Tag Archives: Jonathan Schwab

Why do Germans laugh at an arguably tragic film about comic Lewis Schaffer?

Lewis Schaffer behind the Source Below door yesterday

Lewis Schaffer hides behind the Source Below door yesterday

What is happening to me?

Yesterday’s blog was about me failing to record a Skyped call with someone in Germany. I claimed a recording snafu had happened on only one other occasion. Then, last night in London, I buggered-up a recording of a post-Lewis Schaffer Soho solo show conversation.

This was the last of Lewis Schaffer’s Tuesday/Wednesday night Free Until Famous shows at Soho’s Source Below for 2013. He is back in January, after the venue allows space for Christmas parties, karaoke nights and the like.

We ended up after his show at a well-lit restaurant in London’s glamorous West End.

To be exact, upstairs at the Kentucky Fried Chicken just off Leicester Square.

Marina, Alex and Lewis last night

Marina Dulepina, Alex Mason and Lewis Schaffer last night

The ‘We’ were Lewis Schaffer, two of his entourage – Heather Stevens and Alex Mason – and Marina Dulepina who was heavily involved in the production of director Jonathan Schwab’s short film titled Lewis Schaffer is Free Until Famous.

“In Britain,” Lewis Schaffer explained, “the film wasn’t considered a comedy. It was considered to be very serious here. But, when they showed it in Germany, they thought it was hysterically funny. The bits where British and American people are in tears over the plight of Lewis Schaffer’s tragic life, the Germans see as a moral victory of the oppressed worker over…”

“What?” I asked.

“I dunno,” laughed Lewis Schaffer. “I’m making this up. But, in Germany, people did laugh at me.”

“You’re a Jew,” I said.

“They laugh at Jews in trouble,” said Lewis Schaffer. “Did people not laugh, Marina? It’s considered a comedy in Germany. Here, it’s considered a tragedy. The tragedy of Lewis Schaffer.”

“Why is it considered a comedy in Germany?” I asked.

“Ask Marina,” said Lewis Schaffer.

Marina was both shy and Latvian

Marina Dulepina was shy and Latvian last night

“She’s too shy to tell me,” I replied.

“That’s because she comes from Latvia,” explained Lewis Schaffer. “She comes from Russian parents and the Latvians are racist against the Russians because of forced colonisation after the War and…”

“Back to the Germans,” I said, “and don’t mention the War.”

“The reasons the Germans liked it are…” said Lewis Schaffer. “Why was the film funny, Alex?”

“It wasn’t!” said Alex Mason.

After this point, although my iPhone claimed it was recording, it did not.

Basically, from then on, Lewis Schaffer talked about what people thought of him… Marina coyly explained about the situation in Latvia… Alex Mason made some highly intelligent observations none of which I can remember… Lewis Schaffer talked about what other people thought of him… Heather mentioned she had been recognised by someone she didn’t know because he had seen her photo in my blog… and Lewis Schaffer talked some more about what other people thought of him.

Entourage member Heather reacts to another Schafferism

Entourage member Heather reacts to yet another Schafferism

Marina then explained that the original idea had been to make a film about a boxer.

I was not clear how this had changed into a film about a comedian, but thought it more interesting not to ask.

Then Lewis Schaffer talked about what people really thought of him and Heather buried her head in her arms.

It seems that Jonathan Schwab and Marina Dulepina had realised after first seeing Lewis Schaffer’s show that the more interesting film story was about Lewis Schaffer himself rather than about a stand-up comedian.

Lewis Schaffer was insistent – with some justification – that he is interesting because he is no different on-stage and off-stage and then talked about what people really think of him.

“People laughed in Germany,” he told me. “Did people laugh in Germany, Marina?”

Heather buried her head in her arms on the table.

I left after about an hour, at which point Alex Mason was explaining to Lewis Schaffer how bitcoins are created. Marina Dulepina appeared to be about to nod off and Heather had her head buried in her arms on the table. Lewis Schaffer was admirably continuing to maintain his American accent. It’s amazing how he does it.

It is a pity I failed to record what was said. There was a good blog in there.

This man could snore for the United Kingdom

This man could snore for the United Kingdom

But, on the other hand, I would have had to transcribe it.

Swings and roundabouts.

On my way home in the train, a large young man was fast asleep and snoring like an earth-boring machine tunnelling from Brownhills, in north Birmingham, to Alice Springs in Australia. Or possibly somewhere else.

Life is a trial.

Jonathan Schwab’s 10-minute film about Lewis Schaffer is online.

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Filed under Comedy, Germany, Humor, Humour, UK

The film of comedian Lewis Schaffer which you cannot currently see online

Lewis Schaffer (left) and Ivor Dembina at the NFT last night

Lewis Schaffer (left) & Ivor Dembina at NFT

Yesterday night, with comedians Ivor Dembina  and Lewis Schaffer, I went to see writer Mark Kelly’s stage-work-in-progress What A Day at the unusual venue of London’s National Film Theatre. Teakshow duo Johnny Hansler and Jackie Stirling performed. The play will probably be re-titled on future outings and is unusual in probably having more gags-per-minute than Lewis Schaffer has self-doubts-per-minute.

Meanwhile, a film-maker named Jonathan Schwab has shot a 10-minute short – Lewis Schaffer Is Free Until Famous – which is on Vimeo, but which remains password-protected so no-one can see it, because Lewis Schaffer has his doubts.

