Tag Archives: comedian

Should all jokes have a ‘Sell By’ date?

Perhaps the simple cactus has a lesson for us all

Perhaps the simple cactus has a lesson for comics & for us all

In that strange dream-like world between sleep and waking this morning, I was thinking about comedians telling jokes.

This is never a good idea.

I thought that, like tomatoes and broccoli on supermarket shelves, perhaps there should be a Best By… date and a Sell By… date on all jokes.

After that, it would be illegal to expose the joke to the public.

But then I remembered a conversation I had with a man who sold flowers.

There was a Sell By… label stuck on each and every cactus in his shop.

“Do cacti actually go bad after a certain date?” I asked. “I thought they just went on year after year, surviving through drought and everything.”

“Yup,” said the flower shop owner.

From memory, he told me the European Parliament had passed a law that all cacti should have a two-year Sell By… date.

“After that,” he told me, “the law says I have to throw them away.”

“So what do you do with them if they pass their Sell By… date?” I asked the flower shop man.

“I peel off the Sell By… label on the cactus,” he told me, “and stick on a new one.”

That is not a joke. It actually happened. In European Parliamentary legislation, the dividing line between a joke and reality can be a spider’s web-thin one.

Maybe, though, some jokes should have a Best By... date and a Sell By… date.

On the other hand, some jokes are like cacti.

They can go on forever.

The connecting factor may be the involvement of little pricks.

In the world of cacti, pricks are essential.

In comedy, you cannot beat a good knob gag.

Having rationalised this, I turned over and happily went back to sleep.

Perhaps it was a mistake.

Not the turning over and going back to sleep.

The rationalising bit.

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Networking tips for shy extroverts, for comedians and for Michael Winner…

(This piece also appeared in the Huffington Post)

Always wear clothes appropriate for the job

Always wear clothes appropriate for the job

Last month, I mentioned in a blog that the famously self-confident film director Michael Winner has said on more than one occasion that, when he went to parties on his own, he was sometimes almost too shy to go into a room full of strangers.

This came to mind yesterday, when I went to a seminar (I guess that’s what it was) at Equity in London where members – mostly actors – were being told about and swapping tips on networking

Top tip seemed to me to be that, when presented with some networking opportunity you should always take it and never turn it down. Sounds obvious, but there is the Michael Winner factor of wanting to hide in a hole in the ground.

Almost all performers – actors, comedians, whatever – are extrovert show-offs who want a bit of attention and are Me-Me-Me…

But they also tend to be overly-endowed with insecurity and self-doubt.

Shall I go to that party/schmoozathon and sell myself to important people and further my career or shall I hide under the duvet in my bedroom?

Best advice is probably to think not What might I gain from going? but What opportunities might I miss by not going?

Networking is a bit like dogging. You will get nowhere by staying alone at home in your bedroom.

It was also suggested that selling yourself succinctly involves having a variety of pre-prepared ‘elevator pitches’.

Hollywood wisdom is that you should have an elevator pitch for your movie project in case you accidentally meet a studio chief in a lift in a building and he is only going up one floor. You have to encapsulate your 120-minute movie in one sentence…

  • Romeo & Juliet in the West Side of New York
  • Robin Hood in gangland Chicago
  • Love Story crossed with The Wild Bunch

Some pitches are more effective than others.

When networking yourself rather than your project, you have to encapsulate your entire professional life in two sentences but – as you are selling different versions of yourself to different prospective employers or financiers – you need perhaps five different versions of your pitch prepared for five different circumstances.

This is something I have always spectacularly failed to do.

When asked at a party, “What do you do?” I have a tendency to look blankly at the person and say, “I have no idea. Never have. Still don’t.”

Someone once told me: “John, your career appears to be unfocussed”. It was intended as a criticism.

I took it as a good thing – variety being the spice of life and all that.

Most bizarre insight of yesterday, though, came when the problem of working at home cropped up.

When I was a student, I lived in a house of bedsits in Hampstead. Surprisingly cheap. The landlord was an altruistic Christian and merely covering his costs.

One of the other rooms was rented by a woman who lived in a big house in the next street. She was a novelist. Every morning, she would walk out of her own front door, come round to our house, go into her bedsit, write until 5.00pm, then go back to her own home.

