Tag Archives: psychology

Lewis Schaffer and the unopened letters from his mother: “All women are crazy”

Lewis Schaffer (right) with his Leicester Square audience

The penultimate time I saw London-based American comedian Lewis Schaffer, he was touting a show in a venue “near Leicester Square” in which the audience had to turn up at a corner of the square and be led to a highly secret venue.

When the audience assembled, he took them to the upstairs floor of a Burger King bar on the corner of the square, where he found a table and sat around chatting to them.

Now, in the lead-up to the Edinburgh Fringe, he is performing a new Monday night show in a more conventional venue – a room above a pub near London Bridge, an hour-and-a-half after his weekly Resonance FM Radio show which is transmitted live. His radio show is allegedly specifically for Americans living in Nunhead, London. But the guests are almost never American and rarely come from or have any link to Nunhead.

“Come along to the radio show and sit in the corner,” he told me. “You don’t have to say anything.”

Lucy Frederick with radio hosts Lisa Moyle and Lewis Schaffer

The actual guest on the radio show last Monday was comic Lucy Frederick, though he did ask me a couple of questions, introducing me as “the worst guest ever”.

In a pub after the radio show, he talked about his upcoming Edinburgh Fringe show Unopened Letters From My Mother

He has a whole batch of letters sent to him in London from his mother in New York over a ten year period. Each night, he will genuinely open a different sealed letter received from her which he has never read.

“Every woman that I know,” he told us in the pub, “has said their mother was insane, so it has given me the impression that maybe all mothers are insane.”

“I am not a parent,” said Lucy Frederick, “and I don’t really plan to be, but maybe maternal love almost drives you insane. The weight of my mother’s affection and love was quite a burden. Which sounds a dreadful thing to say, but I think living up to that was…”

“I have a feeling,” interrupted Lewis Schaffer, “that is what’s going to be in my mother’s letters. The burden of my mother’s love.”

“You’re riddled with guilt,” suggested Lucy. “Guilt and gratitude: two very heavy things.”

“These are letters,” I asked Lewis, “which you received after you came over here in 2000?”

“Yeah.”

“And she died when?”

“2011.”

“So why did you not open the letters?”

Lewis Schaffer’s unopened letters from his mother (He has since – long ago – changed his address)

“We don’t know why,” replied Lewis Schaffer. “There were six I did open. The first six. I looked in the envelopes to see if there was any money. I didn’t read the letters and just put them aside. After the first six, I didn’t open any of them. I thought: The chance of there being money in them is… But I didn’t want those letters to go to waste, so I kept them.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, we don’t know,” he replied.

“And why,” I asked, “for the first time in your life, are you using the word ‘We’?”

“I’m thinking for the show,” he explained. “We as an audience, and me, are going to find out.”

“But you have no idea why you have never read the letters?” I asked.

“I think I have an idea. I could give you an answer but, whether that would be the real answer… It’s been 17 years.”

“You have no idea,” I said, “what is in the letters. They might be very emotionally upsetting. What happens if, on the second night, you break down with paranoid fear of what’s going to be in tomorrow’s letter?”

“We don’t know,” said Lewis Schaffer. “You know, for the past two years I’ve sort-of wound down my comedy because, two years ago, I had a 5-star review at Edinburgh and, that year, I achieved all the goals I wanted to with comedy: which weren’t very much… To do a ‘regular’ type show and to have people appreciate it. And I acted in a play. And I also organised a tour with over 50 dates. After that, I felt: Why bother? Why do I need to continue? That’s what I’m really afraid of: that I don’t really have a desire to do stand-up comedy any more.”

That was what Lewis Schaffer said to us in the pub.

Lewis Schaffer kicks off a show every Monday

An hour later, in his weekly comedy show, upstairs in another pub, he told the audience:

“When I open the letters, people are going to cry – Moms or people with moms. We all have moms. I thought: People are going to cry and that is going to get me an award. The way you win a comedy award in Edinburgh is by making people cry. Heartfelt. I have to do this show now, because I promised to do it.

“I kind of know why I didn’t open the letters, but I don’t know what’s in the letters. My mother is dead. So I am thinking: How can this be funny? Does it mean I didn’t love my mother? Does it make me a bad person?”

A woman in the audience said: “Yes.”

“Does it?” said Lewis Schaffer. “I left my mother behind in New York. I have a sister. I’ve noticed this about daughters… they think their mothers are crazy.

