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In the land of the one-eyed man, Lewis Schaffer is king.

9 Feb

3AM Saturday 9th February 2013 Nunhead Heights

You know me: If something bad happens to me, I mean really bad, I will blog about it.

Last night at Vivienne and Martin Soan’s lovely Pull the Other One gig in Herne Hill, south east London, something really bad happened. I killed. 

I made the audience laugh so much that there was no doubt I had done well, really well. Usually I have my doubts.

A comic knows when he has done really well.

Everyone wants to talk to you. Everyone wants to touch you. One experienced comic tells you, unsolicited, “Your time has come”. Another tells you how professional you seemed.

Jeff Ross, the now-famous New York comic turned Roastmaster General of the United States, once told me that ‘you know how to bomb; you need to know how to kill’ – using the vernacular of comedy. That was maybe 13 years ago. I assume you all know what ‘bomb’ and ‘kill’ mean.

Well, I killed and it felt weird.

In the front row of last night’s show sat a big black man with one eye and a huge scar on the side of his head. He was wearing a stethoscope, a sling-shot and bells that tinkled as he walked.

He had been shot in the head, I found out later. This was on the edge of Brixton and the area was once rough. It all fell into place like a movie.

‘Hey, look at me’ he was saying. He was casting a pall on the entire show.

During the break, before my set, I went up to him at the bar, to judge if he was going to try and destroy my show, and to somehow mitigate any damage.

Pre-frontal lobotomy. Does anyone young know of them? Where part of a distressed mentally ill person’s brain was scraped out removing the site of excess emotion.

I knew one man who’d had a lobotomy. At least, I guessed he’d had one because he had the tell-tale horseshoe-shaped scar on his temple.

I had a summer job in a lawyers’ publication in Lower Manhattan when I was 17 or 18 and worked with him in the mailroom – back in the 70s. He would smile weakly all the time.

The man at the show had the same look as the mailroom guy. He wasn’t a brute, anymore. If he had ever been one. The bullet had made him genial.

I sensed the one-eyed man just wanted a good time, to ring his bells and have everyone pay a bit of attention to him.

Maybe that is why I’m funny now – consistently funny – or funny most of the time. I can look a man in his eye and know that he isn’t evil. I can know that he isn’t going to try to mess up my show.

All I had to do was ring his bells for him.

@lewisschaffer – twitter feed 

Lewis Schaffer’s American Guide to England
Leicester Square Theatre – £10
Sundays, March 3rd to April 21st 6 PM (except 7th April at 5PM)

Listen to Lewis Schaffer on the Radio Nunhead American Radio with Lewis Schaffer every Monday evening at 10:30PM on and 104.4fm London. Or listen to the show’s podcasts at 

See Lewis Schaffer live every Tuesday and Wednesday: Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous, The Source Below, 11 Lower John Street, London W1F 9TY. Come on down. Free admission. Or reserve at 


My Uncle Shimmy met Santa Claus in the North Pole.

16 Dec

12 Noon Sunday 16 December 2012 Nunhead Heights, London

My Uncle Shimmy met Santa Claus in the North Pole. Not only had he met Santa, but he was given a tour of Santa’s Workshop. 

I was a kid in the 1960s and my mother’s older brother, my Uncle Shimmy, was the family clown. 

He looked like Kramer from Seinfeld. He was like Kramer from Seinfeld. He would dance for strangers on the Coney Island Boardwalk, feed the ducks in Prospect Park with salami because he thought they wanted some meat with all the bread. He’d often buy groceries for poor people where he lived in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. He drove a delivery truck so he couldn’t have much money himself.

My father didn’t think much of my mother’s family, or anyone, for that matter. My father wasn’t a generous man. When Uncle Shimmy would visit us on Long Island my father would announce derisively, ‘Everybody! Santa Claus is here!’ 

Often my mother was in the hospital sick during the holidays, suffering from a ‘chemical imbalance’. Our holidays were often dark and lonely times.

