Photo by Alan Irwin of Lewis Schaffer being comforted in Edinburgh by Christian Talbot.

10PM Sunday 7 September 2014 Nunhead Heights

How did Lewis Schaffer and Success Is Not An Option do at the Edinburgh Festival 2014?

I learned how many people will come to see me perform a free show at a grungy teenage disco with only a listing in the fringe programme.


No flyerers, very few posters, and no advertising – only a listing in the fringe programme. That number for me is, on average, 25.

OK, closer to 20. Maybe 15. I was embarrassed to say how low the number was.

This year, I couldn’t get enough sleep and didn’t have the energy to kill myself – either metaphorically or actually.

I have sleep apnoea – specialist diagnosed. I wake every two hours a night during REM sleep  screaming at my failure and impotence.

I decided to just focus on doing the shows and not do much else. I am going to be getting an air pump mask on Tuesday so my life isn’t over yet. There is hope.

In addition, this year I suffered staff and relationship crisises (or crisi). Luckily, the show benefited from close consulting work from Heather Stevens and Rose Ives.

I was also hurt by the extreme misfortune to have the venue right next to the “Loudest Show at the Fringe, 2014” Paul Currie.

Last year I was next to the “Loudest Show at the Fringe, 2013” Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans’ Sunday Assembly.

Both times the audiences heard people have a better time than they were having with me.

Venue is everything at the Fringe.

I am like PigPen from the Peanuts comic strip (Charley Brown) with dust following me around. Or maybe it is me who is dirty?

Read other reasons why my show was not a success in previous blog posts.


“After all the pretty words. After all the lovely prose poetry. After all the effusive praise… Tell me, Miss Reviewer: What do you really think about Lewis Schaffer?”

“Five stars? Must see.” No.

“Four stars? Should see.” Maybe.

“Three? Could see.” Yes.

Yes. Three. 3.71. Almost “should see” but not quite. 3.71.


I got five reviews from major sources [though what constitutes a “major source” in Edinburgh may not be considered important anywhere else.]

I got two reviews from bloggers. I treat bloggers’ opinions seriously. Someone with the initiative to actually set up their own website can be more knowledgeable than someone who merely befriends someone with a website.

Most sites chose not to review my show.

These ones didn’t send anyone around:

The Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian, Time Out, The List, The Herald, The Mirror, The Big Issue, ScotsGay, Mumble, One4Review, The Evening News, The Sunday Times, Exeunt, The Stage, The Arts Desk, The Independent, The Metro, The Sunday Times AND Chortle all chose not to review my show.

The value of flyerers, posters, advertising, a decent PR person, and a nice paid-admission venue is that they attract the reviewer who hasn’t heard of me, or who doesn’t think I’m worth seeing, if they have heard of me. All this could have been ignored if I was really really famous or really really funny.

Five Stars:

“During the performance I watched five people walk out. People always walk out – it’s not comfortable listening. Lewis himself walked out and for a moment we weren’t sure he was kidding” Mr. Trench The List Comment

Four Stars:

“Lewis Schaffer is an uncomfortable presence, and it takes almost the full 50 minutes of his show to start liking him.” Laura Kidd, Three Weeks.

I’m not sure if it was funny, I’m not sure if it was clever, and I’m not sure if I enjoyed it, but Lewis Schaffer is one of the few truly essential experiences on the Fringe. Roreiy Doesnt Blog [MY FAVOURITE REVIEW OF THE FESTIVAL.]

“You laugh, feel bad about it, then laugh again at the sharpest of sharp lines. That said, I did wince at one line that for me crossed over from acceptably tasteless to tastelessly unacceptable.” Andrew Dipper, GiggleBeats

Three Stars:

“[Lewis Schaffer] will pluck a subject from the air, fiddle with it for a moment and then announce “there’ll be a joke about that tomorrow”. And you cannot help but really want to go tomorrow. One year I will go to every one of Schaffer’s shows and document the journey.” Kate Copstick, The Scotsman

“With his laid back demeanour and acerbic wit Schaffer appears as a largely loveable Stewart Lee albeit with a severe case of apathy. Come with few expectations and leave having had them gently surpassed. Milo Boyd, Broadway Baby

Two Stars:

“Although described as a comic, and clearly a talented one at that, Schaffer has apparently chosen to do everything in his power not to be funny, which is often funny in itself but mostly just plain awkward. ” Liam McKenna, Fringe Guru

No Stars Given:

“Truly unpredictable comedy that is grimly compelling if occasionally painfully unwatchable. Sometimes Andy Kaufman with jokes, sometimes Andy Kaufman without jokes.” Bruce Dessau, Beyond the Joke, the Evening Standard, and The Times.

“Lewis Schaffer’s tragi-comic conversation at the Free Fringe had warmth, intimacy, honesty and some incredible sick jokes passed off as matter of fact observations before a rapt audience. Schaffer’s real tragedy at the moment is that he is making this difficult stuff look so easy no-one’s appreciating how good he is.” Stewart Lee in his post-Edinburgh wrap-up. And I know you may think this is wanky for me to include this on the list.

In addition:

Someone at DAVE noticed one of my jokes, which surprised me. It was listed as the Worst 10 of the Best 20 “Worst Jokes of the Edinburgh Festival”
“I don’t have to worry about Operation Yewtree. Every woman I’ve ever been with denies knowing me.”

Thank you for reading all this.  xxxx

And here’s a happy song: “I’m Lewis Schaffer’s Stalker” by Blanche Cameron @blanchecameron

Leicester Square Theatre Shows start Thursday 9:15pm 18 September 2014. Lewis Schaffer: American in London. Only Ten Pounds.

Website by DesignMutt
Taxes prepared, when necessary, by British American Tax.