I used to think this was eccentric until I found difficulty working from home myself (despite the fact my third bedroom is kitted-out as an office) and found working in the local library – or in an Apple Store – was easier.

This was taken one step further yesterday when someone said that, when about to do work at home, she changed into ‘office clothes’ – she put on a dark business suit… When she had finished her work at home, she changed back into her casual homely clothes.

This sounds bonkers at first, but is logically eminently sensible.

Someone else said that her boyfriend did the same thing – except he just changed into a bow tie.

I think I may buy a bow tie.

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A call for people to poke each other in the eyes at British comedy clubs

Lewis Schaffer – ever scandalous

Last night, I went to a meeting at the long-running Monkey Business comedy club about “the crisis in comedy” where a packed room of comedians, promoters and club owners discussed what most comedy club owners, it appeared to me, seemed to think was no crisis in comedy. But comedians like talking and they can talk entertainingly, so everyone was happy.

Sometimes I have seen comedian Bob Slayer pretend to be drunk on stage. Last night, when I arrived, he was pretending to be sober in the audience. He was very convincing, though he had spent the entire afternoon talking to a brewery about sponsorship.

The “crisis in comedy” seemed to boil down to the perceived fact that box office takings have dropped perhaps 10%-20%.

David Mulholland, who runs the Soho Comedy Club, said: “I read a report about seven months ago that the median household income – the segment of the household income that’s left over for arts and entertainment – had fallen by half. And I have noticed that the amount of effort that goes into getting each person in has doubled. It’s just harder to get people in.”

A former accountant who is now a stand-up comedian and who muttered his name inaudibly (perhaps a good thing for an accountant but certainly not for a stand-up) said wisely:

“I have two clients, fish & chip shops, opposite each other. One is making over £500,000 a year; the other, less than £80,000. One is providing good service and good food; the other is not. Comedy is a business like everything else.”

American comedian Lewis Schaffer’s opinion was:

“I think people can make a living at comedy here in London. But that’s not going to be the case much longer. When I started comedy in 1993 in New York, people were just beginning to not make a living. A few years before, it was a similar situation to this, where people could make a reasonable amount of money. But what happened was, basically, the quality of the performers increased to meet the level of demand from the clubs and then surpassed it. So, in New York, you got a huge number of comedians who were good enough to work in comedy clubs – as we have here.

“But there are too many OK comedians who can go and do any club’s show on a Saturday night. The problem is that the product being put out there is extremely dull and that is not attracting people to come: there’s nothing exciting going on because the quality is set at a certain level.

“Obviously, there’s a limit to what can happen in a comedy club. But I went to see Dr Brown and some punter poked the guy in his eyes. It was mental. But I thought Fuck it! I’ve seen something amazing! I’m not soon gonna forget that shit.

“At the end of the day, in a comedy club, if you don’t do well, you’re not invited back. But it should be something amazing, not just three guys or girls doing the same shit that they’ve done at other places.

“What’s happened is that club owners want repeatability. They should not want people coming out of shows and saying It’s always good. No, they should want ‘em to say Oh my god! Something fucking amazing happened there!”

The mumbling ex-accountant whom I mentioned at the beginning of this blog (actually Vahid Jahangard) had, perhaps, the most pertinent line of the evening.

“One of my clients” he said,” told me If you sell shit, somebody will buy it and, if you make a success of it, then other people will start selling shit.”

Walking back to the tube station after the meeting, I bumped into ever-analytical comedian Giacinto Palmieri.

“What did you think of it?” I asked.

“I think it was one of those occasions,” he told me, “when people get together and try to become a community. The last time I felt the same about the comedy community was, sadly, at a comedian’s funeral… Funerals sometimes do work in building new social bonds, to the point that some people go there to woo the widows.”

“Only you,” I told Giacinto. “Only you.”

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British comedian Nik Coppin wins out-of-court settlement in Oz ‘racist’ case

Nik Coppin did not let Australia go to his head except in hats

Back in March, I blogged about a bizarre happening in Adelaide.

British comedian Nik Coppin was a guest on Peter Goers’ radio show on state broadcaster ABC. He was in the studio with Peter Goers.

Nik (who is half English and half West Indian) said he had chosen to support the Essendon Australian rules football team because the team (who play in black and red) were once nicknamed ‘the Blood-Stained Niggers’ and now have more aboriginal players and fans than any other AFL team.

