Two comedians talk about being failures

Will Franken (right) gives Lewis Schaffer 60p at St Pancras station

Will Franken (right) pays back Lewis Schaffer 60p in London

It is Christmas Day.

Bah! Humbug!

So here are British-based American comics Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer talking about being failures in the comedy business, with a couple of questions from me…


WILL
Lenny Bruce could not have made it in this day and age.

LEWIS
Did he make it even in his day and age?

WILL
He did make it in that day and age. Well…

LEWIS
Yes, he made it briefly, for a couple of years.

JOHN
Did he make money?

LEWIS
He did make money. He had a house in the Hollywood Hills.

WILL
Two reasons why he would not have made it today… ONE Because everybody’s got to be a fucking businessman and he didn’t have a scrap of businessman in him.

LEWIS
That’s totally not true. He was a…

WILL
He was a vaudeville guy.

LEWIS
He had been doing it for years and years. He was a crook. He used to go out in the street and pretend he was…

WILL
…a priest. I know.

LEWIS
…and to hustle.

WILL
Yeah, but that was a bit, man.

JOHN
A Christian priest?

WILL
Yeah.

LEWIS
There is no way – ever – somebody could be a success without being good at business.

WILL
You’re out of your mind, man. There was something different in those days. And the second reason he would not make it in this day and age is because people no longer understand the concept Freedom of Speech. They don’t get why Political Correctness is anathema to it.

LEWIS
You are talking about a man who was destroyed for what he said. You say they understood Freedom of Speech back then?

WILL
If he was around today…

LEWIS
They were putting him in jail, in jail, in jail.

WILL
If he was around today, he’d be going after every PC sacred cow there is and they’d say: Oh my God! This guy’s a racist! Let’s not go to his shows!

LEWIS
Exactly. So he wouldn’t make money.

JOHN
But Jerry Sadowitz does that.

LEWIS
And he does make money, yes. But he doesn’t put his head above the parapet. He doesn’t make Facebook announcements. He has his own 200 people going to every single show. And he makes a decent living from that.

WILL
He’s a cult.

LEWIS
He’s a cult. But you (TALKING TO WILL) want to be more than a cult.

WILL
I don’t want to be more than a cult. I’m happy being a cult.

LEWIS
You want to be bigger than Jerry Sadowitz.

WILL
This pisses me off about you. You say I want to be bigger than Jerry Sadowitz. No. I want to be able to pay my rent, buy some classic literature every now and then and go to the movies. That’s it. That’s all I want.

LEWIS
Well, then, you’re being a bad businessman.

WILL
How good a business person do you have to be to pay your rent? You don’t have to be Donald Trump.

LEWIS
As a comedian, you’ve got to be really good.

WILL
You don’t know what you’re talking about. If you were sitting there in an Armani suit and you’d just come of a 500-seat gig, I’d say: Yeah. I’ll never be like Lewis. But the fact is you and I are squabbling over £50…

LEWIS
I didn’t say I was a good businessman. I’m an absolute failure as a businessman.

WILL
I went to three different countries in October.

LEWIS
I know. You were a somebody back then.

WILL
This was only two months ago. I had a comfortable…

LEWIS
You only speak to me when you’re doing badly.

WILL
Exactly.

LEWIS
Why do you do that?

WILL
Because it reinforces my self-pity. The way this business is… I wasn’t gigging last night, so I went on Twitter, scrolling through, waiting to see if somebody agrees with me that ISIS are bad people. I’ve been doing this lately. Does anybody think ISIS deserves to be punished? And I see Lewis Schaffer is in North Allerton. He’s supposed to be a failure! You’re my barometer for failure, Lewis! So, if Lewis Schaffer is gigging and I’m not, that’s not good and I have to call you. Whereas, if I’m going to three different countries in a month…

LEWIS
You wanna know why I had a gig and you didn’t? Because last year I spent a couple of months working. Actually working. And that’s something you do not do.

WILL
I work!

LEWIS
No, you spend time on your comedy, which is why you’re so funny. You go home and write shows. Every single day, you’re thinking of comedy.

JOHN
(TO LEWIS) You were working at what?

LEWIS
Working is doing stuff you don’t wanna know. It’s calling up people on the phone and saying: Hey! Can I come to North Allerton?

WILL
You told me you’re a failure.

LEWIS
IAM a failure! But you’re more of a failure than I am, because you’re funny. That’s what I like about you. You make me feel good. Of all the people I know, you have the largest gap between what you have achieved and what you deserve to achieve. You are totally capable of achieving great things. You could be a success tomorrow and this whole conversation will sound so fucking stupid. You have time. There’s an old saying: A happy ending depends on when they end the movie. Your movie might have another four hours to go.

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