“I would say all women are crazy. I got married late and the mother of my children threw me out. I’ve had a lot of dealings with women and I’ve noticed how crazy they are. My father would say to me: Your mother’s crazy, but that woman over there is not crazy. He said that because he wasn’t married to that woman over there. That’s when I started to think that all women are crazy. I don’t hear many people calling men crazy. They call them shits.

“At some point, you have to say that women are a different species from men and you have to learn to love them for what they are, otherwise you will be very unhappy. My father never understood that. He would say Your mother’s crazy so I grew up thinking my mother was literally crazy. But, when I look back at her now, based on the other women I’ve met in my life, she was just a normal woman. I didn’t open the letters because…”

Well, you will have to see the show.

As always with Lewis Schaffer shows, it will be different every night. With insight and an element of crazy.

Lewis Schaffer (Photograph by Garry Platt)

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Comic Becky Fury on what ISIS/ISIL’s beheader Jihadi John was really like

Becky was talking just off Brick Lane last night

After yesterday’s blog with Chris Dangerfield was posted, Becky Fury – winner of at least one genuine Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award – asked if she could give a response.

So I met her last night in London’s East End, just off Brick Lane.

“What made you want to respond to the blog?” I asked her.

“I basically,” she told me, “wanted to do some self promotion…”

“Oh God,” I said.

“…and I had some ideas about politics,” Becky continued.

“Good grief,” I said. “You didn’t want to have a go at Chris Dangerfield for perceived Islamophobia?”

“No.”

“Well, that’s no use at all,” I told her. “You just wanted a chat.”

“Yes,” she laughed. “I just wanted to be validated. Do you want me to talk about Islamic Fundamentalism?”

“It’d be something,” I told her.

“My friend actually taught Jihadi John,” Becky said. “He was basically a kid in remedial maths at school.”

“And he went to my college,” I told her. “The University of Westminster… Well, it was The Polytechnic in my day.”

“When he was at school,” said Becky, “he was a kid that nobody liked. He had B.O. and bad breath. He was basically a disenfranchised kid and this idea of running off to become an Islamic Fundamentalist was obviously quite attractive. Then he got turned into this character in tabloid newspaper mythology. But he was basically just a kid from remedial maths who didn’t get on with anyone.”

“This character in tabloid newspaper mythology”

“Well,” I said, “beheading people certainly works as a bid for attention.”

“He was basically pissed-off,” said Becky. “Maybe if they had had better pastoral care in his local London borough he wouldn’t have done that. And then there were all those girls running off to find this hunky Jihadi John in Syria and, when they get there, they just find that it’s Muhammad, the smelly kid from remedial maths and they think: Well, we might as well have just stayed in Tower Hamlets and met him and our mums wouldn’t have been quite so pissed-off.

“Obviously, you don’t want to encourage any type of religious fundamentalism. You can pick on one as being worse but, if you do pick on one as being worse, you make it worse and it turns it into something that becomes more dangerous because you have given people something to join in with. After they started trying to ban the burkha, lots more Moslem women started wearing burkhas because they were told they should not be allowed to do it. That’s what happens when you try to put a lid on things.”

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Scottish comedienne Janey Godley is accused of having a secret life

Janey Godley and the letter from a non-fan

Ah! The joys of being a jobbing comedian with a big mouth…

My comic chum Janey Godley, whose latest London show was the subtly-titled Donald Trump Is A Cunt, has already incurred the Orange wrath of deranged Rangers fans.

Now she tells me that – before one of her recent shows in Paisley – a man was handing out sheets of paper to members of her audience.

The sheets (with spelling mistakes intact) read:


janey godley is employed by british intelligence

the purpose of this employment is to deceive and lie to the british public

she plays many roles, including janey godley, to take part in these frauds

the scale and scope of the lies and deception that take place in the public areas are too vast in scope to go into here and you would dismiss them out of hand as the ramblings of a madman, which you probably will anyway, but the purpose of this is to make you aware who you are seeing tonight, “janey” could give you a talk tonight that would shake you to your core and make you leave the theatre re-evaluating your understanding of the world we live in and your place in it, but she wont.

i believe “janey godley” to be a character played by an actress who is under the employment of british intelligence to carry our fake events in ther public arena for social and phsycological engineering purposes, i believe when we identify these people amongst us we must call them out for the liars they are so thats what im doing.


