Yesterday, I blogged about problems over free shows at the Edinburgh Fringe and quoted one of the most prominent free performers, London-based American comedian Lewis Schaffer.
He crops up in quite a few of my blogs.
I like to have subsidiary characters and plot threads running through my blogs so that anyone regularly reading the blogs can – or, if I were to turn them into an annual e-book, anyone reading the chronological collected blogs could – follow these threads as they develop.
I recently encouraged Lewis Schaffer to start his own blog, which means he occasionally mentions me in his blog.
I aspire to being a subsidiary character myself.
Yesterday, in his blog, Lewis Schaffer wrote about his show the previous night (pay attention, dear reader): “My personal blogger John Fleming was there last night with the ‘un-named’ woman who makes his presence bearable – actually he is a welcome sight for anyone who wishes to be loved and accepted as an artist.”
I think this has the semi-unfortunate side-effect of making me seem a little creepy but – hey! – a little creepy gets you noticed.
The other slightly odd thing Lewis Schaffer wrote in his blog yesterday was: “Peter Goddard – the man whose hair I was stroking – he’s a nice guy – told me afterward that I had the audience laughing many times but stopped them as if I didn’t like them enjoying themselves.”
Stroking a man’s hair during a gig where the comedian tries to stop the audience laughing may seem odd enough but what, you might ponder, is with the odd sentence construction: “Peter Goddard – the man whose hair I was stroking – he’s a nice guy – told me…”??
Well, this goes back to two nights ago, when I saw Lewis Schaffer’s ongoing twice-weekly show Free Until Famous in London’s Soho.
There was a man there who laughed throughout. It turned out he was this Peter Goddard.
After the show, Peter Goddard, his female friend, Lewis Schaffer and my eternally-un-named friend had a meal in Soho and Peter Goddard decided he wanted to sponsor the publicity costs of Lewis Schaffer’s Edinburgh Fringe show in August.
Peter Goddard had thought the whole idea through before he came to the gig.
The only thing he wanted in return was that a picture of his head and his hand giving a thumbs-up sign should appear in the corner of every flyer and every poster for Lewis Schaffer’s show with the slogan “PETER GODDARD – HE’S A NICE GUY!”
He had loved Lewis Schaffer’s show that night. So did Lewis Schaffer. They both loved the fact it had been ‘uncomfortable’.
“Being in your show tonight,” said Peter Goddard, “was like sitting INSIDE The Office as opposed to sitting at home, watching The Office on TV. If you watch The Office on TV, you can laugh. If you were actually sitting inside The Office itself for real, you wouldn’t laugh. It would be very uncomfortable. Imagine going to a comedy club and not being sure if the comedian was David Brent or Ricky Gervais.”
That was what Peter Goddard said. And that was why he had enjoyed Lewis Schaffer’s show so much.
Lewis Schaffer was – of course – this is Lewis Schaffer, after all – indecisive about the idea.
“What do you get out of it?” Lewis Schaffer asked Peter Goddard.
“Nothing,” Peter Goddard replied. “It’s just funny… and I’m a nice guy.”
“It would have to be a photo of you with a cheesy grin,” I suggested, “like you were recommending a hamburger or a washing machine in some naff 1950s ad.”
“Yes, yes,” agreed Peter Goddard.
“I flyer for myself in Edinburgh,” Lewis Schaffer said. “People are going to ask me a thousand times – five thousand times – who you are and what you get out of it. It’ll drive me crazy talking about you and not talking about me. I hand out 5,000 flyers in Edinburgh.”
“You just say,” I suggested. “Peter Goddard – He’s a nice guy… That’s all I am contractually allowed to say.”
“What do you do?” Lewis Schaffer asked Peter Goddard.
“I’m a project manager for banks,” Peter Goddard replied.
Lewis Schaffer looked at me. I looked at Lewis Schaffer.
“I think it’s a great idea,” I said.
Afterwards, I asked Lewis Schaffer, “How long have you known him?”
“I’ve met him twice but I only remember meeting him once. Maybe more. But I don’t remember. I don’t know why he chose me.”
I opened my mouth to say something.
“I don’t know,” said Lewis Schaffer.
“It’s a great idea,” I told him. “It will get you attention and get your posters and flyers talked about, like Cockgate. Well, not quite as much as that.”
Lewis Schaffer pondered this for a few long seconds.
“Do I want that?” he asked me.
“Yes,” I told him. “It’s at least worth two-inch pieces in three or four newspapers or magazines during the Fringe.”
“Ah,” he said.
We said nothing for a few long seconds.
“Even saying No comment to 5,000 people would drive me crazy,” he said. “I want to be talking to them about Lewis Schaffer.”
We said nothing for a few long seconds.
“Tomorrow I could contact MegaBus,” Lewis Schaffer eventually said, “They could be my tour sponsor. Peter Goddard could sponsor my Edinburgh Fringe publicity and MegaBus could sponsor my Free Until Famous tour… £1 Until Famous.”
“But,” I suggested, “maybe you don’t get people with disposable incomes taking the MegaBus. Are they your target audience for comedy shows where you want people to give you as much money as they can at the end of the show?”
“You’re not going to see famous people take the coach,” said Lewis Schaffer “£1 Until Famous… In New York, I got free Oliver Peoples glasses for travelling by bus. They are the glasses of choice of American psychos.”
“Have you stopped drinking?” I asked Lewis Schaffer.
“I’ve stopped drinking,” replied Lewis Schaffer.
“What about Peter Goddard?” asked my eternally-un-named friend, as the three of us walked through Soho.
“He’s a nice guy,” said Lewis Schaffer.
“It’s a start,” I said.