It must be a nightmare for newcomers to the Edinburgh Fringe.
First of all you have to get your head round the fact there is an Official Festival which is not the one most people think of. Then there is the Edinburgh Fringe, the Free Fringe, the Free Festival and the Alternative Fringe (linked to the Free Festival), all of which come under the banner of the Edinburgh Fringe Office who stage no shows themselves.
Then yesterday I got an invitation to a showcase event today at the Spiegeltent Teatro at Assembly George Square Gardens in the Old Town. This is not to be confused with the Famous Spigeltent in the New Town outside the Assembly Rooms, which has no connection with Assembly.
Fringe newcomers have all that to contend with but I have worse. I have to contend with American comedian Lewis Schaffer who has temporarily landed in my spare bedroom for two nights and, as if that were not enough, I keep bumping into him in the street.
Yesterday, I bumped into him in Bristo Square standing with another comic.
“This is Erich McElroy,” Lewis told me. “He is the young Lewis Schaffer and he is one quarter Scottish.”
“Hello,” said Erich McElroy, shaking my hand.
“He has an American accent,” I told Lewis Schaffer.
“He is still one quarter Scottish and he learned from Lewis Schaffer,” replied Lewis Schaffer.
“What did you learn from Lewis Schaffer?” I asked Erich McElroy.
“Years ago, in 2002,” Erich McElroy told me, “Lewis Schaffer told an audience of English people that he was going to be the funniest comic in Britain that year. He had been storming the night and, as soon as he said that, they turned on him and then he turned on them and said, Fuck you! I will be! I will be! Afterwards...”
“I never said Fuck you!” Lewis Schaffer interrupted.
“Afterwards,” Erich McElroy continued, “I explained to him, Lewis, you can’t tell an English audience that. You need to tell them you’re going to be the worst comic of the year and they will love you for that. And he said, No, no! I am going to be the best, Erich. I AM going to be the best! and I told him That doesn’t matter. You can’t tell them that.”
“And what did you learn from that?” I asked.
“I learned you can’t talk the way he talks and say those things with an American accent,” said Erich McElroy.
“I never said Fuck you!” Lewis Schaffer protested again. “In Britain in 2002, when I said I’m going to be the best comic in Britain in 2002, British people thought: You arrogant American!… But, when I told my American friends I was going to be the best comic in Britain 2002, they suggested I aim higher…”
“That was just after the 9/11 attacks,” I said. “Has he told you about his Tweets today?” I asked Erich McElroy.
Erich McElroy shook his head and looked rather worried.
“After seeing my show, somebody sent me a Tweet,” Lewis Schaffer explained to Erich McElroy. “It said: For the first half of your show, I wished you were in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. And, during the last half, I wished I was in the North Tower of the World Trade Center.”
“That is good,” said Erich McElroy. “That is good, Lewis.”
At about ten minutes past midnight this morning, as I was about to go to bed, I got a text message from Lewis Schaffer.
“Oh my god. Huge fuck up,” it read.
“…and what would that be?” I texted back.
“Horrible,” Lewis Schaffer texted back. “I need some advice.”
I eventually got to bed at 3.10am.
It may be a bumpy two days for me.