Uncle Shimmy would bring me and my sister small gifts. He once gave me a P51 airplane model – worth about a dollar – which I cherished. Then, he’d look around to see if my father was listening, and when he was sure he wasn’t he’d tell us how he’d met Santa Claus.

He told us that in the 1950s he was working on the DEW Line – the ‘Distant Early Warning Line’. He was helping build the string of monitoring stations across Alaska, Canada and Greenland for NORAD that kept America safe from Russian attack. Americans were very afraid of the Russians during the Cold War.

The conditions were hellish – well, the opposite of hell – freezing. He was living and working in blinding snowstorms with temperatures so low that ordinary thermometers would crack. 

One morning he was flying around with his partner in the snow tractor hundreds of miles north of the Arctic Circle. A snow tractor was like a car with tracks like an army tank – able to ride on snow and ice. They hit a crevasse and crashed through the ice. Down into a hole they fell into Santa’s workshop like Alice in Alice in Wonderland.

Santa’s workshop wasn’t what they thought it would be like, he’d tell us.

‘Do you know the office your father works in at American Machine and Foundry in Manhattan?’ he asked. ‘It’s like that but bigger. There were hundreds of desks and phones, teletype machines, Rolodexes with thousands of names, IBM adding machines, typewriters, and a giant computer.’

Santa rushed out of his office to see him. He wasn’t even a man Uncle Shimmy told us. ‘He’ was a woman.

My sister and I would giggle, ‘Mommies don’t do stuff like that!’

‘Why can’t a woman be a Santa Claus? There were all sorts of people who were Santas. I saw the paintings and photographs of past Santa Clauses on the wall! Chinese Santas, young Santas. There was even a Negro Santa. Can you believe that? That was years before they let Jackie Robinson play for the Brooklyn Dodgers.’

You could sense the shame and anger he felt that his America wasn’t as fair as it should have been.

He’d continue, ’Santa was screaming at people at the workshop, “How could you have let this happen!? Why was the roof so weak!!” An angry Santa? True. She swore like a sailor!’

The Workshop roof had never had big snow tractors driving across it before. She calmed down and showed my Uncle and his partner around the place, down corridors and offices.

‘Did you see reindeer?’ I jumped in.

‘A few. They were kept as pets.’

‘What about elves?’ my sister demanded to know.

I didn’t even know what an elf was. We weren’t really raised with Christmas, except the presents. We didn’t even have a Christmas Tree. We got our presents on Hannukah because we were Jews but we knew we were getting presents because every boy and girl got presents in December because of Christmas.

‘No elves. People. Normal people were on the phones, calling around the world,’ he answered.

‘Did you see them make the toys?’ we quizzed him.

He laughed, ‘The toys were made in Japan!’

We laughed. That is where they made toys then. Now they’re made in China.

‘Well, what does Santa do if he… ummm … she… doesn’t make the toys, and if she doesn’t deliver the toys to nice boys and girls? And if he doesn’t have the elves helping him… I mean… helping her?’

Uncle Shimmy got serious, ‘Two thousand years ago there were only a few kids who wanted toys at Christmas – just a few Christian kids. He… she… could manage. But now? Now there are hundreds of million of Christian boys and girls. And today Jewish kids, Indian kids, even kids who don’t believe in God – expect presents! That’s BILLIONS of children!’

‘Do you think Santa has the time to make that many bicycles and dolls and games and then deliver them to all those kids? NO WAY!’

‘Well, what does he… she… do?’ we wanted to know.

‘She gets department stores to have regular people pretend to be Santa Claus. And she gets musicians to write funny songs about seeing Santa kissing mommy. You know all those ads with Santa Claus? That’s what she does. All so people don’t believe in Santa Claus.’

Outside the house Uncle Shimmy had his big brown van. He drove the van for living. My father was embarrassed for him. My father was a lawyer and almost all my friends’ dads worked in offices in Manhattan. I knew no one whose father drove a truck. That is something my parents left behind when they made money and moved to the suburbs from Brooklyn.

