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My film – Written, Directed, Filmed, and Edited by Jonathan Schwab, without any editorial input or control by Lewis Schaffer.

2 Feb

2 February 2013 Saturday Nunhead Heights

Two days ago I was in a panic over Jonathan Schwab’s film. I didn’t want anyone to see it.

The film makes me look fat, sweaty, failed, still failing, and small time. In other words, it is realistic.

See the film here until 7th February when it will be withdrawn for film festival entry. Lewis Schaffer / Free until Famous by Jonathan Schwab.

At one point, the filmmaker, a German, filmed me bending over to pick up coins that had fallen on the floor of my Soho venue. Coins that were given to me at the end of my ‘free’ show. I predict that someday the scene will be used in anti-Semitic propaganda films. If I didn’t know the filmmaker Jonathan Schwab, I would have thought he was being evil.

I am filmed saying my life is ‘tragic’. My life isn’t any more tragic than any one who has squandered a million opportunities and accomplished little. But there I was, saying ‘I’m tragic’.

Most people who have seen the film think it’s amazing. The FILM is amazing.

Amazing in the same way a David Attenborough footage of a whale chasing a seal is amazing. I wouldn’t want to be seen as either the harassing whale or the harassed seal. The whale is never invited to pick up the Bafta (Emmy, in the USA) with Attenborough. The seal, sadly, is dead, and couldn’t attend even if he wanted to.

But this isn’t the film I would have made.

One good friend, though, comic John Monty Smith of Newcastle, felt that viewers who didn’t know me would think I was desperate and pity me.

Lewis, he told me, ‘your story about moving to the UK and fucking up but now you’re on your way back, about Stewart Lee saying he was a little bit envious of you. Tell a couple of jokes and show how you’ve done 300 gigs in the same venue and you’re getting good reviews and are consistent. Maybe talk about your living conditions, etc.’

The narrative John proposed would be good if a filmmaker came up with it himself. One filmmaker, who I won’t name, did.

He had filmed one of the most successful comedians in the world, around the world, and set out to make such a film about my comeback. Up from death to finish the race. He filmed me a few times, seeing me die horribly under the pressure, and never called me again.

He probably ran because the story line isn’t true, no matter how many times I’ve postulated it. I wanted everyone to believe I was ‘coming back’ and I wanted to believe it, too.

I wasn’t a somebody when I was in New York to come back to. I haven’t changed all that much as comic, in the past 20 years. I am not any more consistent.

The only difference is that the comedy industry or the comedy community – which isn’t industrious or a community – have gotten used to my inconsistency and now seem to enjoy it. Their appreciation has given me the confidence to be even more inconsistent.

If I did have total control over a film about me it would be a bland as those BBC FOUR documentaries which are produced by the artist’s own company – the Bon Jovi film comes to mind – ‘When We Were Beautiful’.

Self-authored films can only be mildly interesting because they never get down and dirty.

‘Why, Mr Bongiovi’, I wanted the film to ask, ‘do you insist on pretending that Bon Jovi is a band of brothers when you own the entire lot and the others just work for you?’

There are alot of those kind of moments in my film. I mean, Jonathan Schwab’s film. 

Now I am in a panic that not everyone who matters is going to see me in MY film.

Lewis Schaffer / Free until Famous by Jonathan Schwab.

*Stewart Lee, for my American readers, is one of the two or three most respected comics in the Britain, and a leader of the new comedy generation, if there can be a leader of that. He name checked me in his latest DVD and did not trash me, which was really nice. Then again, I wasn’t asked to be on his TV show for ‘alternative’ comedians.]

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Why English men dress so poorly.

10 May

11:59pm Thursday 10 May 2012 On the Eastern Branch of the Northern Line – Bank

Sherlock Holmes could tell that the old man had lost the love of his wife because his felt hat was caked in candle wax. I guess it was woman’s work back then to remove wax from a man’s hat. Ah, the good old days.

