Edinburgh Fringe Review: Lewis Schaffer, Just The Tonic at Community Project

Lewis Schaffer


Before the Fringe started I wrote a preview of Lewis Schaffer and said something like “the good gigs are worth seeing, the bad gigs are utterly, uniquely compelling.” This was one of the good ones. Drop that dead donkey, for Edinburgh 2015 the Nunhead-based New Yorker has actually written a genuinely interesting show.

He is also actually charging money, a fiver, for people to see him, whereas his shows are usually free outside Edinburgh. Typical. Just when the big names are migrating to the Free Fringe Schaffer goes the other way. It’s fine for comedy, but I’m not sure if I’d like him to handle my investment portfolio.

Anyway, as I said, this is a proper show. It starts out with a a nice warm-up in which Schaffer neatly manages to insult both the English visitors and the home crowd before wondering why he isn’t back in Manhattan acting in a Woody Allen movie (he is, incidentally also in a play here, so maybe Mr Allen might have a chance to see his showreel, which would be a start).

The meat of his schtick is a story of how he broke up with a girlfriend thirty years ago over a trifling matter. He wanders into the audience and asks for advice on his decision, though it’s a bit late three decades on. But the yarn then takes an interesting turn which makes the audience rethink their thoughts.

So far, so good. Schaffer interacted well with the crowd, musing on the nature of beauty and throwing in a few curveballs. The audience, who clearly had no idea who this narcissistic nutjob was, loved it. If you’ve got an easy-going girlfriend and are secure about your sexuality this gig could make the weirdest date night (well, date teatime) you will ever go on.

There were only two problems. As I alluded to earlier, the show ran too smoothly for my tastes. It’s the confrontations, heated debates and wanton bad taste material that make a Schaffer gig for me. This one found him on his best behaviour. Nothing wrong with that, but “Lewis Schaffer In Smoothly Run Gig Shock” just doesn't feel like the right headline.

The second problem was that the scripted set was a little short at around 35 minutes. After his prepared routine he had to fill it out with a few meanderings and a story about Cilla Black which wasn’t quite as good as his story about Robin Williams this time last year. But every beat of Schaffer’s delivery is in the classic New York Jewish style and there is nothing wrong with that at all. He certainly has the comic chops. There is no reason why he could not be much more popular if he has enough strong material. I'd love to see him on The John Bishop Show.

He also, by the way, keeps the bright flourescent lights on during the gig which I personally wasn’t keen on, but maybe that’s just me. In a way it was the most perverse thing about this show, and given that I perversely love Lewis Schaffer when he is being perverse I can hardly complain. Go along and you won’t be disappointed. It's a good gig. But if you are lucky maybe you will catch him have a bad gig.

Until Aug 30. Tickets here.

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