Goers told him he was a racist and to “Get the fuck out of my studio!”

A few days later, in a list of things to see and things to avoid printed in Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Mail newspaper in Australia, Peter Goers gave Nik Coppin “Minus Four Stars” as a “racist Fringe comedian”.

Nik took legal advice.

Last weekend, the Sunday Mail printed this in Peter Goers’ column:

Apology appeared in Australia’s Sunday Mail at the weekend

APOLOGY: On Sunday, March 4, in my column’s “What’s Not” section I referred to comedian Nik Coppin as “painfully unfunny racist Fringe comedian at the Austral Hotel: Minus four stars”. I acknowledge that my comments were false and made without foundation. In fact, I had not seen his show at the time I wrote my comments. I have no reason to believe that Nik Coppin is a racist or that his Fringe show contained racist material. I withdraw those comments without reservation and apologise for any hurt or embarrassment caused.

Yesterday, Nik told me what had happened.

This is what he said:

_______________________

Nik Coppin explains what happened….

The process involved in obtaining an apology and reparation for libellous and harmful comments printed in a newspaper is a very interesting one. In the eyes of the law, that which you feel would be perfectly reasonable to assume isn’t and that which you presume wouldn’t be, is.

The legal eagles certainly have a bewildering way of dealing with things.

A few people that I know and work with questioned whether it was worth it and warned that it could get very stressful, depending on how far I was willing to push it.

There is very little that I take too seriously, if I am honest. I mean, we’re all entertainers after all, right? Let’s just laugh it off and get some good ol’ fashioned PR out of it. But there surely must come a time in everybody’s existence on this here planet when you have to take a more solemn view of things and in some situations say to oneself, “Enough is enough”. You have to stand up and fight for what you believe is right.

In life, the press and certainly the world of comedy, all too often people take offence because they refuse to listen properly or shut off when they hear certain things said. This appears to be a natural reaction to things you might not want to hear, or that which touches a nerve, but it does not excuse what Mr Goers did and the Sunday Mail allowed to happen.

In my opinion, it was a vengeful and spiteful thing to do. Something you really would not expect from one of his years.

But, as laughable and nonsensical as this situation was, I had to take a more serious stance than to merely laugh off the bizarre and farcical comments. A half black man being accused of racism in possibly the most racist westernised country on the planet? My God, how ludicrous!

I should add, however, that I do not believe that Australians are racist. Well, not all of them anyway. I love visiting the place, doing the festivals, seeing the wildlife, having the banter and all the other delightful things that go along with being in such a beautiful country. But I think we all know that there are issues that need to be dealt with over there. The We’re too laid back to be racist or hate Aboriginals defence just isn’t good enough.

The amount of times I have heard white Australians say things like: “We give them money and offer them jobs, but they’re just lazy and want to get pissed all the time”.

Well, that says all you need to know about certain sentiments in a land where the indigenous population were slaughtered by the thousands and had their land, dignity, children and whatever else stolen from them.

I think any race that has suffered that and had their rights and entire way of life stripped away, has earned the right to ‘laze around’ and drink a few bevies if they choose to, don’t you?

I am not suggesting that they should attempt to ‘give back’ the country. Australia is predominately a white country but, in my opinion and many others, is black land. So those in privileged positions in Australia should be a bit more understanding and helpful in the future and support the Aboriginal as much as they can.

I mean, let’s face it, if you look at the table from the London 2012 Olympics and who won many of those medals for the UK and the US of A, maybe you could do a lot worse than support your black population, Australia. Then in a few years time maybe we Brits won’t be laughing at what little precious metal you took back ‘home’.

The thing about such a situation, though, is that – for one who earns his living as a comedian – the possibilities are many. I was considering writing a show about race and maybe religious issues and this story can underpin the whole thing.

So, while it was confusing, angering and frustrating having what I can only consider a foolish, arrogant Adelaidian ‘celebrity’ full of his own self-importance doing a childish, vindictive thing like calling me a “painfully unfunny racist” in a popular newspaper without even seeing my show or listening to me or doing his research properly… Was it worth it going through with the fight and standing up for what you believe in, in the face of a form of oppression?

Definitely.

