Tag Archives: john smith

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See the film here until 7th February when it will be withdrawn for film festival entry.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.]

New Shows at the Leicester Square Theatre
Lewis Schaffer’s American Guide to England
Every Sunday from March 3rd. 6PM. £10 ($16)

@lewisschaffer – twitter feed 

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

Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous in Soho
Every Tuesday & Wednesday 8pm Free Admission
Reserve at www.sourcebelow.com

Nunhead American Radio with Lewis Schaffer
Every Monday 10:30pm
http://www.resonancefm.com 104.4fm  London
On iTunes www.bit.ly/NunheadAmericanRadio

Why I’m the best comic in England

24 Mar

11 AM Saturday 24 March 2012 Newcastle

This blog hasn’t been much of a diary. When I’m successful it seems like I’m bragging. When I fail it sounds worse. This going to one of the worse ones.

Last night in Morpeth, Northumberland – in the non-Geordie northeast – I failed miserably. Failed miserably. As if you can fail “wonderfully”. Or fail “joyfully”. All failure is miserable.

My buddy John Smith of Grinning Idiot organized the gig in the Queen’s Head.

I wasn’t psychologically prepared. I never am for gigs but I was really not right on this night.

John left me up in Morpeth all alone and ran to MC another gig. I’ve done my Free until Famous Tour shows at least 15 times now but never, ever, have I done one with no support in the venue. Even the bar staff were in the next room.

I was coming back to do another show at The Queens Head. I did a show there a year ago and it was amazing. I got the most money ever, per head, as I’ve gotten anywhere. I collect money after the show so I know when shows go well and when they don’t. When I am funny, people give me money.

Last night I was panicking that chaos would reign at The Queens Head because I was alone. The audience grew and grew and I was running around putting out extra chairs, the punters didn’t seem especially pleased to see me, and they were sitting wherever they wanted to sit, and huge groups were arriving and I had slept only three hours the night before and I didn’t feel funny at all and well, you know I could list more reasons why I thought the night was going to hell.

In all of this I completely overlooked the fact that upwards of 80 people had made an effort to come and have a laugh with me. Me, who is off the telly – that is: I am not on the telly and not famous.

Anyway, fasten your seatbelt for disaster, Lewis Schaffer-style.

Silky, the comic promoter, who I ran into after the gig at the Newcastle Stand comedy club, told me that he’d never see me enjoy myself on stage. Granted, he said, he hadn’t seen me ten years.

Last night, I wasn’t happy on stage. I know I am supposed to be happy on stage, and if not, then appear happy on stage. “Effortlessly funny” is what the comic is supposed to be, like Michael McIntyre or Frankie Boyle or Seinfeld.

Well. I don’t want to pretend to be happy.

If I have to pretend to be happy and enjoying myself on stage I would rather go back and work for Harvey Grotsky at Hotel and Resort Industry Magazine. I would rather drive a friggin’ truck.

I think there is a chance I am the best comic in Britain (using other methods for judging other than the old method of how much laughter the comic gets). There is something honest and amazing that happens at my shows. The shows are more like theatre where there is a dramatic arc – or so I have been told. It will start with discomfort and end with a satisfying resolution. Or the other way around. An individual joke has that. Why can’t an entire show? Well, that’s the idea.

Last night started out miserable. A quarter of the audience walked out halfway. At the end, it was something better than misery, at least for me and I hope for the audience that remained. I have had shows like last night which started out with me in a stroppy mood and it ended in complete and utter victory. Victory for me and the audience.

Morpeth last night wasn’t a victory. I counted the money in the bucket and the people that remained, as a group, didn’t hate me – at least not all of them. Some of them definitely did. And the 20 or so who left hated me.

But there is always a chance at my shows, and lately a very good chance, that it could have ended as “art”. Well, maybe not art but worth a few quid.

PS 20 members of the audience found me unbearable after 30 mins, John’s had me at his house for 2 days now, imagine how bad he feels. [This PS John wrote and I kept it in.]


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