A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog conversation with London-based American comedians Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer.
A few months before, Will Franken had decided that he would wear women’s clothes on stage and off stage and would be called Sarah Franken. For the conversation I had, Will had come dressed as a man and there was some discussion about whether or not he might drop the Sarah Franken persona.
The blog continued in a post the next day, in which Lewis Schaffer mentioned that Will owed him some money and Will mentioned Lewis Schaffer had never called him Sarah Franken.
One reason this conversation was split into two blogs was to draw a little attention to the ‘he owes me money/he didn’t call me Sarah’ narrative, because there was one part of the chat we had (in a McDonalds in Holborn) which I carefully omitted from the two blogs.
In the second blog I posted, Lewis Schaffer is quoted as saying: “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,” after which Will said: “The first thing that goes though my head now is: Is there money? I don’t think about exposure any more.”
The section of the conversation which I omitted came immediately following that.
Below is what I omitted.
Lewis Schaffer (left) and Will Franken concocted a comedy idea in a McDonalds
“I don’t give a fuck about exposure,” Will continued. “I got an email from the Judge Rinder people.”
[Judge Rinder is a British reality court show. It stars criminal barrister Robert Rinder as the judge, who oversees disputes between two real members of the public in a mock-up of a small claims courtroom. It is similar to the US TV show Judge Judy]
“It was Friday afternoon,” Will explained, “and I got an e-mail and it was somebody from ITV studios in Manchester saying: We may have an opportunity for you. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years now and I’ve never learned my lesson. The first thought that goes to my hayseed, Missouri hick brain is always: They’re going to give me my own show! Thankyou, God!”
“You deserve it, too,” Lewis Schaffer told him.
“So I go back home,” Will said, “and, of course, the terrorist thing happened in Paris. So I called the guy the next day and he said: OK. Do you know this show called Judge Rinder? We are looking for people who have a funny story, like maybe somebody took your laptop but didn’t bring it back? Something like that. Do you have any stories?
“I asked: Is there any money for this? And he said: No, but we will give you money for a nice hotel in Manchester. I said: Do you have any idea what the fuck happened last night, man? What kind of whorehouse is this?
“And then today, he e-mails me again and says: OK, have you had some time to think? Do you have any friends? And I said: No, we would all need a fee. every one of the people I know would need a fee.”
“No money?” said Lewis Schaffer. “I wouldn’t do that, because that’s not comedy. You would have to do some actual work before it. The thing is, you’ve got to get two insane people to be on that programme.”
“Why don’t WE do it?” Will asked Lewis Schaffer. “I would do it if you and I could do it.”
“THAT would be funny,” agreed Lewis Schaffer.
“But what,” I asked, “could you sue each other over?”
“I could e-mail the guy right now,” said Will, “and we could say, if he gets Lewis and me each a hotel room in Manchester and covers our travel…”
“…and food,” added Lewis Schaffer. “And we want a per diem of some kind.”
“Were you serious,” I asked Lewis Schaffer, “when you said you lent Will some money?”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Lewis Schaffer.
“Well, that’s the basis,” I said.
“He needed money,” explained Lewis Schaffer, “and I said to him If you come down and come on my radio show – because I needed a guest and I’m very last-minute – I was desperate for a guest and I said to Will: Come down and I’ll loan you the £50.”
Will said: “I thought you said: I’ll GIVE you £50.”
“I’m not gonna GIVE you £50!” said Lewis Schaffer.
“Say it’s £150,” I suggested. “It’s sexier.”
“But,” replied Lewis Schaffer, “then the judge will ask: Did you fuck him?”
“I think it will be funny,” said Will.
“It will be funny,” agreed Lewis Schaffer, then said to me: “He’s given me a total of £8 back.”
Will, laughing and adopting a hick mid-Western accent, said: “He took my catchphrase, which was Cheerio, Yankees! Let’s just make up something.”
“If,” I said, “you’re going to tell a lie on TV about anything, base it on reality. He lent you £150.”
“What’s the difference?” asked Lewis Schaffer.
“It sounds better,” I said. “For £50, you wouldn’t go on TV; for £150, you might.”
“Maybe I’m just angry at the guy,” said Lewis Schaffer. “It’s payback time.”
“This is kind of funny,” said Will. “Shall we do this?”
“Yeah,” said Lewis Schaffer.
“It’s a good idea,” I agreed.
“Do it tomorrow,” said Lewis Schaffer.
“No,” I said. “Do it now.”
Will started composing an e-mail.
“This guy Lewis Schaffer…” he started.
“Comedian Lewis Schaffer…” Lewis Schaffer corrected him.
“Say he’s another American,” I suggested, “because then they get two Americans having a go at each other.”
“… another Yank…” said Will, “says I owe him…”
“We can just ‘Yank it up’,” laughed Lewis Schaffer.
“£50?” asked Will.
“£42,” said Lewis Schaffer. “And this Lewis Schaffer guy is angry. And he wants to embarrass me.”
“You both want to embarrass each other,” I suggested. “Do they know about the cross-dressing? Do they know about Sarah?”
“When he was on the phone,” explained Will, “he said Sarah. Well, that’s obviously not your REAL name and I thought: Well, this is some guy who’s not into the PC thing!”
“Your angle,” I suggested, “is that Lewis Schaffer was the only guy at the Edinburgh Fringe in August who did not call you Sarah and that really annoyed you.”
“I could ask for damages,” said Will. “I owe Lewis £42 but I want £1,000 from him for emotional damages.”
“But,” said Lewis Schaffer, “there isn’t a pool where one of us will get the money.”
“I don’t know,” said Will, “I’ve never watched the show.”
“Maybe we should ask for £250,” said Lewis Schaffer, “and we split the money.”
“They don’t pay you the £250,” said Will. “They expect me to pay you.”
“No they wouldn’t,” Lewis Schaffer told him. “They can’t. It’s not a court. It’s a TV programme.”
“It’s not a court?” asked Will.
“It’s not a court,” said Lewis Schaffer.
“How about £242?” suggested Will. “That sounds more believable.”
I said: “Keep it simple. He hates you because you owe him money. You hate him because he didn’t call you Sarah.”
“Exactly,” said Will. “We could use this as a showreel. These two guys dicking around in McDonalds with John Fleming hatched a plot…”
I said: “Two comedians. Two Yanks. They’re both vocally fluent. They’re bitching at each other. And one is in a dress. The TV people will love it. If you say ‘trans-genderism’, they’re going to have an orgasm on the spot. They’ll go for it.”
And they did.
Will sent the e-mail.
The Judge Rinder producers arranged the recording date for the following week in Manchester.