‘Is there a bicycle in there? Can I have a new bicycle?’

‘Not from me. Your Mommy and Daddy are getting you another bicycle,’ he whispered.

‘They have the money and even though your Mommy is sick and in the horse pistol, she loves you.’ Horse pistol is what he called the mental hospital my mom used to go to when he was chemically imbalanced – the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut. It’s still there.

‘I’m going to bring bicycles to a few children who don’t have mommies or daddies, or whose mommies and daddies are too poor to buy them presents, or whose mommies and daddies believe in Santa Claus and don’t think they have to get their children presents for Christmas.’

‘Are you Santa?’ we would ask Uncle Shimmy.

‘No, I’m just helping Santa,’ he gently shook his head. ‘Though if I’m very, very good maybe, one day, maybe I’ll get asked to be the Santa. That would be a great responsibility but a great honor.’

My father would sneer. ‘If he keeps this up he’s going to be the Santa in the horse pistol. And he’s going to get fired by the UPS for using their van without their permission.’

I knew I shouldn’t tell anyone or I would be making Santa’s job harder. I couldn’t keep a secret. I still can’t keep secrets. I only told my best friends, Clifford and Mark, what Uncle Shimmy had told me. They laughed at me and called me a baby for believing in Santa.

When I was eleven Uncle Shimmy stopped visiting us.

I’d ask my father if Uncle Shimmy would be coming back and my father would shrug his shoulders. First my mother went away, and now Uncle Shimmy.

The next year my father went out and bought toys and dolls and games from Gertz’s Department Store in Great Neck Plaza and the small toy shop next to the dry cleaners on Middle Neck Road.

My sister and I helped wrap them and load them into the Buick. We went to the scary rundown apartment buildings by the train station and gave them to the poor Black and Spanish families who lived there. On the way back home we stopped by the pond in Allenwood Park and my father gave us salami to feed the ducks.

‘We’re just helping Uncle Shimmy until he comes back,’ my father told us.


My friend Neil McLennan helped me tell this story.
@lewisschaffer – twitter feed

 Listen to Lewis Schaffer on the Radio Nunhead American Radio with Lewis Schaffer every Monday evening at 10:30PM on and 104.4fm London. Or listen to the show’s podcasts at

Restarting January 8th, 2013: See Lewis Schaffer live every Tuesday and Wednesday: Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous, The Source Below, 11 Lower John Street, London W1F 9TY. Come on down. Free admission. Or reserve at

Which is the most ungrateful nation of them all?

12 Dec

6 PM Wednesday 13th December 2012 Nunhead Heights

That poor Psy guy.

He’s on the ropes for singing some anti-American song in South Korea before he became all famous with his Gangnam Style video.

Now he’s trying to weasel out of it, I guess because there’s money to be made in the United States and he wants to meet the President.

I know the feeling. I wish I hadn’t trashed all the people I have trashed.

I owe the Comedy Store an apology as I realize I was wrong to blame them for killing live comedy and I would like to work there someday. More on this another time. 

It feels good to trash people and countries – especially if they are far away in a distant land. Watch me do it here. 

On the other hand, I have never, ever, met a Korean who hasn’t expressed some disdain toward the United States of America.

And if there is a country who should be kissing America’s butt, it is South Korea.

South Korea was created as part of the greatest experiment in the history of the world.

After World War Two, much of the world was divided up into two areas of control. Some countries went communist under the Soviet Union and the Red Chinese. Others were under America hegemony. And I have never, ever, written the word ‘hegemony’ before. I think it means control.

Romania went to the communists. Japan went to us. Poland went to them. Czechoslovakia went to them. Austria went to us. And so on.

Some nations were split in half.

Most of China went to the commies though a bit – Taiwan – went to the Americans. The northern half of Vietnam went to the Soviet commies, the southern half to us. The western half of Germany went to us and the eastern half to the communists.

The northern half of Korea went to the Soviet/Chinese  and the southern half went to the American team.

