrive early to catch the naffness.

Comedy Snapshot by Steve Best

Lewis Schaffer: American in London at the Leicester Square Theatre.

For all your expat USA and UK tax preparation needs, contact Liz at British American Tax.

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Posted in Comedy, Life in Britain, Psychology

Nunhead to Beat the Bounds Again

3PM Thursday 3 April 2014 Nunhead Heights

Reserve the 5th of July for Nunhead.

Last year's finale with Councillor Renata Hamvas.

Last year’s finale with Councillor Renata Hamvas.

The second annual Nunhead Beats the Bounds is set for July 5th, 2014.

We, Nunhead American Radio on Resonance FM Radio and Nunhead American Association got funding from Southwark Council again – thanks to Councillors Renata Hamvas, Victoria Mills, Gavin Edwards, and other Peckham and Nunhead community ward councillors and support from Marian Farrugia of Southwark’s Community Council Fund.

It’s all go!

Last year was amazing – Richard Guard and Anna Crockatt of the Dulwich Ukulele Club – and now Relatives Radio – came up with idea and made it happen. And it happened! Plus amazing support from Peter Hudson, Nunhead American Meredith Moss Davis, Jeremy Operer, Richard’s East Dulwich crew, you name them!

Over 200 paraders who marched all or part of the way around beautiful Nunhead, beating sticks and making noise. This was one of the most fun days I have ever had and I am sure many of the participants probably felt close to this.

This year we’re expecting a thousand paraders.

The start will be at Nunhead Green at 2PM – in front of the Old Nun’s Head, who are one of our sponsors. Meet there or join in along the route.

[We could use a sponsor to pay for more stuff. Let me know if you're interested.]

This time we’re marching clockwise up to Queens Road, then down Lausanne, Ivydale, up to Nunhead Heights, across Brenchley Gardens and then up Cheltenham, onto Peckham Rye then over Nunhead Lane back to the Old Nun’s Head where there will be a free glass of Nunhead Whacker Ale. [Map to come soon].

Contact me if you can be involved. It’s fun.

Nunhead American Radio with Lewis Schaffer
Mondays 6:30pm
ResonanceFM 104.4fm London
www.lewisschaffer.co.uk/radio/

@lewisschaffer on twitter
lewisschaffer.co.uk website

Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous in Soho
Tuesday & Wednesdays 8pm
Reserve at freeuntilfamous.eventbrite.co.uk

Lewis Schaffer: American in London
Sundays 8:30PM
Leicester Square Theatre

Lewis Schaffer is personally sponsored by British American Tax - For all you UK and USA tax preparation needs.

 

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Posted in Comedy, Life in Britain, Nunhead Radio

My Edinburgh Fringe 2014 show is called…

2 AM Friday 28 March 2014 Nunhead Heights

Every year I ask for help in choosing my Edinburgh Festival Fringe show’s name.

This year I got more than 350 suggestions from more than 100 people. So many great names and generous people I lost count. Thank you everyone who made a suggestion.

Here are the ones that I thought were usable. Any one of them would have made a good title. And many of the ones not listed below, would have made a good titles. The one that I chose is probably no better than any of the others. And I probably overlooked a few that should be on the list below.

So, in no particular order, the best ones with the author in brackets.

Lewis Schaffer Will Do You [Leanne Bower]
Lewis Schaffer: Too Soon [Deborah Ritchie]
Lewis Schaffer: Devil’s Advocate’s Advocate [Martin Soan]
Lewis Schaffer: Whatever Happened to Lewis Schaffer? [Iszi Lawrence]
Lewis Schaffer: Eternity Test [Kevin Precious]
Lewis Schaffer: Die Hard [Rob Thomas]
Lewis Schaffer: Dye Hard [John Edward Comerford]
Lewis Schaffer: Crash Self Wife (anagram of Lewis Schaffer [David Harry]
Lewis Schaffer Is Right. Is Lewis Schaffer Right? [Paul Ricketts]
Lewis Schaffer: Happiness [Claire Smith]
Lewis Schaffer: The Best a Man Can Get [Sajeela Kershi]
Lewis Schaffer: Lose weight now! Ask me how! [Norman Cho]
Lewis Schaffer: Success is Not an Option [Lewis Schaffer]
Lewis Schaffer: Stewart Lee & Me [Christian Talbot]
Lewis Schaffer: Downsizing [Bev Minter]
Lewis Schaffer: Is Going to Die [John Newcastle Smith]
Lewis Schaffer: Does Your Head In [Daphna Baram]

For almost a complete list, go the facebook timeline thing.