Ah! Freedom of speech is something to be cherished and encouraged.

The person who wrote that warning about Janey should stand for political office.

On current trends, they might get elected.

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How to become a comedy promoter? – Tim Rendle stripped for a policewoman

Tim Rendle in London’s Leicester Square

Tim Rendle in London’s Leicester Square, near the Lion’s Den

Last night, I went to the weekly Tuesday night Lion’s Den Comedy Club (aka Comedy Car Crash) in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue, run by Tim Rendle.

How do you become a comedy club promoter?

If Tim Rendle is anything to go by, then fuck knows.

He has been a painter, barman and baby sitter, web designer, magician and spy hole fitter. He has sold windows and doors, installed security systems, flipped burgers, busked with a drum and his first ever self-employed job was as a car washer when he was nine.

There is also a bit of controversy, because the Lion’s Den is a pay-to-play club. Acts have to pay to appear on his comedy night and there is no quality control at all.

“So,” I said when I met him, “pay-to-play. Terrible idea. Why do comics have to pay to perform? Why can’t you just make money from punters paying on the door to get in?”

Comic Johnny Vegas (left) with Tim at the Lion’s Den

Johnny Vegas (left) with Tim at the Den

“It’s really hard,” he told me, “to get an audience for open mic nights. We have an open door policy. We don’t require videos or CDs in advance for acts to perform. I’m happy to have first-timers and, as a result, on the circuit now, some of the biggest names did their teeth-grinding at the Lion’s Den and the Comedy Car Crash.”

“You are getting money out of comedians who can’t afford it,” I said.

“If you want to be a swimmer,” Tim replied, “you go to swimming classes. If you want to be a gymnast, you go to gymnast classes. All of them charge more than we do. It’s a spot. It’s a stage to work material out on. It’s not a bad thing. We’re not… what’s the word…”

“Exploiting?” I suggested.

“Yeah, that’s the word,” said Tim. “We are not exploiting anyone. They can get a spot anywhere else if they want.”

I told him: “I saw an act a few weeks ago at the Lion’s Den and I thought he might be slightly… deluded?”

“Yes,” said Tim, “But he has a right to play, same as anyone else. The club is a massive part of my life. I’ve never been so loyal to any thing or person. I’ve been doing it for ten years now, which is a quarter of my life.”

“You were brought up Amish,” I said.

“Yeah. Amish-ish. The Hutterian Brethren, down in Robertsbridge in East Sussex.”

“There is a community of Amish down there?” I asked.

Hutterian women return from working in the fields at sunset. (Photograph by Rainer Mueller)

Hutterian women return from working in the fields at sunset. (Photograph by Rainer Mueller)

“Yeah. When I was 1½, we moved from Lincoln to this Amish commune where my grandparents lived. My mum was brought up in a different commune in Shropshire. I stayed there until I was five, then came out into the real world, which was an eye-opener.”

“Did the Amish start to your life scar you?”

“No. I think it gave me a really good set of morals. Maybe a bit too unrealistic in the real world.”

“Being too honest?”

“Yeah. It’s just how honest, isn’t it? Knowing when not to be honest. Or knowing when to shut up. It’s the tree that grew inside me, so I do try to be nice and honest.”

“What did you want to be when you were aged 16?”

“I’m not sure. I didn’t have the happiest of family lives. When I was 16, basically, I wanted to get the hell away from home as soon as possible, so I joined the Army. I was accepted by them, but they said I had to do my GCSE exams.

“Then, on the way to sit my second GCSE, I got run over. I was riding my motorbike to school and a car smashed into my leg. That upset the Army. They said: We don’t want you any more. That was a bit sad, because it meant I had to stay around home a bit more.

“Then, a couple of years later, I got run over again. That time, I put my face through a car – the window of a car.”

“Why?”

“Because the driver was an idiot. He signalled left but did a U-turn. I tried to overtake him, he cut me off, so I went through his windscreen. My girlfriend went under the car.”

“She was OK?”

“She bruised her ankle and got a bit of petrol inside her. I ripped my neck open, got 35 stitches plus a few in my chin. I did pass out through lack of blood. That was just the start of it, really. Then the Crohn’s Disease kicked in just after that second crash and I started to think: Why the fuck does God hate me so much?”

