Yesterday’s blog was the first part of a chat I had with UK-based American comics Lewis Schaffer and Will Franken. A few months ago, Will decided that he would wear women’s clothes on stage and off stage and would be called Sarah Franken. Now read on…
“You got mad at me,” Lewis Schaffer said to Will, “because I called you Will all that time.”
“You were the only one,” replied Will, “that did not call me Sarah throughout the whole seven months – not just at the Edinburgh Fringe – all the months leading up to it.”
“I don’t care about other people,” said Lewis Schaffer.
“So,” I said to Will, “you are not going to be appearing as Sarah after you finish with this show?”
“I dunno,” said Will.
“What are the alternatives?” I asked. “Are you going to be the ‘real’ Will Franken?
“I have no idea,” he told me.
“It might be difficult to backtrack,” I suggested.
“Yes,” agreed Will. “Are people going to think I took the piss? There was this outpouring of love when I came out as Sarah. But, at the end of the day, they don’t have to live this life. I do and I’ve personally found it a fucker. I had no interest in taking hormones or having the operation. I wanted to keep my wing-wang.”
“Yes,” I said. “People thought: He’s so brave for doing it. And, if you backtrack, they might say: He was just doing it for publicity.”
“Of course I wasn’t!” said Will.
“I know,” I said, “but that’s what they might think.”
Lewis Schaffer said: “We always think: What effect will it have on my career?” When I moved to England, I got an offer to appear on the TV series Wife Swap. My wife at the time did not want to do it and I didn’t want to do it either.”
“Did they tell you who you would swap with?” I asked.
“A celebrity?” I asked.
“No. It wasn’t a Celebrity Wife Swap. But the first thing I thought was: How will this help my career? Not the money.”
Will said: “The first thing that goes though my head now is: Is there money? I don’t think about exposure any more.”
“Would you lend him money?” I asked Lewis Schaffer.
“I did,” he said.
“I needed a guest on my radio show,” Lewis Schaffer explained, “because I’m very last minute. I was desperate for a guest. I said to Will: Come down. I’ll loan you £50.”
“I thought,” said Will, “that you told me: I’ll give you £50.”
“I’m not gonna GIVE you £50,” said Lewis. “So since then, he’s given me a total of £8 back.”
“Anyway,” I said. “Career advancement…”
“You don’t write funny,” Lewis Schaffer told Will. “You should write funny.”
“What ya talkin’ about?” Will asked.
“You CAN write funny,” said Lewis Schaffer. “You do write funny.”
“I do write funny,” said Will.
“But often,” said Lewis Schaffer, “you write very seriously in the middle of the night.”
“Well, surely that is good,” I said.
“It’s not good,” said Lewis Schaffer.
“What do you mean it’s not good?” asked WIll.
“Because,” said Lewis Schaffer, “in real life, you are never not funny. When you talk to people, you are never serious for more than a minute.”
“I played Hate ’n’ Live,” said Will and the subject for me was Islam. I thought it was tailor-made for me. I deal with jihad and radical, y’know… I mean, any type of hypocrisy, I’ve got to go after it. I see something so hypocritical with I personally hate Christians, but…The hypocrisy to me is just astounding. I’ve been obsessed with this for about ten years.
“At a show, this girl said to me: I was just in the Middle East and I found Islam really interesting. So I asked: What was your favourite part? The homophobia? And it turns into this, like, tense… She said nobody questioned her her whole life. She said she went to Cambridge… I said: Mohammed; six-year-old brides… She said: nine-year-old… I said: Oh, nine years old. I do apologise… She got tense and she walked out and I was angry and I said: You fucking Maoist!
“Her boyfriend came back in and said: Why did you call my girlfriend a bitch? I said: I didn’t call her a bitch; I called her a Maoist, which is actually worse. But then I hated myself, because I don’t want to be that person.”
“You mean confrontational?” I asked.
“Yeah but then, at the same time, I feel there’s so much brainwashing…”
“That’s my point,” said Lewis Schaffer. “He’s made my point for me. My point is that, when you’re with people, you are rarely serious to the point of not being funny.”
“I’m getting confused,” I said.
“That’s your default position,” said Lewis Schaffer, still talking to Will. “When you’re with people, that’s your default position. But I’ve seen what you write and sometimes what you write is serious because you’re in the privacy of your own home and you don’t feel the need to be funny as you would when you actually see someone’s face.”
“True,” said Will.
“The reason I notice that,” continued Lewis Schaffer, “is that is like me when I wrote my blog for those three months. I was writing in the privacy of my home and it was just bitterness-bitterness-bitterness-bitterness-bitterness. But, when I’m out with people, it’s bitterness-joke-bitterness-joke-joke-bitterness and they don’t really notice the bitterness.”
“I used to write really funny blogs,” said Will. “Back when I smoked a lot of weed, I was constantly on the blog. Some of them were really, really weird. Some of them were long libertarian treatises that were serious and academic. Some would be like fake obituaries for a woman names Dolores Oatmeal.”
“What about the serious blogs?” asked Lewis Schaffer.
“Some,” replied Will, “I just went through and deleted. Sometimes I get serious. I think I have that kind of…”
“Yes,” said Lewis Schaffer. “I know you do. But, when you are actually with people, if you see somebody not being happy with what you’re saying, it’s not that you backtrack, but you know, deep down inside, you want to make a joke about everything when you look at their face. You see somebody’s face and you say to yourself: I’m going to make them laugh.”
“Or sometimes I wanna run away,” said Will. “I wanna be like Christopher Hitchens. I would love to be that detached emotionally,”
“You can’t do that,” said Lewis Schaffer.
“I can’t do that,” Will agreed, “because I’m too passionate.”
After our chat finished, Lewis Schaffer recorded a 2-minute chat with Will/Sarah Franken and me inside a Big Mac toilet… It is on YouTube.