And which name did I choose?

I picked Lewis Schaffer: Success is Not an Option

I chose it because it speaks to the way I am right now, on the edge of success, if I want it. If I want it, yet not sure if I do. Not doing much to get success except keeping doing what I’ve always been doing, and definitely not prepared for success if it comes. And because I thought of the name.

In other words, I regret choosing that name. I regretted choosing the name as soon as I pressed the Pay, or the Finish button on my EdFringe application. I am sorry I chose such a horrible name.

Lewis Schaffer: Success is Not an Option
The Bunka Room
Heroes @ The Hive
Niddry Street
7:45PM (50 minutes)

Guaranteed admission tickets will be available at the Fringe and Hive box offices for £5. If there are any unsold tickets they will be given away free at the door. If you love me you will buy a ticket. I need the money.

The Bunka Room is the smaller room at The Hive. It is where I did a show two years ago and not the airplane hanger I was in last year.

I decided on that room because I can charge for tickets and still let some people in for free, if there are seats available. And it is quiet, not too hot, and intimate. A nice room. And no one else asked me.

I will let you know when tickets will be available for purchase.

In the meantime:

Come see me at the Leicester Square Theatre Sunday at 8:30PM with
Lewis Schaffer: American in London. Tickets are only £10 and worth it (I have been told).

Have your UK and USA Taxes prepared with BritishAmericanTax.com. Ask for Liz Zitzow.

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Posted in Comedy

My Leicester Square Theatre run extended. The worry starts again.

2PM Friday 21 March 2014 Nunhead Heights

The happiest part of the flying experience is not when the plane lands. The happiest part is finding the fuselage in the South Pacific off Australia.

The relief. That’s the way it is for me, at least. Relief is the closest I come to happiness.

I’m relieved to announce that Lewis Schaffer: American in London – my paid solo show at the Leicester Square Theatre – has had its run extended – again. It is set to run almost every Sunday to June 22nd.

The Sunday shows have been getting near-capacity audiences and the comedy experience has been considered very good. I wouldn’t know how good the shows are, if they are any good at all, as the more I enjoy a night the more negative feedback I get. Most people don’t like being flown into the Pacific Ocean. I do.

But with every safe landing, with every success, with every relief, comes the next chance for failure.

What will happen on the way from the airport? Will we get into an automobile accident? What heartache is waiting us at home? And then, will we crash when we have to fly again?

Will you come to my show? Will you tell your friends?

Happy thoughts!

Thank yous to Martin Witts and to people of the Leicester Square Theatre.

Lewis Schaffer: American in London
Leicester Square Theatre Lounge
6 Leicester Place
London WC2H 7BX

The schedule:

23 March 8:30pm
30 March 8:30pm
6 April 8:30pm
13 April 8:30pm
20 April 6pm
27 April 8:30pm
11 May 6pm
18 May 6pm
25 May 6pm
1 June 6pm
8 June 6pm
22 June 8:30pm

Shows are 90 minutes in length including an interval and cost £10. Information and tickets are available at the Leicester Square Theatre website: Click here.

Have your expat American and British taxes prepared at
britishamericantax.com. Ask for Liz – she’ll help you.

and…

Lewis Schaffer on the Radio :
Now in our fifth year:
Nunhead American Radio with Lewis Schaffer
Mondays 6:30pm
Resonance FM 104.4 London
www.lewisschaffer.co.uk/radio/

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Posted in Comedy

Why I’m the worst comic in Britain and should be deported to America.

3:00PM Wednesday 12 March 2014 Nunhead Heights

Saturday, the 8th March 2014, I did a benefit gig for and at the Caterham School in Caterham to parents of the school’s children. The school costs these parents £28,000-a-year per student. Caterham is on the edge of London. I live in South London. I wrote that it was a debacle.