And, to those who doubted whether it was the right thing to do, I say to you…

I would it again and again and again.

And so should you.

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Filed under Australia, Comedy, Legal system, Newspapers, Racism

Comedians punched and headbutted in the street at the Edinburgh Fringe

Ian Fox in Edinburgh earlier today

Before I left Edinburgh this evening, I had a drink with comedian-writer-photographer Ian Fox  who was attacked in the street on Wednesday night.

When I was with him today, he got a phone call from the police.

“It was around 11.30 at night and I was coming up that curved street Candlemakers Row, just before you get to the statue of Greyfriars Bobby,” he told me. “There were loads of people walking about, because the Tattoo had just finished.”

Throughout the Edinburgh Fringe, Ian has been taking nighttime photos of Edinburgh between around 10.00pm and midnight.

“I’d taken a photo in the Cowgate,” he told me, “ but put my camera away because there isn’t anything else to take photos of until you get to Bristo Square. The camera was round my neck, but underneath my top, so they didn’t see it. But it wasn’t a mugging.

“Some students were arsing about on the left hand side of the road, kicking a traffic cone about, so I crossed over the road to avoid them. I was in the road and only vaguely aware there were people walking down the other footpath then, as soon as the guy got level with me, he just hit me. He was wearing a ring, which is what cut me.

“I hit the ground, mainly out of surprise, then I heard another guy say: He’s gone down. I think the first guy had passed me, the second guy then hit me and I think the first guy had turned  to watch, because he knew what was about to happen and then he was celebrating the fact I’d gone down.

“When I heard him say He’s gone down! I thought to myself This probably isn’t the best place to be because I’ll get a kicking when I’m down on the ground. I’d quite like it if this was over now. So I stood up and turned around and walked to Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar.

“There was a chef outside. I thought he must have seen the whole thing, but he later told the police he hadn’t seen anything. I asked him if he could help me. He took about three seconds to make a decision on that. He obviously just thought it was drunks fighting but then I think he could tell from the way I was dressed and the way I was speaking that I wasn’t drunk.

“So I went into Bobby’s Bar and the waitress in there took over; she started handing me all the blue papery stuff to soak up the blood.  They phoned the police and the paramedics, because they were worried about how much blood was coming out of me. My cheek was bleeding; my nose was bleeding; so there was a lot of blood.

“The woman in there told me they’d just refused service to two blokes because they were very loud and very aggressive so the chances are it was these two blokes who had just got refused who walked outside and clocked the first person they saw.

“From the way they had been moving, I think they were on speed or something. They were on something, they’d had a skinful and the adrenaline buzz of hitting someone was the next thing they were after.

“The police said they hoped the cameras inside Bobby’s Bar had got a clear shot of them coming through the door, but that phone call I just got was the police saying it turned out the CCTV inside Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar has not been working since the 12th of August. The police said they’re now going to look at the Council’s CCTV in the street. But I’ve had a look three times and I can’t see a camera around there. I’m guessing somebody who behaves like that has probably done it before so would not do it near cameras.”

“You had another check-up today, didn’t you?” I asked.

Ian Fox with his mending eye in Edinburgh earlier today

“Yes, at the specialist Facial Injury unit in Livingston at 9 o’clock this morning,” said Ian. “It turned out everyone was given a 9 o’clock appointment, so it was first come, first served.”

“Livingston?” I said. “That’s miles away! That’s about 15 miles away!”

“It still counts as Edinburgh,” Ian said, “because it’s got an EH postcode.”

“Good job you brought your car up here,” I said. “You might easily not have done.”

“They told me I don’t need any further treatment,” said Ian, “but I may have a permanent scar beside my nose and the nurse advised me to avoid being punched in the face for a few months.”

“She didn’t,” I said.

“She did,” said Ian. “and I’m sure that’s very good advice.”

“I imagine the police won’t do anything about it,” I told him. “Did you read that blog of mine a couple of days ago, where a comedian had his computer stolen and he told the police where it was from the Apple GPS positioning and they wouldn’t do anything about it?”

“Well,” Ian said, “a deli I go into every day here… The guy there told me he had an incident a while back where one of his fridges wasn’t working and he called a repair man from an advert in the paper. The guy came and gave him a ridiculously high quote, so he said No.