Vietnam didn’t maintain the experiment, and went all commie in 1974. China switched teams after forty years and achieved much in the last 30 years. Some countries, after initially going communist, changed tack and adopted the American system – like Britain. That’s a joke but somewhat serious.

The results of this experiment are clear:

Countries under the guidance of the United States have developed into rich, stable and mostly democratic regimes.

Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and West Germany, now just Germany, are the richest, most prosperous countries in the world.

Countries under the Soviet Union and the Chinese didn’t do that well: East Germany, North Korea, Bulgaria, and Russia and Red China, for that matter. 

Psy is not alone among Koreans.

I have met many Koreans – South Koreans, that is. The northerners aren’t allowed to travel, don’t have the money to travel, or are trapped in prison camps, even if they were allowed to.

I like Koreans. They come to my show in Soho – Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous – and they laugh as much as the next guy. That is more than I can say for Japanese people, for instance, who never, ever come to see my show. Screw the Japanese. 

During my show I often ask Koreans to say ‘Thank you, America’.

It’s one of my comedy ‘businesses’ and something that makes me the Best Comic in Britain. It educates the audiences about global relationships, shows how much I know, and makes people uncomfortable, which is my mission. 

The Times wrote “Where there is disorder, Lewis Schaffer creates chaos.” Actually, I wrote that. It’s true.

Do the Korean punters ever say ‘thank you’? I should say ‘Not’.

It is like they have never even been asked to consider thinking it. To the contrary. Every single South Korean expresses some bitterness toward the United States of America. If you’re Korean and you don’t have bitterness toward America, make a comment below.

Right now there are 30,000 American soldiers in harm’s way in Korea. Are they helping keep America safe? I don’t think so. Are they helping keep Korea safe so they can produce smart phones and cargo ships and who knows what else? Yes.

It would be nice, for once, to hear a loud ‘Thank you America” from the South Koreans. And sound like they mean it. Or at least stop being bitter. 

That’s easy for me to say. 

And no, I have NOT written this just because I am sick to death of hearing and seeing the Gangnam Style video.

@lewisschaffer – twitter feed 

Listen to Lewis Schaffer on the Radio Nunhead American Radio with Lewis Schaffer every Monday evening at 10:30PM on and 104.4fm London. Or listen to the show’s podcasts at 

Live shows begin 8 January 2013

See Lewis Schaffer live every Tuesday and Wednesday: Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous, The Source Below, 11 Lower John Street, London W1F 9TY. Come on down. Free admission. Or reserve at 



My best night in comedy was spent with a blind soldier in a basement in Soho.

3 Nov

5 PM Saturday 3rd November 2012 Nunhead Heights

Last week, a blind man came to my show in Soho, Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous. My show is the longest-running solo stand up comedy show in London and maybe even the entire UK. You name another and I will take back that assertion.

The Blind Guy was lead to the front row by the woman he was with.

So I am doing my show, not that it is much of a show. It’s just me, messing about. Not even ‘messing about’, cause that would imply that I’m relaxed. I’m never relaxed.

I’m having flashbacks to the wheelchair people at the Pleasance Courtyard in Edinburgh last August. I said the wrong thing and the wheelchair people walked out – rolled out, actually. It wasn’t pleasant. You can read about that here.

My mind also raced to the time in New York in the 1990s when the dead-old guy took off his hat and showed everyone in the Boston Comedy Club audience a hole of blood in the middle of his bald head. I was MCing (compering) and was transfixed by the ugliness of it and didn’t say a thing, making it worse for everyone.

It turned out the open sore was just the round red label from his rain hat that had stuck onto his smooth head skin. I should have asked him ‘What’s with the hole in your head, old guy?’ and found out before I crumbled on stage.

I’ve been feeling down about what I do. I am getting absolutely nowhere in comedy. I’ve got only 1347 twitter followers and that is as an objective a measure as any.