Heather Stevens was there to witness and record it. Here is some of what I said and what happened. I’m probably going to regret posting this and take it down soon, so enjoy it while it is up.

Yeah I’m fucking nervous.
Wouldn’t you be nervous?
I’m a long way from home,
performing for a room full of people whose children
will deny my children jobs.
You can fuck your private fucking education.
You can fuck it up your fucking ass.
I should have said this at the end when I’m leaving,
but I hate you motherfuckers.
I hate everything about this country.
You’re shit, shit, shit,
and the more I tell you you’re shit
the more you’ll just laugh,
because you think you’re so fucking amazing.
You’re just shit.
You’re the most arrogant race of people in the entire world.

You think you’re the funniest people in the world.
You’re not funny.
You’re not even a good audience
Your arms are crossed.
You’re in a fucking coma.
You’re just shit.
Doing comedy for you people
is like making love to a woman in a coma.
I mean fuck it
I’m gonna keep on going.

You’re the most grumpy,
most miserable people in the world.
It’s like today.
You say today was a “glorious day”.
Glorious day, right?
No, it just wasn’t fucking miserable.
So you’ll say it was glorious
because you’ll settle for something, anything.
In America,
the weather can be horrible but it’s rarely miserable.
And here, the weather is almost always miserable
and rarely horrible,
just like you people.
You’re just miserable.
You’re rarely horrible.

I hope I haven’t unleashed too much hostility on you people.
Lisa made the mistake of paying me in advance.

I left out some of the funny bits, or so I hope. My apologies to the people of the Caterham School and to Britain, in general.

Come see me in London every Sunday. Lewis Schaffer: American in London. I am usually less hostile. 

For all your expat tax preparation, contact www.britishamericantax.com and ask for Liz.

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Posted in Comedy, Life in Britain

Why I am not insane, according to Albert Einstein.

3PM Tuesday 11 March 2014 Nunhead Heights

Next week is the deadline for registering shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. I don’t have a name for my show, I don’t have a show and I don’t have a plan except to do what I did last year. Everything is normal.

Albert Einstein wrote that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I am going back to the sticky-floored Hive, back with a free show, back giving you the option to pay £5 to reserve a seat when you can come in for free on the day, and back with the same old comedy crap I do 12 months-a-year at the Source Below, the Leicester Square Theatre, and on my road shows. Last year’s Edinburgh was a failure – I made less money, performed to less people and got fewer reviews than I did in the previous year.

Einstein might say I am insane.

On the other hand, I don’t expect to get different results. I am just doing what I do, which is to show up, go on stage and let the consequences be damned.

This is what I do.

I don’t prepare because I am never sure that what I prepare for is what I need to prepare for. And what if I actually achieve success? Will it be worth the hard work? And I am pretty sure I don’t want to be a success.

Missourian Japanese comic Spring Day told me once that I “fly the plane into the side of the mountain”.

So I just turn up, on the day, and do what I do, and hope it is good enough. And if it isn’t, I tell myself I am quitting comedy, and do, until the next night, when I do it all over again. I must love flying the plane into the side of the mountain.

Malcolm Galdwell has his”10,000-Hour Rule” where the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. I copied that last sentence from Wikipedia.

Success in not an option. [Damn, that sounds like a really good show name. "Lewis Schaffer: Success is Not an Option".]

Success has not been an option for me in comedy.

I have never seen myself being on TV or in front of huge adoring crowds. I see myself as failing. That is why I have no fear of comedy. What can go wrong has gone wrong and gone wrong very, very often.

["Lewis Schaffer Dies Hard" another show title.]

It has gone wrong so often for me that this year I must be approaching my 10.000th hour doing comedy. 9 shows a week for years at the Boston Comedy Club, all those shows at Comedy Cellar, at least 450 shows at the Source Below, 40 shows at the Leicester Square Theatre… you add it up.

What I am saying is that Einstein is wrong.

If you do the same thing over and over and over again, eventually, it will become right, or your kind of right. That is my excuse.

Please help me name my show.

“Lewis Schaffer Success is Not an Option” sounds like a winner to me, but then I haven’t googled it – okay, just did – and it hasn’t been used that much.

