“John, I don’t have an ego,” said Lewis Schaffer to me yesterday, as we walked along the Cowgate in Edinburgh. “An ego means an arrogant view of oneself. I don’t have that. Yes, I’m self-centred. I might be loud, I might want to talk about myself all the time, but that doesn’t mean I think I’m the cat’s mieow, as we said in…”
“…the Bronx,” I suggested.
“Brooklyn,” corrected Lewis Schaffer.
“Who threw you out?” I asked.
“My friend Glasgow Jimmy,” Lewis Schaffer replied. “He’s a lovely guy. I like him. He was lovely to me and, all of sudden, he stopped being lovely to me. I don’t want to say bad things about the guy.”
“Were you being annoying?” I asked.
“I wasn’t, I wasn’t being annoying,” replied Lewis Schaffer. “Why would you think I was being annoying? I think he thought I was taking advantage. I mean, I’m not a generous person.”
“You are,” I remonstrated.
“I’m not, I’m not,” argued Lewis Schaffer. “I don’t have the social graces. I’m not a great person. At some point in my life I have to admit I’m just an OK guy.”
“You buy me cups of tea!” I argued. “And occasional meals.”
“I can’t make this funny,” said Lewis Schaffer. “It’s a tragedy.”
“Comedy is tragedy,” I said. “Just keep buying me tea. All I want is tea for my tongue and anecdotes for my blog. I’m cheap.”
“I can’t be considered cheap,” said Lewis Schaffer, “ because, every year, I spend more money than I have and I…”
It was at this point that we bumped into Dan Willis, the fellow comic on whose couch Lewis Schaffer is sleeping.
“Dan is the hardest working comic at the Fringe,” Lewis enthused, as if he were selling double-glazing. “Every day, six days a week, six shows at four different venues – five solo shows and one show where he MCs. And each one of these shows… Why am I doing the talking?… has it’s own distinct audience and some people go to all six shows. There’s no repetition of any jokes.”
“You must be a millionaire!” I joked to Dan. “I know they’re free entry shows, but the…”
“I’m doing alright,” said Dan. “I break even. It costs a fortune to register them.”
“Ah!” I said, “Of course. Six shows at £400-each to be printed in the Fringe Programme.”
“People come to all of them and I love it,” said Dan. “I’ve done 80-odd shows so far and I’ve got another 66 to do. They’re all different. I don’t repeat a joke all day.”
“He’s not English,” said Lewis Schaffer, “He’s from Newcastle.”
I looked at Dan. He shrugged his shoulders.
“I’m now embarrassed to say I’d not heard of you,” I said indelicately.
“Because I don’t pay for press and PR,” said Dan, “and I never have. I’m based in Melbourne. Just moved there for the last ten months.”
“Why Melbourne?” I asked.
“I fell in love.”
“A very beautiful girl,” said Lewis Schaffer.
“Australian?” I asked.
“A very beautiful girl,” said Lewis Schaffer. “He’s not a phoney baloney. I think Dan is the most honest comedian I know.”
I told Dan: “This is what you get for giving him a couch.”
“The trouble,” Dan said, “is I’m a 5’10” white guy who’s 39. And I’m an ex-computer programmer. So there’s no media interest in any of that. They want someone of…”
“…ethnicity?” I suggested.
“or…” said Dan, “well, they want young men at the moment. Young, pretty guys.”
“You mean the media want that,” I said, “not necessarily comedy clubs.”
“I get booked by clubs but, to move up to another level, you’ve gotta move away from the clubs and the clubs are slowly paying less and less and less.”
“Dan’s a sa…,” Lewis Schaffer started, “…No, I wouldn’t call him a saint. He’s not a saint, exactly, but he does the right thing.”
“If he lets you stay for another two weeks he’s definitely headed for sainthood,” I said.
“Dan,” explained Lewis Schaffer. “is very similar to the guy who threw me out of my flat. He’ll get angry and angry and keep it inside and then he’ll throw me out.”
“He’s got one night, maybe two if he’s lucky,” Dan told me.
“How did he ask you for your couch?” I asked Dan.
“I got a text. I have it here,” said Dan, lifting up his mobile. “Here it is. CAN I SLEEP ON YOUR SETTEE? I’VE BEEN KICKED OUT OF MY FLAT.”
“That’s succinct,” I said.
“But it was at 2.30 in the morning I got this text,” said Dan.
“The room I’m in,” said Lewis Schaffer, “My room…”
“Your room?” Dan and I queried simultaneously.
“We can talk about that later,” said Lewis Schaffer. “If you had to recommend one of your shows, which show would you recommend?”
“I think the best show, writing-wise,” said Dan, “is Inspired. That’s the one I spent all year writing. It’s the most ‘written’ show I’ve ever done. The most popular show at the moment is the computer one Control Alt Delete. That’s packed out every day with…”
“Geeks,” I said helpfully.
“Computer nerds,” said Dan.
“You’ve got six shows,” I said. “Are they…”
“Yes,” said Dan. “They’re back catalogue plus a new show. Every year I bring a new show to Edinburgh. I’ve actually got seven or eight shows but I figured six was best for a working day. It’s a 12-hour working day from when I get up to when I finish.”
“He’s amazing,” said Lewis Schaffer. “There’s nothing else like this at the Fringe, but he’s getting no press.”
“But it’s fun,” said Dan, “I’m loving it, the crowds are loving it. Big crowds, big buckets.”
“He does more than break even,” said Lewis Schaffer.
“If you approach the press,” I suggested to Dan, “your angle could be that you are sleeping in Lewis Schaffer’s flat.”