“A couple of hours later, the cafe owner goes to the bank. Whilst he’s away, the repair man comes back, tells the girls behind the counter he’s there to fix the fridge, moves the fridges, hacks all the wiring at the back, tells the girls the griddle’s broken and says he needs to take it away for repair and leaves with the griddle.

“The cafe owner comes back, finds all the fridges are knackered and the griddle’s missing. So it’s criminal damage and theft. He rings the police, gives them the phone number of the advert and tells them this is the bloke who has done it – the girls have given a description of the guy… That was five months ago and he hasn’t heard anything since.

“He says he opens at 7.00am in the morning and has trouble with drunks coming in and, in the past, he’s tried to get the police to come and shift them and they won’t do it.”

“I love Edinburgh,” I said, “and it’s physically beautiful, but it’s a tough town under the surface. I’m surprised more comedians don’t have problems.”

Seymour Mace got head-butted outside the ScotMid in Nicolson Street in 2009,” Ian told me.

“Was that unmotivated as well?” I asked.

“Exactly the same thing as me,” Ian said. “Except he got headbutted instead of punched. Never even saw them. Though headbutting seems a lot more personal, somehow.”

“More Glaswegian,” I suggested.

“Seymour had a black eye for a week,” Ian said, “and he was doing a children’s show, so he had to explain to the children that he’d hit his head on a door. You can’t tell children there are random nutters out there in Edinburgh who will just headbutt you for no reason.”

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Edinburgh Fringe ‘Big Four’ venue boss shocker: English ‘man’ is Scots woman!

So You Think You’re Funny?

Tomorrow night is the final of the So You Think You’re Funny? talent show for new comedy acts in the Gilded Balloon, one of the ‘Big Four’ venues at the Edinburgh Fringe. In past years, the contest has ‘discovered’ acts including Johnny Vegas, Dylan Moran, Peter Kay and Lee Mack – and it is now in its 25th year.

Jason Cook will be compering tomorrow night; celebrity judge will be Ruby Wax; and also on the judging panel, as always, will be Gilded Balloon boss Karen Koren.

“Ben Elton and all those alternative comics had started in the early 1980s,” Karen told me yesterday. “By 1988, when we began So You Think You’re Funny?, Saturday Live had been on TV but my idea was to find new comedians because they were few and far between – or, at least, scattered – in Scotland. That’s how it started.”

The ‘Big Four’ venues at the Fringe are, it is usually said, run by English men who went to public school.

Karen Koren is definitely not an English man

“I am not English,” Karen told me,” I’m definitely not a man and I didn’t go to public school. Well, I went to a private school, but I wasn’t boarding or anything. It wasn’t posh!”

In fact, Karen was born in Norway but brought up in Edinburgh; and Anthony Alderson who now runs the Pleasance venue was born into a Scottish family.

Another ‘fact’ which is always said or assumed is that all the Big Four owners are based in London and swan up to Edinburgh in August to make money at the Fringe then return South.

“I live and work here all the year round,” Karen points out. Her Gilded Balloon company produces stage and occasionally TV shows in Scotland.

When the Gilded Balloon started in 1986 Karen focussed, from the beginning, on comedy… well, from even before the beginning.

“I had actually started staging comedy in 1985 at McNally’s,” she told me, “a place I was a director of and all these wonderful new alternative comedians were there. Christopher Richardson at the Pleasance and William Burdett-Coutts at Assembly were doing comedy to subsidise their theatre shows, but I focussed on comedy.

“At that time, there weren’t loads and loads of comics, but there was a great camaraderie. Everyone helped each other. It wasn’t the struggling business it is now where everyone wants to be stars. Today there’s not the same support mechanism we had in those days.

The original very very late-night Fringe show

“Comedy at the Fringe had started properly in the early 1980s, really with Steve Frost and his wife Janet Prince. They wanted places to perform in Edinburgh. Janet and I started Late ‘n’ Live together, but she lived in London and I kept going with it.”

When I first came to see comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe in the mid-to-late 1980s, Late ‘n’ Live was the one late-night show. Comics used to go there after their own shows finished to drink and watch – and sometimes heckle – other comics.

Late ‘n’ Live has been rough this year,” Karen told me yesterday.

“Financially or physically?” I asked.

