Tag Archives: Dan Willis

The hardest-working comedian at the Edinburgh Fringe… and Lewis Schaffer

Lewis Schaffer poses next to his own Fringe posters yesterday

“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.

Lewis Schaffer has been thrown out of his flat at the Edinburgh Fringe and is sleeping on comedian Dan Willis’ couch for two nights. After that, he is homeless.

“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…”

Lewis Schaffer grabs Dan ‘the couch’ Willis

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.

Dan nodded.

“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?”

Dan Willis – his six Edinburgh Fringe shows

“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.”

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Comic capers and calamities on the first day of the Adelaide Fringe Festival

Eric with “Tales of the Sea” - and now Adelaide

Two days ago, I got an e-mail from Bob Slayer – the day before his comedy show opened at the Adelaide Fringe:

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I am in Adelaide stopping at the house of a man called Matthew who I met on couchsurfing.org.

I have stopped at many random people’s homes in my life but never one I met through an online service that did not involve the prospect of sex. I once topped-and-tailed with singer-songwriter Beth Ditto – the big girl in The Gossip – in Portland, Oregon, when they supported Japanese band Electric Eel Shock, which I was managing. Did I tell you this recently? I also have an early demo I was sent by a band called the Arctic Monkeys who were, at the time, looking for a manager… Anyway I digress…

Matthew seems cool. He took me straight to the bottle shop and we bought beers. Jimbo came around to introduce Gary the Goat.

Oh! How I have missed Gary the Goat in the last few days!

Jimbo and he stayed in Port Kenny on the Eyre Peninsula with a girl while I went to visit an old tour manager friend of mine in McLaren Vale and ended up shoveling grapes and making wine for a couple of days. They paid me in my weight in wine.

I have lots of new things to talk about in tomorrow’s gigs like killing and eating the Australian national emblem but I might also pop into the hospital and see if I can visit strangers just to add their story to the mix.

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I got that e-mail from Bob two days ago. Then, yesterday, I received this e-mail from comedian Eric about his (Eric’s) show on the first day of the Adelaide Fringe.

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As last year, I am doing my show at the Tuxedo Cat venue. Last year it was ‘Adelaide Fringe venue of the year’. It is run by super cool Cass & Bryan who, every year, take over a derelict building and make it into something wonderful.

As with all refurbishment projects, it takes time to complete and, as Bryan & Cass are presented with just a shell every year, the build is coming from a long way back. Time is the old enemy and, when I ask about doing a technical rehearsal on the day of my first show, I am somewhat taken aback to be told that my room has not been built yet – but a blitz is about to take place that will turn three walls and a pile of old pallets into a performance space in time for my first show at 6.00pm.

I discover that there is no projector either. Last year I borrowed Dan Willis’ projector, so I drop him a quick text. He tells he now lives in Melbourne but has left his magic lantern with a mutual friend who lives in Adelaide. Our mutual friend Alex is at work and cannot leave. I go to his place of work (30 minute drive), pick up his keys, drive to his house (20 minute drive) pick up the projector, drive back to my house (20 minute drive) pick up my family (wife Helen and baby ‘Little E’), drive back to his place of work (30 minute drive) drop his keys back to him, then drive to the venue (30 minute drive).

I eventually emerge triumphant with projector and family at the venue. We park outside and unload everything we need for the show, which now includes pram, change bag, bottles and assorted toys.

I discover that the Blue Room where I am due to perform in an hour’s time is nowhere near ready and my heart sinks. Fifty minutes later, little has changed. There is no lighting, no sound, we have done no tech rehearsal at all. There seems little or no prospect of putting on a show. And the room is now filling with punters clutching their tickets.

I inform them that the room is not ready and invite them to return to the bar. No sooner have these people vacated than another wave of punters arrive. I give these people the same advice and, as the third wave arrive, I decide this is hopeless and locate the ushers and tell them the room is not ready and ask them to hold the audience in the bar until we are ready. I obtain the customary Australian “No worries, mate” response, return to the room and do what I can.

Five minutes later, there appears to have been a shift change with the ushers as the room again starts to fill with punters.

We finally kick off nearly half an hour late. I ask if any of the audience need to be anywhere before 7:30 and offer anyone who does their money back – No-one moves and we crack on with the show.

Ten minutes into the show, we lose all power. The light that we belatedly got onto the stage extinguishes. The projector’s whirring fan falls eerily silent and we lose both sound and picture, like a faulty TV.

Then the audience, who have been so tolerant up to now, really come into their own. Many of them take out their mobile phones and light the room up with their screens. It is a joy to behold… almost literally ‘people power’.

As we have gone completely off-piste and are unable to continue with the show, we just spend the next ten minutes chatting. Cass dashes about in the shadows trying to fix the problem which, as expected, she does and we finally get on with the show – a show that, to be fair, I have actually enjoyed… And so, it seems, have the audience. Much of the credit must go to them. I resolve to have all of them come to all of my gigs.

Comic Juliet Meyers is doing the show following mine and she is none too pleased that she is starting over half an hour late (and to be honest neither am I). I tell her the only upside is that she now gets to see me change out of my seafaring show garb and into my civvies.

As I drop my trousers, she tells me that my buttocks are “surprisingly pert”. I am not entirely sure how I should take this information but eventually conclude that the only explanation is that Ms Meyers has been imagining my buttocks for some time and now – faced with the actuality of my derrière – has found them to be more pert than she had imagined…

I then go off to find the family.

As usual, Little E is found feeding on her mum and, after I get myself and Helen some of the fabulous Vietnamese salad with dumplings from the food counter, we sit and eat in quiet contemplation, until a queue unexpectedly forms beside us.

Unbeknown to us, the ‘quiet’ corner that Helen had positioned herself in to feed Little E was in fact right next to the entrance to the Yellow Room venue and, for the next five minutes, we become a living exhibit entitled ‘Feeding the Family’ for the entertainment of the waiting crowd….

I then dash across to the Austral venue to perform in Nik Coppin’s show Shaggers.

On arrival, I see Bob Slayer making his way from the bar with four jugs of beer, two in each hand.

“Oh” I innocently think, “He is getting a big round in… He must be with a large group of people.”

Then I see him go and sit at a table alone and conclude he must actually be continuing his mission to outdrink Australia and, having done battle with Perth, it is now Adelaide’s turn…

The crowd at Shaggers are also lovely and everyone has a lovely time talking filth with them.

I am second on and, as I finish my stint onstage, I get a text to say Little E has finally fallen asleep and Helen has come to the venue collect me but there is a fight in progress outside the Austral and she is sheltering around the corner.

With the time approaching midnight and the car park I abandoned our car in closing at midnight, I have no choice but to brave the crowd and the fight and collect my girls. We all go home, having had one very long day.

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…That was a heavily shortened version of what happened in Eric’s hectic day. And that was only Day One of the Adelaide Fringe.

I feel we may hear more anarchic tales from Down Under.

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