So I start telling my jokes. I’ve decided I’m gonna have to call up every minute of comedy experience to get through this night. Forget about art or genius – I need to make this bearable for the people here. ‘Please don’t make it one of those nights that half the audience leaves at the intermission,’ I prayed.

The Blind Guy is not going to understand everything. In my show I talk to the audience and get them to talk to each other, and even though I am not French mime Marcel Marceau or the American clown-comic Dr. Brown, what I do is very visual.

So I translate everything for the Blind Guy. ‘That girl is pretty and those guys look like cops, and the table of girls are scowling at me…’ et cetera. It’s funny, I guess.

Then I realize: It isn’t fair.

So I put out the stage lights and blew out the candles on the tables. Now we were all in the dark, together.

And I did my act in the dark, which isn’t easy to do even in the light, and which isn’t much of an act. We had a laugh for about ten minutes while I flailed about. Then I turned the lights back on and then the rest of show was pure fun. And was extremely pleased with myself that I did that.

I got an email from his Jewish woman minder a couple of days later.

It turns out the man was a soldier who had lost his sight fighting. She was helping him make a transition back into the world and this was his first night out in two years, since he lost his sight.

I won’t say where but he was fighting for the rights of women to sit with men in a dark nightclub in Soho and drink alcohol and listen to lost New York Jews in late-midlife crisises.

The lovely woman asked me not to post her email so I won’t. I don’t think it would be giving anything away to quote a line or two:

‘If you are ever at a loss to understand why you do what you do or if you should keep on doing it, I hope you will remember us and feel affirmed.

There is a rabbinic story which says that the pious must not think that clowns are unworthy of a place in the World to Come because their work is not real work. Indeed Hashem [God] has said that those who spend their lives cheering the souls of others will find their place first in heaven.’

I don’t know what else to say.

Contribute to the Poppy Appeal. The British Legion 

@lewisschaffer – twitter feed

Listen to Lewis Schaffer on the Radio Nunhead American Radio with Lewis Schaffer every Monday evening at 10:30PM on and 104.4fm London. Or listen to the show’s podcasts at

See Lewis Schaffer live every Tuesday and Wednesday: Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous, The Source Below, 11 Lower John Street, London W1F 9TY. Come on down. Free admission. Or reserve at

Ours fingers are covered in human poo.

28 Oct

8 PM Sunday 28th October 2012 Nunhead Heights

According to a BBC report ‘Handwashing: Why are the British so bad at washing their hands?’ up to a quarter of Britons have fecal material [poo] on their fingers. Research was done to promote the UN’s Global Handwashing Day.

I don’t believe that the British are more unclean than most other people. The contrary is probably true.

I can count on my very clean fingers the number of public toilets in Britain which didn’t have soap available. Many even put out expensive and very stealable liquid soap bottles. I bet that filthy loo in Trainspotting has soap.

You can’t say that about American public toilets.

Most American public toilets ‘boast’ horrible metal pump numbers that are either clogged or empty, and you wind up jamming your fingers up the spout or scraping dripped soap away from the sink, and sometimes even that isn’t successful.

Having said that, by saying American public toilets frequently don’t have soap and by admitting to have lived in America and to having used those toilets implies that you, too, walked out of those toilets with soiled fingers.

It is akin to saying you worked with Jimmy Savile [UK TV presenter being exposed], and you knew all about Jimmy Savile, you, too, must have dirty fingers.

The British can report that kind of disparaging news about their own people because they don’t like their fellow British people very much.

First, and not to open up this complicated question too much, the UK is a nation divided by nation, city, region, race, religion and class.

But even of one of the constituent nations of Britain, England, I can say that the English don’t particularly like other English people.

Englishness resides in the heart and mind of each Englishman. It isn’t a place or a people but the way of the beholder’s life. And an Englishman doesn’t think other English people are as English as he is, or at all.

He will call the Queen a ‘German’. And if the Queen isn’t English, who is?

We Americans boast that ‘America is the greatest country in the world’, not ‘Americans are the greatest people in the world’. Americans, for example, don’t go around thinking they are more ‘American’ than other American. To use an extreme example, I have never heard a white person say that a black American is less American than he is.

