Tag Archives: grinning idiot

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See the film here until 7th February when it will be withdrawn for film festival entry.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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Every Sunday from March 3rd. 6PM. £10 ($16)

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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 


I go out on my first all-day British-style drinking day – and love it.

4 Jun

12 Noon Bank Holiday Monday 4 June 2012 Heading Back to London

I decided to stay over in Newcastle which worked out because my return ticket was for the wrong date, anyway. I had purchased the wrong ticket again. It’s impossible for me not to mess up on an early morning ticket.

Yesterday, Phil or Andy, Englishmen, asked me what the word “schmuck” meant, and how it was used. I had ready example.

I was feeling guilty about staying in Newcastle. I would be missing Queen’s Diamond Jubilee flotilla on the Thames and street parties in Nunhead. The kids are in France with the mother so I was only letting myself down, but still. On the other hand, I don’t want to seem to support the monarchy, either.

Instead, I did something truly British: The all-day drinking session. Geordie’s call it “going on the hoy”.

The British love sitting inside a pub on a cold day drinking with mates. They love sitting outside a pub on a warm day drinking with mates. They love drinking with mates anywhere.

I’ve lived in England for 12 years and I’ve never spent the day drinking.  I don’t really like to drink and couldn’t see the point of just hanging around a pub all day. I have better things to do. Napping. Worrying. Etc.

Drinking in America is guilt-ridden, giggly and gleeful. It is a sin and most everyone knows it. That is what makes it fun. And there is always a competitive purpose to drinking in America: Who can get the drunkest, the fastest, the cheapest. Or who can you get drunk??

Here it’s different.

John Monty Smith, my friend, the comic, [and the guy who gets me more work than any other as the organizer of  The Grinning Idiot comedy shows] and I started with a shandy at 1:00 pm at a David Kennedy’s, then moved to the Cluny, the Cumberland and ended up at the New Bridge where Callum was running a pub quiz. I drank seven or eight pints in nine hours and did little else except chat with John and his friends, the two Andys and Phil. Andy Bourne is a friend of mine from Edinburgh and Newcastle who has seen my Free until Famous a few times.

Here in England people drink to get a buzz on. It’s to make one more sociable and to make others more bearable, or even more delightful, at least for a few hours.

It’s like dancing. There’s no end point – just through points. You don’t dance to reach the end of the song and one doesn’t drink in this country to get through the bottle.

My seven or eight pints would be like two six-packs plus a few extra bottles in America – actually more since English beer is at least 25% stronger than your typical Bud.

And since everyone is drinking the same amount, everyone is sharing the cost, everyone is just hanging out, it is a very collegial way to spend one’s time.

By the time I went home at 11, I ended up a bit buzzed, very tired, with two new friends and a closer relationship with my mates John and Andy. A totally lovely day unlike anything I’ve ever done. Weird that.

It did end a bit ugly: pub quiz. Our team came in tied for second amid speculation that the winning team cheated. iPhones and google will be the death of pub quizzes.

@lewisschaffer on twitter

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Done in by the 24 hour clock, again

25 Mar

11 AM Sunday 25  March 2012 Nunhead

There are people who spill coffee on others and there are people who get coffee spilled on themselves, according to Leo Rosten of the Joy of Yiddish. I fit into both categories.

Having dumped an entire pot of cafe Americano on the nice people of Morpeth, Northumberland, Friday evening, I had to go back into the land Harry Potter and try again.

Alnwick is the home of the Duke of Northumberland and his Castle. Alnwick is just up the road from Morpeth. I’ve been told this was where major parts of Harry Potter were filmed.

Harry Potter, the character, is very un-English because Harry has to learn how to be a wizard and isn’t just born that way – at least that is what I think the books and the movies are about, having never read the books or seen the movies. The English way is “to the manor born” which is very, very, un-American. It is a bit distasteful here to actually really want to be anything, even a wizard or a Duke.

The Duke was born with the Castle and every Englishman is judged on whether he passes on to his son what he was given by his father. No Bill Gates or Andrew Carnegies giving their fortune away in England. By English standards, I’m set to be a success as I’m on track to die broke with a tax liability, just like my father.  Bernard Manning once sneered at me that I “was going to die broke” – but that is another story.

What makes England okay is that I can trash the place and the people the English people don’t give a toss, as they say. Half of England will agree with me and the other half will look down on me for not being an Englishman – or agree with me and look down on me.

Back to my point: Alnwick is pronounced like “panic”.  I know why. Last year I had a gig in the town and at 12 noon of the day I realised I couldn’t find my train ticket from London.  My choice: Buy a new one at a billion dollars, full fare, drive the 600 miles in my H Reg VW [new in 1991] with petrol prices sky high, or call in sick. Guess which one I did?

Last night a similar tragedy occurred. Those who know me know that I am not good with military time  – or as it is called “the 24-hour-clock”.  Real people don’t say “meet you at 8 PM” and neither should anyone else.

In 2010, I put the wrong show time in the Edinburgh Fringe program because I misread military time and said my show was at 17:30 instead of 7:30. People turned up for a show at 5:30 PM and I had no venue. I took my show into the street in front of the Central Mosque. I thought of it as “payback” time.

Yesterday, I so distraught over my debacle in Morpeth that I didn’t fully check train times.  I thought the gig arranger – John Monty Smith of Grinning Idiot – would arrange it. I call him “John Smith of Grinning Idiot” because he is named “John Smith”.  Half the country is named “John Smith”. What is the point of a name if every has the same one? What if they gave out the same phone numbers for everyone?

I thought the train was at 10:49 PM so I killed an hour-plus in Alnwick and then I took a cab to the station [10£] and waited on the desolate platform in Alnmouth in the freezing Harry Potter- type fog for a train that wasn’t coming. The train was due at 10:49 AM – the train schedule apps and sites leave off the AM and PMs so it wasn’t only my fault. Damn military time.  Why didn’t the cabbie tell me there was no train coming at that hour? Later I asked him, while searching for a cab to get out of there, and he told me saw me fiddling with my iPhone and thought I knew something he didn’t. That is the power of the iPhone.

Also on the platform was a Geordie man who missed his stop in Newcastle because he was in the train loo when the train entered the station. Obviously, he was an older man – my age – cause young men don’t take that long to pee. I know.

I find out Mr Pee Guy was on a man’s birthday bash bender in York: Ten English guys going to another town to get pissed on a Saturday night. What English men are allowed to do, and/or need to do, and/or just want to do, to get away from the missus is shocking for this New Yorker. On a Saturday night? Ten guys? Imagine ten New York dudes going to Philadelphia just to drink? I don’t even have five friends. Two friends. One? And to drink? And why Philadelphia?

After a desperate hour of begging for a cab we shared a 60£ [75$] ride into Newcastle and I connected with my ride home to Nunhead. The debacle cost me an extra 40£ plus 700 extra calories for the 12 inch meatball Subway I ate in Alnwick [£5] and the three hours of dead time in the cold of a late March in Northern England.

But it could have been worse. I could have spilled coffee on the good people of Alnwick as I did the night before in Morpeth. I didn’t. My gig at the lovely Alnwick Playhouse went well, befitting my title of the Best Comic in England.

Maybe I wasn’t punished that badly because of the time I drove up to Alnwich because had lost my train ticket?

Anyway, in a week, the coffee stains will have faded and I won’t remember that I should never, ever go back to Alnwick.


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 www.bit.ly/NunheadAmericanRadio

See Lewis Schaffer live every Tuesday and Wednesday at the Source Below. Free admission. Reserve at http://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