2 June 2012
I love free, me (try saying that in a 'Frank's Factory Carpets' style and you will know how excited I get when something as good as this, is indeed free)
I do a hell of a lot comedy gigs in the year, mainly all concertinaed in four of five days, up at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
All of the gigs that I see are free, with a voluntary contribution at the end of the performance.
I love to find, from the massive programme that is provided up there, new and diverse comedians that can make me laugh, maybe shock and tell well worn stories and bring them to a new audience. I have my favourites too that I see every year, Lewis Schaffer is one of them.
Lewis normally puts on two shows every day for the whole month of August. If I am up there for my allotted four days then that will be eight times that I will see him. No show has ever been the same. This is Schaffer's main draw for me. As well as the controversial nature of his material.
Schaffer loves living in the UK (Schaffer is a Jewish New Yorker), with the wonderful people of Britain and the surrounding nations, the cold weather doesn't bother him and is a big fan of the Monarchy. Whoops (cue very loud scratched record sounds) he dislikes them all with a passion, or certainly his on-stage persona does. He would rip in to an empty brown paper bag if he could get a reaction from the empty paper bag manufacturers. No subject is left unturned, even racial material that is normally a no-no on the UK stage, Schaffer gets around it with wonderful words and stories.
Schaffer loves to engage with the audience, the odd hiss from them, lights up his eyes. One such hisser, was an elderly lady sitting very close to the front row, she pointed and swore when not agreeing with his comedic point of view, at times this might get on a crowds nerves, but this is key to his success. If he can maintain some of the hate away from himself, then the more the controversial he gets.
Admittedly the last time I saw him in Scottyland, he didn't seem to be on his best form. Heckles from the audience are normally what makes the 'Free until Famous' shows very special, with point blank retorts from him being delivered with crisp timing. The last time he was a little sluggish, something that I thought, from a distance, might have been a new twist to his act. This not so. I told him this when he shook my hand and introduced himself to me as he opened the main doors to the Customs House (he was doing this to everybody, so as to get into his audiences head, even before the curtain has opened) he had me howling with his one liners and welcoming spirit, something that is missing in a lot of comedy/ theatre in general. He explained that, yes, he does have the odd bad day at the office; with a whatever comes out of mouth, will come out of his mouth attitude, you are never so sure what is act and what is real, again, this is very engaging and exciting.
I am very pleased that he chose to come and play in my own town, very pleased to announce that he was back on track with delivery, put downs and making the audience feel a little bit better about hating themselves for not being Jewish and from New York.
I will still see Schaffer this year in Edinburgh as many times as I possibly can, who knows, South Shields might even get a mention from him.