No Englishman hearing that English fingers are stinky believes that his fingers are stinky.

Feces on the fingers is a problem that comes from urbanization and industrialization.

Because of plumbing we are able to live in cities. We don’t go off to poo in a field. We defecate into drinking-grade water – at a time when a fifth of the world is without pure drinking water – and then send that polluted water out to hitherto clean rivers and seas. All handled industrially. And we are proud of this because that is what the Romans did.

Then we wipe the excess feces away from our bottoms with soft, easily breakable paper – a recent invention – using either of our two hands.

And to cap it off, we expect OTHERS to clean this toxic waste from their fingers with soap – a manufactured chemical product which is not always available in time of need. We know we always do a good job of it ourselves.

No wonder that a tenth to a quarter of the population have shit on their fingers. And no wonder that those hands touch the food we eat, holds our bank notes, credit cards and phones and greet other people in our ritual of hand shaking.

Not me, of course. And not you. But others.

Yes, we should wash our hands more frequently.

But maybe the primitives had it right. They didn’t have toilet paper or soap. They were taught to use one hand to eat and greet and the other hand deal with the unmentionable. And the Romans used a sponge on a stick.

I hope this isn’t a load of shit. Tell me if you think it is.

@lewisschaffer – twitter feed

Listen to Lewis Schaffer on the Radio Nunhead American Radio with Lewis Schaffer every Monday evening at 10:30PM on and 104.4fm London. Or listen to the show’s podcasts at

See Lewis Schaffer live every Tuesday and Wednesday: Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous, The Source Below, 11 Lower John Street, London W1F 9TY. Come on down. Free admission. Or reserve at

iPhones and umbrellas. It’s not stealing if you find one.

27 Oct

12:18 AM Saturday 27 October 2012 Nunhead Heights

I have just lost my phone.

Good, proper, lost. It is either one or two places and they are not there. I’ve gone back and looked. If someone returns it I will give them £50. Or should that be £100? That is the bargaining. Or is that the denial because the phone isn’t coming back. How is the finder of my phone supposed to know where to return it?

I should have put my phone number or email address on the back. Too late.

The five stage of grief by Kubler-Ross. Or are there six? That was two of them. Bargaining and denial.

I have just called O2 to put a block on the phone. That is a sign of acceptance that the phone is not coming back and is probably in the hands of evil-doers calling Egypt or Pakistan or Russia.

Maybe I should look again in the rucksack which I have looked through twice? Just checked. Now three times. Not there.

Maybe I gave to my son when I was transferring my things from my rucksack? He hasn’t brought it over and he didn’t answer the phone when my friend Jane called. And why would he have taken it without telling me? He would have given me that knowing, naughty, giving-away-the-secret smile he is famous for.

God, this is an empty feeling.

The feeling of loss is weighing on my chest. This tragedy and the money I had stolen from my luggage in Edinburgh this summer. And the other ‘lost’ phone I had nicked about six years ago. And that I let my car engine block freeze up. Plonker.

The Stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then acceptance. Kubler-Ross left out the big one: bankruptcy.

This failure is going to cost me a fortune of wasted British Pounds. I have to get an iphone. I am an iphone person. I am the slightly more pretentious version of the council house tenant who has Sky TV. I have to get an iphone.

And they don’t call it ‘Pounds Sterling’ anymore. Why is that? When did that happen? Why am I thinking about that at this time?

My mind is all questions.

Maybe it is where I got into the car? I was holding it in my hand and when I went into Jane’s car for her to give my son Carnegie and me a lift back from Forest Hill. I didn’t check that side of the street. Should I bicycle back there in the rain and cold and dark? She did call the phone and I would have heard it ring had it from across the street. Wouldn’t I?

Why didn’t I hook up that app – I had that app – the Find-My-Iphone app? Too difficult to understand and to keep on and I have heard the police do nothing if you tell them you have found it’s location.