No news there.

Lewis Schaffer has his doubts - several times per minute

Lewis Schaffer has his doubts – several times every minute

Writing “Lewis Schaffer has his doubts” is like writing “The Sahara has its sand”.

“It’s a technically very well-made film,” I reassured him last night.

“I know,” Lewis Schaffer shot back. “He’s a serious German film-maker. Looks a bit like Kyle MacLachlan in Twin Peaks and Showgirls. But I’m worried I’ll be like Emil Jannings in The Last Laugh. Have you seen it?”

“Yes.”

“Well, you’ll know what I mean.”

“Not remotely,” I replied.

“The pathos,” said Lewis Schaffer. “To me, I thought it was an incredible movie.”

The Last Laugh?” I asked.

“The film about me,” said Lewis Schaffer. “I thought it was an incredible movie, It’s a brilliant film. I just wish I wasn’t in it.”

“Why?” I asked.

“It’s just me bitching about how I’m not any good,” said Lewis Schaffer.

Lewis Schaffer performs in the unseen film

Lewis Schaffer shares his doubts with audiences in the movie

“But that’s your schtick,” I said. “That’s your act. All your shows are made up of you saying you’re no good or telling people your name is Lewis Schaffer. The film is great publicity. The only thing publicity can do is make you interesting enough for people to want to go see your live show and they will make up their own minds on your act after they see the show.”

“No,” said Lewis Schaffer. “They’ll see this guy on the film and think Oh my god, his shows are going to be irretrievably horrible.”

“I think it’s good publicity,” I told Lewis Schaffer. “It will intrigue people who don’t know you and it will increase your standing among other comics simply because someone has actually chosen to make a film about you instead of them. The main thing is it shows your face and it keeps saying the words Lewis Schaffer.”

“I’m not sure what’s going to happen.” said Lewis Schaffer. “Jonathan Schwab will be famous for making this film. His film is like the end of Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street.

“I’ve not seen Scarlet Street,” I told Lewis Schaffer. “What happens?”

“Edward G Robinson had killed his… had killed… I can’t remember, but he was going through a mid-life crisis and his comeuppance was… I can’t remember… He was sentenced to roaming round the city as a broken, un-famous man like me… No, he was a weekend dabbler as a painter and this young girl took his paintings and sold them as hers and the girl became famous for his paintings.”

“Well,” I told Lewis Schaffer, “I have to tell you I’m working on an act very similar to yours and thinking of performing it myself at the Edinburgh Fringe this year… But what’s your Scarlet Street comeuppance?”

“My comeuppance is being known as a depressed failure.”

“That’s not your comeuppance,” I said. “That’s your entire stage act.”

“I say in the film I’m tragic,” said Lewis Schaffer. “I’m not tragic. Well, I am tragic, of course, but other people don’t need to know that.”

“They can’t avoid it,” I said. “If they go to your show, you keep telling them that!”

Lewis Schaffer looking far from tragic in the movie

Lewis Schaffer looks far from tragic in the movie

“I’ve had a tragic life,” Lewis said, warming to his theme, “in that every person’s life who lives an unfulfilled life is tragic – who doesn’t accomplish what he could accomplish or should accomplish and every single day is doing less than he could be doing.”

“But you’ve appeared in my blog repeatedly,” I pointed out to him. “What greater fame could you want?”

“I could be happier,” said Lewis Schaffer. “I don’t even know if I even want fame. It’s not a question of fame; it’s a question of accomplishing something. In a way, my life is tragic, but no more tragic than other people’s. Have you seen the comment on my Facebook page? It’d make a good ending for your blog.”

“What does it say?” I asked.

Lewis Schaffer read it out to me.

“I’m not sure that’s a good ending,” I told him. “It’s a bit negative.”

“It’s a good ending for your blog about Lewis Schaffer,” Lewis Schaffer told me.

This is what the comment on Lewis Schaffer’s Facebook page says:

For the millionth fucking time, take me off your goddamn mailing list. Sitting through your show was one of the most painful experiences of my life, stop reminding me of it. REMOVE THE EMAIL ADDRESS FROM YOUR FUCKING MAILING LIST!!!!!!!

“It’s a good ending for your blog about Lewis Schaffer,” Lewis Schaffer repeated.

At the time of writing this blog, Jonathan Schwab’s excellent 10-minute Vimeo film remains password-protected so that the public can’t see it, because Lewis Schaffer remains unsure if it is good for his image.

His twice-every-week show Free Until Famous – the longest-running solo comedy show in London – continues every Tuesday and Wednesday in the glittering West End (well, South West Soho, near Piccadilly Circus) and his weekly radio show Nunhead American Radio With Lewis Schaffer continues on the internet every Monday night on Resonance FM.

The Fringe has reduced comedian Lewis Schaffer to this

A modest 2010 publicity shot of self-doubting Lewis Schaffer

“What are you going to do about your hair?” I asked him.

“I think I might go grey,” said Lewis Schaffer. “What do you think? I’m not sure. The trouble is all my publicity photos have black hair. I would have to have new photos taken.”

“You could get them taken for free by St Martin’s,” I suggested.

“I think I might maybe go grey,” said Lewis Schaffer.

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Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour