Interview: Rarely Asked Questions – Lewis Schaffer

I'm sure I was not the first person to say that Nunhead-based American Lewis Schaffer is like a real-life Rupert 'King of Comedy' Pupkin and I doubt if I will be the last. But things are changing. In the last year Schaffer - who had always been a car crash comic hellbent on self-destructing onstage even when things were going well – seems to have got his act together. Or at least written a show. His Edinburgh Fringe show had a theme, a narrative and a kicker of a pay-off. And even when the material is not up to snuff he's got the patter, the rhythms and the delivery of a classic New York Jewish comedian, which is half the battle won. I've always found Schaffer pretty compelling (Stewart Lee reportedly likes him too), but then I get free tickets. Would I pay to see him? That's another question, but I haven't had to in London up to now because his regular shows have been free. However, the moment of truth is coming. Schaffer is at the Museum of Comedy from December 8 - 21 and this time he is charging £10. You want a reason to pay up? Here's one. There is nobody else like him in stand-up in the UK at the moment. When you've seen him you'll know what I mean. Tickets here


What is the last thing you do before you go onstage (apart from check your flies, check for spinach between teeth and check your knickers aren't sticking out of your skirt)?


I ask myself “Why am I doing this? Do I have to do this? What am I going to say? Where is the closest exit?”


What irritates you?


Do you have time? Right now it is people reading with their distance eyeglasses on – it makes their eyes worse. I stopped wearing glasses four years ago and now I can see without them though everything I see I want and can’t have.


In comedy? What irritates me is when I am on a mixed bill and the audience is laughing at bad, boring comedy. I’ve gotten so annoyed I’ve thrown my set just to punish the audience for laughing.


Come to think of it, I don't like if they are laughing at a good comic, either. I think “What's the point?” Come to think of it, I don’t know why anyone would ask me to be on a mixed bill. Come to think of it, they don’t.

What is the most dangerous thing you have ever done?


Answering questions which will let everyone know what Lewis Schaffer is really like. Bruce, I’m saying you’re dangerous. You should be proud of yourself.


Comedy is scary. It’s public speaking which is most people’s Number One fear. That is why people are willing to pay to someone else do it. (£10 in the case of my show at the Museum of Comedy, this December.)


What is the most stupid thing you have ever done?


Thinking I deserved more from comedy and was being overlooked and should be a big star. Usually it involved firing my agent or manager. That's a wrong move, especially if you are married to them at the time.


What has surprised you the most during your career in comedy?


It surprised me how much actual work it takes to be a professional comedian. How jokes are actually written and repeated over and over again, I didn't know. I still don’t believe it. That is what makes this business fair. If you are a failure it's usually because you are too lazy to write a joke.

Interview continues here.


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