Why wasn’t I paying attention to my phone!?

Two people I know had found iPhones and didn’t try to find the owners.

I told them both it wasn’t right for them to keep them but I didn’t do more than that. I should have taken a strong stance! I was staring at MY iPhone in their hands. What goes around comes around and all that.

I checked where I got out of the car, where Jane dropped us off. I move aside the leaves. Nothing.

In a flash I thought: Maybe I left it on the counter of the news agents when I bought the newspapers – the Telegraph and ‘ I ‘. Don’t judge me, Britain. I picked up the Guardian yesterday and the day before that the Times. I refused to be judged by the newspapers I read.

I asked the weak-looking shopkeeper:

Have you found a phone just now? And the clerk’s reply was ‘I don’t think so’.

‘Don’t think so’!?

Wouldn’t you know if you just, within twenty minutes, found a phone? Even if it were the cheapest phone I think you’d remember. And mine was an iPhone 4S. I didn’t say this.

What can I do? Jump behind the counter and search the house that lays behind the shop? I may be wrong. Forgive me if I am wrong.

Twenty minutes later I’m resigned.

‘I’ll get a new phone tomorrow.’ I tell myself.

Then I panic again. I must change my passwords! I swing into action. I’ve changed my passwords. But I remember the stand-up shows I’ve ‘taped’ or whatever they call it. Damn Apple for making it almost impossible to download ‘voice notes’ or whatever they call it. Damn you arrogant Apple! I’ve lost a lot. But it is just me. And I am no Lenny Bruce and comedy gold.

I speak to my flatmate who has just come in. Coincidentally, he informs me, his phone is broken.

I don’t care! I feel guilty I’m not sympathetic to him in his moment of need.

Fidel is up on all things current. He works in the dole office and sees life on the ground floor and below. And he’s a Southwark boy.

‘Do you have insurance?’

No, of course not. It is £10 a month or £240 a year and who pays half of the cost of something in insurance? Would you pay £15,000 insurance over two years for a £30,000 car?

I have another flash: I will put up posters on trees offering a reward for the phone.

He laughs, again.

Should I make a stink with the newsagents? They have it. I am almost sure of it.

‘Let it go. That is how so and so [mentions someone we both know] got his iphone. So and so had lost his Samsung phone and then he found an iPhone and that’s how it works.’

Indiana comic Jim Gaffigan entered my mind. I remember a comedy bit he did 20 years ago, before he was famous and rich. How it is okay to not to search for the owners of lost umbrellas. Umbrellas are just passed around the universe. It was funny.

I ask my flatmate, Fidel:

‘Could an £500 iphone with a person’s work, all their contacts and apps and music, be treated the same as a £3 (three pound) umbrella?’

He smiled.

Yes, lost phones are reunited with their owners in Britain. I left my phone in the dressing room at the Edinburgh Fringe last August and it was returned to me. And misplaced phones are probably returned every day in South London and Nunhead, too.

But it is possible that an lost iPhone now belongs to the universe.

@lewisschaffer – twitter feed

Listen to Lewis Schaffer on the Radio Nunhead American Radio with Lewis Schaffer every Monday evening at 10:30PM on and 104.4fm London. Or listen to the show’s podcasts at

See Lewis Schaffer live every Tuesday and Wednesday: Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous, The Source Below, 11 Lower John Street, London W1F 9TY. Come on down. Free admission. Or reserve at

I witness a fairy tale of New York – 1986

21 Oct

7 AM Sunday 21st October 2012 Nunhead Heights

Christmas Eve back in 1986 I was hanging at my local, the Great Jones Café. The Jones was the best bar in New York. I went to high school with the owners and would drink there with the young movie star Matt Dillon, who used the Jones as one of his locals. Actually, Matt Dillon hung in every bar south of 14th Street. I’m name-dropping. Sorry.

That night I was trying to keep up with my friend Ben [not his actual name] who was a proper alkie. He once he went on a binge so bad his skin turned translucent and he looked dead.

We were celebrating a good year.

He had pulled off some big boiler room penny stock scams on unsuspecting Americans and was flush. I didn’t really know they were scams at the time or so I told myself. I was working and making money. I had had few failures at that point.

A drunken English or Irish musician couple joined us. I didn’t know the difference between the English and the Irish then and didn’t care.

They must have been playing at CBGBs around the corner on the Bowery and had stumbled into the Jones. I could tell they were junkies. There were a lot of junkies in the East Village back then. Ben didn’t care. He wanted someone who got buzzed as much as he did and I wasn’t up to his speed.

The muso guy had disgusting rotten teeth and bad skin, just like I expected of an Englishman. He told me that he 29, as I was, but looked 50. And he was wearing sunglasses in the middle of night – like a schmuck. The girl was pretty but out of her head.

At closing, which came early because of Christmas, Ben offered to take the two of them to his place on Third Street to do more drinking and drugging. I had been with Ben before in this situation and knew that I would get no joy with those odds.

On the street, the English couple were all over each other and not in a good way. She called him a ‘punk’ and a ‘bum’. The dude snarled back that she was ‘old’ and a ‘slut’ and that she’d been in the hospital ‘on a drip’, almost dead. I guess from heroin but who knew.

At times she seemed desperate to get away from the guy. She would scream that she was ditching him and that it’ll be ‘their last Christmas together’. Then she’d want to know if they were going to score more drugs and be trying to kiss him.

My friend, Ben, was so drunk he tried to force his way into the Hell’s Angels club house, which he mistook for his building. It got ugly as the Angels poured out and began beating him up.

I wasn’t going to be a hero by trying to save that drunken fool from the bikers. I grabbed the couple and ushered them across the street and saved them. That is a heroic as I come.

Luckily the NYPD happened to be driving down the street, saw the fracas and calmed the Angels down. They called an ambulance for Ben and let the bikers go back to doing whatever Hells Angels do.

The English couple had gone back to war with each other, oblivious to the cops, the neighbors, everyone. They were punching and grabbing each other. Flailing and cursing. Waking the few people on the block who were asleep.

In an instant, it seemed, the police banged the three of us into the squad car and took us to the Ninth Precinct station on Fifth Street. That’s the station they used as a location for Kojak. New York is a movie set.

I was able to talk my way out of custody since I’m a middle class white guy who fears The Man. They put the dude into the holding cell off the booking desk to sober up – there was no ‘drunk tank’ – but it still wasn’t pleasant from what I could see and smell. They let his girlfriend sit it out in the booking area.

I decided I had done my part for these two losers and walked back home in the early light of Christmas, only to see some cop band playing Irish Christmas songs. New York is incredible, that way.

My maiden aunt used to say ‘You never know what goes on between couples behind bedroom doors’. She would repeat that every time my mom and dad fought. My parent fought a lot.

It’s a different time now.

We wouldn’t tolerate the kind of physical or emotional violence toward women today that the English dude showed is girlfriend. Or even what she showed him. Social workers and counselors called. Prosecutions for ‘Harrassment – Fear of Violence’ or whatever they do in New York would be made. Restraining orders issued. Who knows what else. And rightly so.

One more thing I remember. On the way into the cell I remember him crying out to his girlfriend ‘I could have been someone!’

She snapped back ‘Well, so could anyone!’

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Lewis Schaffer

Nunhead American Comedian

SO IT GOES - John Fleming's blog

John Fleming’s blog: human interest, humour, humor, comedy blog featuring eccentricity, performance, movies and occasionally a few tears

Nunhead Nags

A blog about Nunhead regeneration

Lewis Schaffer

Nunhead American Comic

Lewis Schaffer

Nunhead American Comedian

SO IT GOES - John Fleming's blog

John Fleming’s blog: human interest, humour, humor, comedy blog featuring eccentricity, performance, movies and occasionally a few tears

Nunhead Nags

A blog about Nunhead regeneration

Lewis Schaffer

Nunhead American Comic