“The audiences have been very, very…” she started. “Well, I made a TV programme called The Late ‘n’ Live Guide to Comedy and maybe audiences now think they can misbehave dreadfully. We’re going to have to shake them into shape. We’ve had a couple of rough nights.”

“Is it like that thing,” I asked, “with Malcolm Hardee’s club The Tunnel, where its reputation fed on itself?”

“That’s right,” said Karen. “Late n Live has always been fairly rowdy, but in a good-natured way. But now, in the Recession, maybe people are a wee bit more desperate… people are not doing so well financially or whatever… so maybe they’re just a bit ‘hungrier’ and want to ‘make’ things happen.”

“Do you think the comics are precipitating the behaviour?” I asked.

“No,” she said immediately. “Not at all. Though I think if you put a comic on who doesn’t know Late ‘n’ Live… well, there was an American comic who went on and talked about not being able to use Scottish money in England and he was saying it as a joke but the minute you touch on that  kind of subject in Scotland… Ooh! Oooh! Ooooh!… and the audience reacted and he only did five minutes. He walked off. Though he came back and did very well but… The problem is we have to put on comics who are challenged by the audience in order to make it work, but…”

“Lots of changes over the years,” I said.

“I expanded from one small theatre to 14 in the heyday of our building in the Cowgate,” said Karen. “And then we were up in Teviot one year before the fire which burned down our old building. So now we are in Bristo Square.

“I did have another venue called The Counting House at the beginning of the 1990s. I named it The Counting House because that’s where they counted the money above the Peartree pub and that was around the time I gave up my full-time position as the PA to the Norwegian Consul-General in Edinburgh. Before that, I had taken my holidays in August to coincide with the Fringe.”

Did I mention the Malcolm Hardee Show?

“Oh,” I said, “I didn’t know you had had the Counting House. That’s where I’m doing the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show in Friday.”

In Edinburgh, promotion is everything.

Karen, of course, knew Malcolm from the 1980s onwards and he appeared many times on Gilded Balloon stages.

“We all still think about him today,” Karen told me, “though I loved him better when he was sober than when he was drunk. But I nearly always did what he asked me at the Gilded Balloon, that was the odd thing.”

“He must have been ‘challenging’ to put on,” I suggested.

“But always entertaining,” Karen said. “The last time he was on, he just took it upon himself to go on Late ‘n’ Live speccy-eyed and glaked-looking and then just took off his clothes. And there he was with the biggest bollocks in showbusiness.”

“And that was the act?” I asked.

“Well,” said Karen, “a pint of beer might have been involved. I actually found some film of that recently – the last time he was on stage here – when we were making The Late n Live Guide to Comedy… and I wanted them to use it on the TV series, but they wouldn’t.”

“Because it was in bad taste?” I asked.

“Well,” Karen said, shrugging her shoulders, “they screened footage of Scott Capurro pissing on the stage and, although there was a big ‘X’ over his baby elephant trunk, you could see the glistening pee well enough.”

“Censorship is a variable art,” I said.

“Yes,” laughed Karen. “At least Malcolm never peed on stage.”

“Well, perhaps not in Edinburgh.” I said. “I once saw him go to the back of the stage at the Albany Empire in Deptford and pee during a show.”

“Well, that’s OK,” said Karen. “He had his back to the audience… With Malcolm, it wasn’t just about his appendage, it was about what he did. He always gave people a chance. I listened to him when he told me about the young Jerry Sadowitz – Oh – go on – Give him a chance! – and I did and that was something I always did do with Malcolm. He did play all the Big Three venues, as they then were, and he invented the Aaaaaaaaaaarghhh! at the beginning of show titles so he would get the first listing in the Fringe Programme. And he had the art of being noticed with publicity stunts – writing a review of his own show and getting it published by The Scotsman and all that. We all do still think about him today. Never forgotten.”

Karen Koren talks about Malcolm Hardee in this video made by the Gilded Balloon which opens with The Greatest Show on Legs, currently performing in Edinburgh (with Bob Slayer replacing the late Malcolm) for the first time in over 30 years:

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The confusions of the Edinburgh Fringe and lessons learned from Lewis Schaffer

On the stylish streets of Edinburgh, the Athens of the North

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.

Lewis Schaffer (left) gives advice to comedian Erich McElroy

“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.

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