“What does Crohn’s Disease do?” I asked.

Tim developed Crohn’s Disease when he was younger

Tim developed Crohn’s Disease when he was younger

“Fucks your life,” replied Tim. “Makes you skinny.”

“So you had accidents and disease rather than a career start?” I asked.

“I don’t think I’ve had a career ever. I wasn’t able to think about the future. Every time I did, I got gazumped by Fate at the last minute.

“We had moved down to Hastings when I was 5 and, when I was about 20, I was being hassled by my mum to get a job. I was getting so much nagging by my mum to get a job and I saw an ad to be a stripogram and my mum said Go on, then! so I did.

“It was the weirdest job interview I’ve ever had – having to take my clothes off and bend over in front of people who then told me: You’re gonna have to shave your arse. Women don’t like it and there are times when you need to bend over.”

“Can you make a good living as a stripogram around Hastings?” I asked.

“At the time – 1994-ish – yeah. £11 per minute.”

“An anecdote?” I asked.

“Loads. I was getting ready in a police station and they had sectioned off a toilet just for me to get ready.”

“This,” I asked, “was to pull a surprise on a police lady?”

“Yeah. I was actually technically sexually assaulted by that woman in front of about 150 police people.”

“Any tricks of the trade?” I asked.

“Basically,” explained Tim, “when male strippers warm up, they have to… eh… punish… erm…”

“Fluff?” I suggested.

“Yeah. Fluff. But, with my bad back from the car crashes, there was no way I’m going to bend down there. So I just had to punish it a bit.”

“A bit of slap and tickle?” I suggested.

In the police station - slap, tickle and elastic bands

The police station – lots of slap, a little tickle and elastic bands

“Yeah. More slap than tickle. And then you get an elastic band and you tie it off. Halfway through doing it in the police station toilet, a policeman opened the door. It was a weird situation with me halfway through slapping myself into position. He asked: Are you going to be long? I told him: I am trying, sir; I’m trying.”

“What’s the elastic band thing?” I asked.

“You tie yourself off,” explained Tim. “Once you have achieved a good… eh… state of being, you tie it off to preserve that state of being.”

“Keeping the blood in…” I said.

“Yeah,” said Tim. “It just makes it took great inside a g-string or banged against a tea towel.”

“But you gave all that glamour up,” I said, “for what?”

“Many years later, I moved to Colchester and did a full-time 2-year engineering course. I wanted to take that further and do industrial design.”

“You were still interested in erections?” I asked.

“No. I wanted to be an inventor, basically, because that’s the way my mind works. I’ve got an engineering mind, but I find engineering very boring – working out how much force a bridge can take is really boring. I wanted to make things and make the world a better place. I did the degree and found out they are just painting the wheel a different colour.

“But, while I was doing the degree, a friend I was staying with suggested I try his job out and that’s when I started working with people who have learning disabilities and in mental health. I became a support assistant.”

“I couldn’t do that,” I said. “Too depressing.”

“No,” Tim said, “not at all. It was one of the best jobs I ever did. I found the learning disabilities not particularly challenging. I tended to veer more towards the challenging behaviour and that led to the mental health work.”

“What do you mean by ‘challenging behaviour’?” I asked.

Where mental health meets kick boxing

Where mental health meets comedy and kick boxing

“Getting beaten up, basically. They were quite angry and violent people. A lot of the job was pacifying behaviour and basically being a target.”

“Trying to avoid them beating you up?”

“Yeah. Which I was pretty good at.”

“Because you are good at psychology?”

“Good at psychology and because I used to do kick boxing. There was nothing that I had not had worse.”

“So,” I said, “you are the ideal comedy promoter. You deal with mad people and can kick them.”

“I’ve had a few hairy situations. We have only ever had two violent incidents in ten years at the Lion’s Den.

“I once walked into a situation where six people were trying to pull an act off an audience member who he was beating the crap out of. They couldn’t get him off. I walked up and just managed to put my hand across his face and pull him backwards, which separated them instantly.”

“What was the problem with the act?”

“It was an act just assassinating every woman in the audience – being really horrible. Nasty. It wasn’t comedy.”

“And is the act still around?”

“I’ve not seen him since and I think he’s lucky, because the police were after him.”

Tim Rendle has had an interesting life, which continues.

There is a video on YouTube of Darius Davies introducing a performance by Sweet Steve at the Lion’s Den.