Or should I call it “Lewis Schaffer Will Do You”. Resonance FM engineer and friend Leanne Bower thought of that.

Or “Lewis Schaffer Dies Hard” or “Lewis Schaffer: No Refunds Given”. I forgot who thought of these but I will check and give them credit.

Can you think of a good name for my show?  Ideas at the bottom

Come see me tonight at the Source Below. 8PM in Soho, London. Click on Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous.

or pay £10 to see me at the Leicester Square Theatre this Sunday. Click on Lewis Schaffer: American in London

Have your international and local taxes prepared at www.britishamericantax.com – ask for Liz.

 

 

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Posted in Comedy, Psychology

The people here are as miserable as the weather.

3PM Sunday 9 March 2014 Nunhead Heights

Here in Britain, when the weather isn’t miserable it is called “glorious”. Glorious means the sun is shining for one entire day. It doesn’t take too much to make people here effuse about nice weather.

When the weather is lovely the people don’t like to stay inside. There are few things better to an Englishman than sitting in the garden of a pub and drinking.

Today is a glorious day and I want you to venture out to Leicester Square and see my show: Lewis Schaffer: American in London. I predict a low turnout but come anyway. Click here for information.

British weather is usually miserable but on the plus side it is seldom horrible. Horrible like it is the States with heat waves, cold snaps, ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, earthquakes (if I can include that as weather).

British weather is miserable but not horrible. Like the people: miserable but not horrible. Americans can be horrible but seldom are they miserable. “Where seldom is heard a discouraging word” goes the song.

Last night I made British people even more miserable. I had a spot on a fundraiser gig for a £28,000-a-year boarding school.  Yeah, I know. Do they need the money from a comedy event?

I have been asked to do benefits before and – except for my appearance at the Resonance FM Resofit – every one of them was  for evil. Most particularly was JK Rowling’s pet project “One Parent Families” or something. I don’t remember the name but its unstated goal was to promote fatherless families.

I consider the Caterham School evil because I know that the kids of that school are going to be denying my children jobs.

Robin Ince, also doing a spot, seemed to struggle to find the motivation to entertain them. He did well, contrary to what he wrote in his blog. He was professional and did his job even though he wasn’t appreciated as he should have been.

I don’t have a recording of last night and I don’t remember much.

I think I shouted, I hope relatively good naturedly, “You’re all shit, shit, shit!” and the line about how their kids were going to deny my kids a job and that America is a better country than theirs.

On the way out, a few of the parents expressed true hatred for me.  One screamed at me, I could feel his belly pressing against mine, calling me a ‘racist’ and saying he was an American, too, but was totally offended blah blah.  He had a stronger English accent than Madonna.

Some must have thought I was brilliant because I shook a few hands.

They must have  liked being told how miserable they are, or happy to see an American struggle, or pleased to see anyone struggle, or they were just secure in the knowledge that they are doing well enough to send their children to a school which costs £28,000-a-year and that their children probably won’t have to work for my children.

I have got to rush off to see my future unemployed son play football, which is one thing he does reasonably well and probably better than the children who go to Caterham School.

See me tonight Sunday: Lewis Schaffer: American in London 8.30PM at the Leicester Square Theatre.

 

 

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Posted in Comedy, Life in Britain, Parenting

What not to say to rich American women at a posh yacht club in Knightsbridge.

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.

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How and why I bombed at Stewart Lee’s Resonance gig.

3PM Sunday 16 February 2014 Nunhead Heights.

I have had more bad shows than most comics have had good shows. I have had more bad shows that most comics have had shows. Most comics would have given up by now.

I bombed at the second Resofit Bloomsbury benefit Friday night. It was organized by Stewart Lee, who did a set, compered by Daniel Kitson with Josie Long also doing a set. I would close the show.

Give money to Resonance FM. 

At the first Bloomsbury show for Resonance FM I killed. I felt like I did well, and others told me I did well. I seethed and ranted and was wild and then Stewart Lee, the compere, asked me back on for a encore. Unprecedented. You can read about it here:

First Bloomsbury show review by Bruce Dessau. Read here.

I was told by my people [Heather Stevens and Alex Mason] that maybe Stewart Lee wanted to see if he could use me for his Alternative Comedy Experience TV show. Stewart asked if could do different material from the first show and a ‘proper set’.

