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See the film here until 7th February when it will be withdrawn for film festival entry.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

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

@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 

God answered my prayers by destroying the Twin Towers.

1 Aug

3 PM Wednesday 1 July 2012 Megabus World Tour outside Newcastle

The Ugliest Building in Newcastle

This building is the ugliest building in Newcastle. Sticking out  of the semi-ancient sandstone beauties of Newcastle like a raisin in a fresh fruit salad.

That’s what I felt twelve years ago. It’s now beautiful to me and I’m distressed that it is to be torn down.

The Twin Towers in New York. When they were built they were a waste of the people’s money – built with bridge and tunnel toll money. Money that could have been plowed into the New York City subway system. And ugly – two fingers sticking out of the mountain of Lower Manhattan. [Not that I had seen that symbolism at the time.] 

People forgot what ugly buildings they were.  Every day I saw the I wished they weren’t there. They were no true New Yorker’s favorite building. The Chrysler, the Dakota, the RCA Building, the Chanin, Lever House, the other Metropolitan Life Building, the Flatiron Building, or even the old or new ATT Buildings. But never, ever did a New Yorker mention the Twin Towers. Never.

God intervened in his mysterious, albeit sad, way, to remove that blot on the New York skyline – he had answered my prayers. Yet today I miss the World Trade Center and I don’t even live in New York anymore.

I still wouldn’t have wanted it built but once it was in place, let it be, let it rest and let’s get used to it, and if it doesn’t work, let’s find some way to make it work.  Think of the O2 Arena in  Greenwich? Who could have forseen that ever being useful?

A few years back I visited Montgomery Place – an ancient pile (by American standards). Right next to my old school, Bard College, overlooking the majestic Hudson River.

A cheap late 20th century card table conspicuously occupied pride of place in the 18th century manor house. The house was left as the last owner had it, along with the Queen Anne tables and Audubon bird prints, or similar. At the time, it grated. Now, I think: brilliant. An ancient card table. In ten or twenty year, that card table will be considered “ancient”.

I don’t love the ugliest building in Newcastle.  But I can envision the day when I will miss it. I can envision the day when Geordies will miss it. Just as I miss the World Trade Center.

Let’s let all building stand.

 >>>> I am in Edinburgh. Will start blogging about that. See me at two shows a day, except Wednesdays.

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

Lewis Schaffer

Nunhead American Comedian

John Fleming's blog - SO IT GOES

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

John Fleming's blog - SO IT GOES

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