Tag Archives: best comic in england

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 www.resonancefm.com and 104.4fm London. Or listen to the show’s podcasts at bit.ly/NunheadAmericanRadio 

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 bit.ly/londonfreeshow 


Why I’m the best comic in England – Part 3 – I did my show without my belt

4 Apr

4 AM Wednesday 4 April 2012 Nunhead

If you want to waste an evening at a comedy show sit in the back. You won’t enjoy it. It’s like going to an orgy and watching from the kitchen.

Last night was one of those nights when I thought everyone was sitting in the kitchen, including myself.

I turned up at the Source Below without my suit belt. Forgetting my belt meant I hadn’t gone through even the most cursory of checks before I left the house for my show Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous – which meant I wasn’t nervous about the show – which meant something bad was going to happen. The Power of Worry – worry prevents tragedy – I hadn’t been worrying – and I got nervous.

So I don’t have a belt – and I didn’t bring my raincoat and it started raining in Soho – first time in weeks – and I need to meet people at the door – and not just because the club is basically a black doorway on the smallest street in London – the one-block-long Lower John Street – which people often miss altogether and go to Lower James Street – one street away – I need to meet my audience before the show so I am not afraid of them.

Yes – afraid – that is why I cannot perform into darkness because I think the worst – I think they hate me. I need to meet them then see their faces.

Not one person coming in tonight has seen me before – which is unusual – some have come because friends recommended me or because of Time Out or from the newspapers. I don’t have any support – I thought.

I have a new bartender downstairs. Stefano isn’t there. Where is Stefano?? And the two pretty and poshy English women barely look at me on the way in – did I mention them? I have a problem with fancy people in this country. The American in me hates them.

Downstairs, no one is sitting in the front row. The blonde women sit in the back. So no belt, and the numbers were low. I don’t want to say how low – 20. There, I said it. 20 on a wet Tuesday in spring.

I only write about comedy when things go bad. Like when I died in Morpeth or when I had ten punters in last week on the first nice day of the year. I don’t write about the good gigs – because good is boring and I don’t trust it. Jeffrey Ross – the Roastmaster General of the Friars Club in America – once told me that I know how to “die” – I need to learn how to “kill”. That was 12 years ago – at least. He is famous in America now.

I lie. We had 17. Why do I lie then tell the truth? 17.

There is a saying that a butterfly flaps its wings in China and the knock-on effect is that I have a bad show.

Now I am on stage – or what passes for a stage at the Source – and I am not feeling my belt and I am not feeling the love. Young men wear belts to keep their trousers up. Old men wear belts to keep their stomachs up. I need my belt. I am having a bad show.

Where is this going? Where it always goes:

Let me tell you why I am the best comic in England:

It is not because I refused to give up and let the show die. The best comics fight to the end – Phil Nichol or Michael McIntyre or Dave Attell – they don’t give up. It is not because my jokes are better than other comics – because I barely tell the jokes I have and barely tell them the right way or in the right order. And it isn’t because I am the most confident comic – having done this comedy thing for 19 years – the opposite is true.

I am the best comic in England because I am not confident but honest. I told the audience I was having a bad night – I was struggling with my demons – and that I wasn’t feeling their love. And I am doing this in a room with no support.

And I told them that I understood that they were having a bad night, too.

They had chosen to spend their free time on an unknown comedian who met them on the street screeching “Source Below – Comedy Show?” – A post-middle-aged disaster-of-a-man buried in doubt and fear.

They were directed though a dark side-passage – past the slippery-from-chicken-fat preparation area of the kebab shop – down a dark stairs into a barely lit room with two Ikea-style lamps with aluminium foil – aluminum foil, damn it – illuminating the “stage”. Once there the bar was offering Soho-priced drinks to a people enticed by the word “free”.

It took all of my skills to make everyone in that room – except for the two blonde posh women and another couple who were sitting in the back who left during the break – and who I hope die in a freak asteroid storm on the way to see Lee Evans at the O2 – I made everyone in that room – including myself – realize we were all in this together – after a typically dodgy start – and for that night at least – and we had a good laugh – and won – for that night.

I thought we won. We had gotten out of the kitchen.


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

See Lewis Schaffer live every Tuesday and Wednesday at the Source Below. Free admission. Reserve at bit.ly/londonfreeshow

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