Well, I thought, I don’t remember what ‘material’ I did the first time – the jokes come out as they come out – and as for a ‘proper set’, well, I have never done a ‘proper set’, will never do a ‘proper set’, and am not sure what a proper set is after 20 years doing stand-up.

My brain turns into a mess. What are the jokes I cannot say on the night? What jokes can I tell?

So I start fuming:

“Fuck you, Stewart Lee, and fuck your TV show. If you think that is what ‘alternative comedy’ is, a ‘proper set’, and if you believe that is what I am going to do for you, then you can fuck off. I don’t want to be on TV anyway.”

“And… I am not an alternative comedian. I don’t even know what that means.”

That is what was in my head. “Fuck off, Stewart Lee.”

Heather and Alex put together a ‘proper set’ of jokes I hadn’t done. I tried to run through it a few times before the gig, only to have it disintegrate in front of audiences. The only time it almost worked was when I read off the set list on a piece of paper and then I went into a full-on tirade on Stewart Lee. I can’t do that on the night, I knew.

Heather and Alex agree I can’t be relied upon to do a set.

I turn up at the Bloomsbury totally blocked.

I’m a mess of feelings. I am unprepared to do a set but thinking I had to do one. I am angry at the situation, furious at Stewart Lee and knowing, no matter what, this gig is not going to be as good as the first show. My people are all excited about it. I wrangle 7 comp tickets – five more than I am allocated – for my people to see this debacle.

On the night, I see Stewart in the green room, and the Bloomsbury has a proper green room.

He tells me how much he loves my stuff. How he loves that anything can happen when I am on stage, and that it can end in chaos, and that he never expected me to do a ‘proper set’ and knows that I am incapable of doing a ‘proper set’ and that is what he loves about my work. And that is why I am on last, because I am room-shifter, or something – and that I am unfollowable. He can’t follow me. Meaning, that no comic can do a spot after I go on. [Which I know to be not true, I am the easiest to follow, because after chaos calm is welcome.]

Anyway, I don’t remember it all because I was spending the entire time looking at his smooth face wondering “Does he mean this? Why is he saying such nice things about me? This is Stewart Lee!”

Suddenly, my anger at Stewart Lee is gone. I remember how much I like the dude, and what a good guy he is. My mood is lifted. I can do what I want on stage tonight.

I am now feeling very good about myself.

But now I don’t know what to do tonight. Do I try to do the set list, or should I wing it? Or what my attitude should be when I go on stage. I don’t even feel angry, which would have been something to go in on.

After an eternity, I am backstage, listening to Daniel Kitson going on and on – he was compering – making the show his own, being brilliant. That is what Kitson does.

And I start having doubt. Kitson is the alpha male of British comics. He will find a way to win. He is the British comedy world’s Messi. I don’t need to win all the time, and hence I don’t. I am the guy who sometimes scored the amazing goal but often doesn’t. Insert the correct footballers name here.

“How can I follow him?” crept into my mind.

So I turn on Kitson. My cells are saying “Fuck Kitson”. Why is he taking all the laughs for himself? Leave some for me. He has gone on long enough. These people don’t even know who I am, how am I going to make this work after Kitson?

So I am on stage, slightly irritated and mostly confused and bored. And thinking that I am not going to make this work, and thinking that “I am Lewis Schaffer! You heard what Stewart Lee said about me!”

But they hadn’t.

I looked out at the audience and I didn’t see a single face – just a grey mass of audience. Not good. I don’t think the best way to experience comedy is in a comfy chair with the comic a million miles away. Comedy is best in a basement, just like sex.

So I didn’t know what to say, or even worse, feel.

After five minutes of flailing, I walked off stage to the wings to look at my set list. That is something I have never done before, nor seen any other comic do before. I came back and started to tell the jokes. But the energy wasn’t there. The emotion wasn’t there.

I thought I could pull it out by telling the audience how I felt it was going: that it wasn’t going well at all. But I told them that so much, I lost my power to make them listen to me, even if I had something important to say.

