US comic Lewis Schaffer explains why there are so few US comics on UK TV

There are some very good US comedians living and working in the UK. Yesterday morning, I wrote a blog lamenting the fact that few of them appear on British TV and radio. One of the American comics I included was Lewis Schaffer, a performer with an almost admirable ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Last night, I went to see a screening of a re-cut version of documentary film The Tunnel, about the late Malcolm Hardee’s legendary London comedy club.

Lewis Schaffer was there too. Afterwards, he told me this:


You know why Americans who live in Britain are not on TV over here?

Because the English know that really funny Americans

(a) they would have heard of already and

(b) would live in America.

Have people heard of Jerry Seinfeld? Yes.

Have people heard of Lewis Schaffer? No.

The American comedians who are not on TV in this country… are not on TV because the TV producers and the audience look at them and think, “This guy’s a nobody. Why do we have to have him here?”

They know that the Australians who are on TV in this country are top comedians in Australia. That is why they are here in Britain.

The Australians who are successful in Australia have to come here.

The American comedians who are successful or could be successful in America don’t come here to live and work; they are in America.

The truth is, if I was a ‘somebody’ I would never have come here. I have two kids now who keep me here. But I did not have kids when I came here. I was a loser in America. I am a loser here, but I would still have been a loser if I had stayed in America.

When the English see an Australian on TV, they think, “He might be as good as us. That’s why he’s here – because he was too big for Australia and he got the hell out.”

When they see someone from New Zealand, they think the same thing.

When they see an American here, unless they’re famous already, they think “What? He couldn’t get work in America?”

And they’re right. He couldn’t.


A couple of nights ago, Lewis Schaffer played his 250th Free Until Famous show at the Source Below in Soho – London’s longest-running solo comedy show.


Filed under Comedy, Television

3 responses to “US comic Lewis Schaffer explains why there are so few US comics on UK TV

  1. Lewis Schaffer

    I want to clarify: There is a PERCEPTION among the British that the American comics here aren’t as good as the American comics based in the USA. This is just their perception. There are American comics based in the UK who are just as good, if not better, than American comics based in America – these include Reginald D. Hunter, Scott Capurro, and Rich Hall – and I have seen alot of comics in the USA.

  2. Leisha

    I actually think that UK and Australian comedy is better than US comedy. US comedy is not universal enough and not particularly intelligent. I always view the US comics working in the UK as comedians who take their comedy seriously and want to be around the best in the world. Generally speaking American comedy is not up to the standard of UK comedy. UK comedians are the funniest, most talented and professional comics in the biz. Americans don’t take comedy seriously, it’s filler for the more ‘important’ entertainment, you’re either on a TV show or you’re nobody. The UK and Australia treat it as far more of an art form, constantly striving for individuality and innovation.

  3. Leisha

    BTW, Lewis, IMO if you can make it on the comedy circuit in the UK? You can make it anywhere because Americans will laugh at anything (because they’re too polite). The Brits won’t laugh if you’re not funny…and neither will an Australian audience.

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