Yesterday’s blog ended with American comics Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer about to go to Manchester for the recording of the ITV reality court show Judge Rinder last Wednesday – on the basis that Lewis Schaffer was annoyed because Will owed him £42 and Will was annoyed Lewis Schaffer had never called him Sarah when Will dressed as a woman and performed/lived as Sarah Franken.
Two Fridays ago, a car from the Judge Rinder programme delivered a ‘Witness Statement’ to me at my home, based on a telephone call I had had with one of the production team. I signed it – to be read out at the TV court appearance in Manchester the following Wednesday. The statement (with their mis-typings) read:
Two years ago Lewis loaned will £50. To date Sarah has only returned £8. Although the situation is unfortunate, Will still owes Lewis £42, and he should pay Lewis back. It’s is a matter of principle, and I agree wholeheartedly that Will should pay him the funds. The money was given as a loan; and it’s only right that he pays Lewis back.
Lewis has built a reputation for being quite controversial on stage – he actually has one of the best Holocaust jokes I have ever heard in my life! Lewis will say the unexpected – the things that people take offense to, but he honestly means no harm.
In regards to Will, we’ve always known Sarah as Will so I don’t believe that Lewis’ intends in any way to insult, degrade or offend Will. If I am honest, I believe that Lewis has always referred to him as Will, and as a result he continues to address him by his name.
Although it is in Lewis’ nature to be annoying, I firmly believe there is no intention on Lewis’ behalf to cause any harm to Will.
I’m sad that they have fallen out over something so menial. It’s sad that a matter such as this has affected their relationship. I hope this matter can be resolved.
I met Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer again last Sunday, at the Pret a Manger eatery in St Pancras station. I believe both may be open to offers of sponsorship by any retail chain. Lewis Schaffer was wearing a black eyepatch on his left eye for no discernible reason. I did not ask why because I suspected there was no reason.
“As far as I was aware,” I told them, “the programme was going ahead. The programme people never told me it was not going ahead.”
“I might use it in my Edinburgh Fringe show next year,” said Will. “Our attempt to defraud them.”
“You speak for yourself!” Lewis Schaffer objected. “The story is totally true! You owed me money and I wanted it back.”
“You told people you had a £250 gig,” said Will, “and you didn’t.”
“No,” said Lewis Schaffer, “I did not tell them a £250 gig.”
“So why did it not go ahead?” I asked.
“I got scared,” said Will, “because I was recruiting witnesses to bolster my defence and my witnesses were getting scared because the TV people wanted pieces of paper signed.”
“And your witnesses wouldn’t sign?” I asked.
“I called a guy in Birmingham,” explained Will, “and said: Hey! If somebody calls you, would you say you were there the night Lewis gave me this money and that you were there for about ten different shows across England where Lewis was calling me ‘Will’ and making people very uncomfortable? And he said: Yeah, yeah. I’ll do it.
“Then they called him and asked Would you be willing to sign a document? and he said What do you mean document? This isn’t a real court, is it? And apparently they said: Yes, it IS a real court. And he called me back and said he didn’t want to sign anything and I got scared too. They were calling my ex-girlfriend to do the same thing.”
I asked Lewis Schaffer: “You told me that they cancelled because the TV people thought the two of you were getting too aggressive towards each other. Did they?”
“No,” said Lewis Schaffer, “that’s not what it was. It was because you had two plonker losers negotiating at the same time. It was escalating. I thought we could get some money out of them. I told Will: Ask for some money. I could have gotten £250.”
“I liked the idea of us being grifters,” said Will. “I think the term ‘grifter’ makes it sound cool.”
“It isn’t cool,” said Lewis Schaffer, “it’s just business. We were asking for money.”
“I’ve got this guy on the phone from the TV show,” said Will, “and he’s thinking Oh, we’ve got this great little trans-gender caper and emotional distress caper! and he’s so enthusiastic… Oh, so you and Lewis Schaffer were really good friends? and I’m cupping the phone and like laughing, cos it’s so funny. It’s a prank joke.”
Lewis Schaffer said: “You took it a bit too far.”
“No, you took it a bit too far,” Will told him.
“I asked for a little bit of money,” said Lewis Schaffer.
“He asked for £250,” Will told me. “So I get off the phone and he tells me: They’re gonna give me £250. So now I get the free hotel, I get the trans-gender pity and he gets £250, cos he had the wherewithal to say: Oh, by the way, I’m missing work.”
“This is how I screwed myself,” said Lewis Schaffer. “Because I told Will I was doing £250 and I told them: Will needs £250 because of the ‘Comedy Union’.”
“The what?” I asked.
“The Comedy Union,” said Lewis Schaffer and Will together, like a Greek chorus.
“We got a Comedy Union now!” laughed Lewis Schaffer. “So then Will asked for £300.”
“No,” said Will to Lewis Schaffer. “First thing I did was I said: I need you to send me a Facebook message taunting me and saying ‘Ha ha, Will, I’m getting £250 AND my £42. Ha ha ha.’ – So I could then tell them Look – Lewis is taunting me. So they don’t think we’re friends. Then I got the producer on the phone to me going: OK, well, the thing is you’ve not mentioned missing any gigs the night of the recording.”
“All you needed to do,” said Lewis Schaffer, “was say: Listen, you gotta pay us some money for this! You gotta pay us a per diem or something!”
“But you told them you were missing a gig,” said Will.
“I didn’t say specifically,” explained Lewis Schaffer. “I said I might miss a gig. We could have gotten offered a gig in the two days before the recording.”
“So,” I said, “you didn’t tell them you’d miss a gig; you told them you might miss a gig.”
“Yeah,” said Lewis Schaffer.
“So,” said Will, “Lewis had upped the ante with the £250, so I get the TV guy on the phone and say: Look, Lewis is taunting me with the £250 he’s getting. I’m gonna lose money too.”
“We were just pushing the money,” said Lewis Schaffer. “They didn’t trust us after a while.”
“Of course they didn’t.” said Will. “We embellished the story.”
“What happened,” said Lewis Schaffer, “was it was an escalation of demands and they just thought: These people are trouble. I think they just realised that Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer is double trouble. It’s vortex of trouble. We couldn’t make money if we owned the Mint.”