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A wee chat about what it is like to live as a married man in women’s clothing

Sandra Smith: a woman of many costumes

Sandra Smith: a woman of many costumes

Last Saturday night I went to fetish club Torture Garden’s Love Hurts Valentine’s Ball, at Elephant and Castle, with this blog’s South Coast correspondent Sandra Smith.

I posted a blog about it.

Here Sandra Smith, too, shares a memory.


While John went to change into his outfit, I got into conversation with a man who was dressed in female attire.

She said her name was Katie.

We chatted at the foot of the stairs for a while, then moved into one of the rooms to continue our conversation.

Katie told me that she was 44, with a degree in Analytical Chemistry.

She had started to wear women’s clothing on hitting puberty, a time when she had wanted to get a girlfriend but couldn’t.

I suggested maybe cross-dressing was an unusual reaction to that.

She laughed and said: “Yes, I suppose it was.”

Katie said that she loved her wife, wanted to have sex with her, but felt neglected and shut-out after the children were born. Her wife always had some excuse not to have sex.

I suggested that she probably IS tired with two young children.

Katie brushed this aside.

I asked Katie what cross-dressing made her feel like and what it gave her.

She said that, when dressed as a woman, she loved the attention that she got from men. It made her feel desired, an affirmation of self.

This had led to many sexual encounters with men.

I asked her what sort of man was she attracted to.

“Anyone that will have me, really…”

We laughed at that.

“…although I do like black men,” she continued, “I wonder if women are attracted to men that cross-dress – in a sexual way I mean?”

“I’m sure there are those that are,” I replied.

Katie also mentioned that she loved looking feminine, would love to have breasts and some work done on her face to feminise it even more.

A year ago, she told her wife about her need to cross-dress and her sexual encounters with other people. This naturally had not gone down very well. But she feels that they are moving on a bit now, after much discussion.

Her wife has gone from saying about her feminine underwear: “I’m not touching those!” to “Are these yours or mine?”

Most weekends, she tolerates Katie going out as her female self, but Katie changes at a friend’s house. Her wife doesn’t feel that she can tell anyone about the situation, so only has her husband to talk to. She wants to keep the marriage going but the way forward isn’t clear, even though Katie has suggested they continue in an open marriage.

Katie adopts her male role during the week and at work and feels that nobody knows about her other life, apart from the other like-minded people that she socialises with.

I felt a bit sad for them all: caught in a situation that seems to me to be so difficult emotionally.

Katie doesn’t want to talk to anyone formally at the moment, but this may change.

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Comics Lewis Schaffer & Will Franken. Name-calling and some missing money

Lewis Schaffer videos Will Franken by a Big Mac toilet

Lewis Schaffer videos Will Franken outside a Big Mac toilet

Yesterday’s blog was the first part of a chat I had with UK-based American comics Lewis Schaffer and Will Franken. A few months ago, Will decided that he would wear women’s clothes on stage and off stage and would be called Sarah Franken. Now read on…


“You got mad at me,” Lewis Schaffer said to Will, “because I called you Will all that time.”

“You were the only one,” replied Will, “that did not call me Sarah throughout the whole seven months – not just at the Edinburgh Fringe – all the months leading up to it.”

“I don’t care about other people,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“So,” I said to Will, “you are not going to be appearing as Sarah after you finish with this show?”

“I dunno,” said Will.

“What are the alternatives?” I asked. “Are you going to be the ‘real’ Will Franken?

“I have no idea,” he told me.

“It might be difficult to backtrack,” I suggested.

“Yes,” agreed Will. “Are people going to think I took the piss? There was this outpouring of love when I came out as Sarah. But, at the end of the day, they don’t have to live this life. I do and I’ve personally found it a fucker. I had no interest in taking hormones or having the operation. I wanted to keep my wing-wang.”

“Yes,” I said. “People thought: He’s so brave for doing it. And, if you backtrack, they might say: He was just doing it for publicity.

“Of course I wasn’t!” said Will.

“I know,” I said, “but that’s what they might think.”

Lewis Schaffer (left) and will Franken check video shot

Mr Schaffer (left) & Mr Franken watch a video

Lewis Schaffer said: “We always think: What effect will it have on my career?” When I moved to England, I got an offer to appear on the TV series Wife Swap. My wife at the time did not want to do it and I didn’t want to do it either.”