Comedy is like a car crash, which I was compared to Friday night. At first you don’t expect it. If you did, you would have avoided it. Then it gets surreal and all slow-motion. Then, when it is over, you’re either dead, or shaking with nerves.

I could see a woman in the front squirming, looking irritated at me. She shouts “Well, get off!” And I knew I was going to be hit by a car. I’m in a car crash. I’m going to DIE. I have to do something!

So I went into 9/11/Fireman heckler joke, directed to her, and she shouted out the punchline “Yeah, 9/11 and you said that joke five years ago!”

And I blurted “What jokes have you written in the last five years?” which was decidedly unfriendly. I never put down hecklers, at least not seriously, and here I did. My mood, on the night, was horrible.

The audience seemed to come to my aid against her, booing her. Which means they didn’t really hate me as much as I thought. And I could tell by how they shook my hand after the show and took my flyer for my Leicester Square Theatre shows that it wasn’t a complete death.

But it was a death, and it could have been so good.

Read the Bruce Dessau review of the night here.

Here’s a short YouTube clip of the first Bloomsbury gig.

Come see me at the Leicester Square Theatre tonight 16th February 8:30. Lewis Schaffer: American in London.

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Posted in Comedy, Life in Britain, Nunhead Radio

Why I didn’t do my “The British monarchy is good for British tourism” joke at The Establishment Club.

1:30AM Monday 27 January 2014 Nunhead Heights

Comedy is a mine field.

Yesterday, I did a spot at the The Establishment Club – organized, in part, by Victor Lewis-Smith, the writer. Richard Dawkins was on the bill so I got the feeling this gig was going to be important. In prep I Googled the main participants.

[ See me Sunday, 2 February 2014 8:30 pm at the Leicester Square Theatre in Lewis Schaffer: American in London. Click here for tickets. - Advertisement ]

Seems that last year Victor got into trouble for using comic Mark Steel’s joke on the British monarchy in a piece he wrote for The Independent. The bit lacked attribution or permission. That stuff happens all the time.

This is Mark Steel’s joke which I’ve pulled from a Guardian piece without permission:

“Don’t give me that spiel about them being good for tourism.
Does that mean no tourists ever go to republics like France or the US?
Or if they do, do they climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty,
look down on Manhattan, and say:
‘Well, it’s a lovely view
but the lack of a monarch spoils it somehow’?”

Victor Lewis-Smith has apologized for using it, so all is well.

I have a joke that I have been telling since I moved here and it is very, very, similar. Similar jokes happen in comedy.

“The Royal Family is good for tourism.
You go to Britain to see real Kings and Queens
Working in real Palaces and Castles.
You want more people to visit Auschwitz?
Get the gas chambers going again.
You don’t have to kill a lot of Jews.
Or only Jews.
You can kill Gypsies, Homosexuals
Maybe even just normal people.
Just enough to get the real smell of death in the air.
Hack up a few Tutsis in Rwanda.
Or is it Hutus?
The Killing Fields in Cambodia?
Start killing anyone with eyeglasses again.
Good for Tourism.
Let Britain give up democracy
for higher hotel occupancy.”

Mark Steel points out the silliness of claiming the monarch is good for tourism. I point out the evil of monarchy, at least I hope I do.

Let’s say I hadn’t read the Wikipedia entry and I told my ‘monarchy is good for tourism’ joke yesterday?

I wouldn’t have understood why Victor Lewis-Smith’s face was twitching or why the audience – who know Victor Lewis-Smith – had turned on me, and why I wouldn’t be invited back to do that gig.

And knowing the English, I doubt they would have told me.

At the pre-show lunch – with the Pope of Atheists Richard Dawkins, politico George Galloway, his grumpiness Jerry Sadowitz, comedy producer David Tabizel, organiser Mike O’Brien, my PA/writer Heather Stevens and George Galloway’s lovely wife and kids – George told me a story.

He once told a joke with Monica Lewinsky as the punchline while she was in the audience. He didn’t know she was there and when he found out, he felt horrible and had to apologize. I don’t agree with George Galloway often but after meeting him, I like him very much.

So even great orators can step in a minefield.

Get your taxes prepared by BritishAmericanTax.com - tax preparer of Lewis Schaffer.

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Posted in Comedy, Life in Britain