I am on my way to a gig in an ill-fitting, over-worn, unintentionally shiny suit. In New York I would never have gone out of the house like this. Here, I think: No one will notice or no one will care. Or I don’t care. 

Whom can I blame for my degradation?

Old men don’t seem to care how they look. They shave only parts of our faces – mysteriously missing huge growths around their necks and the hair coming out of their noses. They look like an exotic chickens. That’s not me, yet, I still shave nicely, but I have to watch myself. And I am not old! That comes at 59. I read that yesterday: Old comes at 59.

Can I blame England for my degradation?

When I first moved here I searched for a laundry to starch my shirts the New York-way. Hand ironed shirts would not do anywhere in Manhattan. They can make cotton Oxford cloth shirts as smooth as plastic. I couldn’t find one a laundry in East Dulwich/Nunhead to do it. I have to iron my own shirts.

The English, with their distrust of new money, abhor the flash that comes with new money. Flash, as in a new suit. Prince Charles, his Highness [he does look high with that “How long am I going to have to wait for Mummy to die” look.]  wears suits that are 30 years old. One shouldn’t have to buy new anything is the upper class ethos, because one should inherit it. I read that one English politician put down another with the insult “He had to buy his own furniture.”

You can still get points for looking like you don’t care. Take Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.  No one is as foppish or as messy as he is without effort. His hair is of unchanging length and color. Robert Redford is the same with his hair, but Redford makes his hair look amazing at 75 plus which is why he’s never won an Academy Award – he refuses to make himself ugly. [Only the beautiful who make them ugly win the awards.] Not that I can throw rocks when my glass house is L’Oreal Creme Gloss Natural Dark Brown.

English school boys are kitted out in ill-fitting polyester suits with sleeves and trouser legs too long or too short – bought three sizes to large to last and kept long after they’ve reached their right size. And their horrendous white plastic shirts with clip on ties that hang either down to their knees or don’t reach their belly buttons. Children are raised here to be comfortable being poorly attired. No wonder top business people here look like low-paid security guards in New York.

The dressing of a three-year-old in an over-sized black suit, tie, clunky black shoes and carrying a briefcase has the additional benefit of confusing perverts into thinking that’s not a child on the way to school but a small businessman on the way to the office.

Italian boys wear smocks and American children their own clothes to school and look at how amazing they look.

Fashion sense is such a problem in England the road agencies have taken to paint every street corner the words “Look Right!” New York comic Moody McCarthy pointed that out to me.

Okay, my shirts aren’t perfectly starched but I’m fighting going native. My not-perfect suit is making me squirm. My audience doesn’t want to see an mess of me, me thinks. They want to see a strong, powerful American man on stage who represents a strong, powerful America – the America that will come to England’s aid when the Germans come again. And the Germans are coming again – only they won’t be called “Germans” but “Europeans”.

And my audience needs to see a successful Lewis Schaffer so they can fling their derision at me without guilt and feel they are battling the giant and not the victim. My show is a form of panto; only the bad guy is in front of them and not behind them. The audience needs to believe that what I am telling them is probably a joke. “He’s doing fine! Don’t worry about him!”  But will they think that if I am wearing a four-year-old suit?

So that’s why I’m the best comic in England. Because I’m going to go out a buy a new suit even if I can get away with an old one. And I know how to wear one. And I am going clean the wax from hat and look for a new wife who’ll do it next time. You can’t drive the New York out of me. I’m not English yet.

>>>>

The English are fond of the very subtle insult masked as a friendly joke – the kind that Reg Hunter says takes you three weeks to realise the guy was really insulting you. That kind of insult is called, in British English, “gervasing”. Ironically, it’s not named after Ricky Gervais but after Gervase, the soft French cream cheese. Bet you didn’t know that!

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Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous in Soho
Every Tuesday & Wednesday 8pm Free Admission
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www.resonancefm.com 104.4fm London
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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