“Did they tell you who you would swap with?” I asked.

“No.”

“A celebrity?” I asked.

“No. It wasn’t a Celebrity Wife Swap. But the first thing I thought was: How will this help my career? Not the money.”

Will said: “The first thing that goes though my head now is: Is there money? I don’t think about exposure any more.”

“Would you lend him money?” I asked Lewis Schaffer.

“I did,” he said.

“I needed a guest on my radio show,” Lewis Schaffer explained, “because I’m very last minute. I was desperate for a guest. I said to Will: Come down. I’ll loan you £50.

“I thought,” said Will, “that you told me: I’ll give you £50.”

“I’m not gonna GIVE you £50,” said Lewis. “So since then, he’s given me a total of £8 back.”

“Anyway,” I said. “Career advancement…”

“You don’t write funny,” Lewis Schaffer told Will. “You should write funny.”

“What ya talkin’ about?” Will asked.

“You CAN write funny,” said Lewis Schaffer. “You do write funny.”

“I do write funny,” said Will.

“But often,” said Lewis Schaffer, “you write very seriously in the middle of the night.”

“Well, surely that is good,” I said.

“It’s not good,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“What do you mean it’s not good?” asked WIll.

Lewis Schaffer (left and Will Franken sharing fast food

Lewis Schaffer (left) and Will Franken share a love of fast food

“Because,” said Lewis Schaffer, “in real life, you are never not funny. When you talk to people, you are never serious for more than a minute.”

“I played Hate ’n’ Live,” said Will and the subject for me was Islam. I thought it was tailor-made for me. I deal with jihad and radical, y’know… I mean, any type of hypocrisy, I’ve got to go after it. I see something so hypocritical with I personally hate Christians, but…The hypocrisy to me is just astounding. I’ve been obsessed with this for about ten years.

“At a show, this girl said to me: I was just in the Middle East and I found Islam really interesting. So I asked: What was your favourite part? The homophobia? And it turns into this, like, tense… She said nobody questioned her her whole life. She said she went to Cambridge… I said: Mohammed; six-year-old brides… She said: nine-year-old… I said: Oh, nine years old. I do apologise… She got tense and she walked out and I was angry and I said: You fucking Maoist!

“Her boyfriend came back in and said: Why did you call my girlfriend a bitch? I said: I didn’t call her a bitch; I called her a Maoist, which is actually worse. But then I hated myself, because I don’t want to be that person.”

“You mean confrontational?” I asked.

“Yeah but then, at the same time, I feel there’s so much brainwashing…”

“That’s my point,” said Lewis Schaffer. “He’s made my point for me. My point is that, when you’re with people, you are rarely serious to the point of not being funny.”

“I’m getting confused,” I said.

“That’s your default position,” said Lewis Schaffer, still talking to Will. “When you’re with people, that’s your default position. But I’ve seen what you write and sometimes what you write is serious because you’re in the privacy of your own home and you don’t feel the need to be funny as you would when you actually see someone’s face.”

“True,” said Will.

“The reason I notice that,” continued Lewis Schaffer, “is that is like me when I wrote my blog for those three months. I was writing in the privacy of my home and it was just bitterness-bitterness-bitterness-bitterness-bitterness. But, when I’m out with people, it’s bitterness-joke-bitterness-joke-joke-bitterness and they don’t really notice the bitterness.”

One of Will Franken’s blogs

An old Will Franken blog

“I used to write really funny blogs,” said Will. “Back when I smoked a lot of weed, I was constantly on the blog. Some of them were really, really weird. Some of them were long libertarian treatises that were serious and academic. Some would be like fake obituaries for a woman names Dolores Oatmeal.”

“What about the serious blogs?” asked Lewis Schaffer.

“Some,” replied Will, “I just went through and deleted. Sometimes I get serious. I think I have that kind of…”

“Yes,” said Lewis Schaffer. “I know you do. But, when you are actually with people, if you see somebody not being happy with what you’re saying, it’s not that you backtrack, but you know, deep down inside, you want to make a joke about everything when you look at their face. You see somebody’s face and you say to yourself: I’m going to make them laugh.

“Or sometimes I wanna run away,” said Will. “I wanna be like Christopher Hitchens. I would love to be that detached emotionally,”

“You can’t do that,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“I can’t do that,” Will agreed, “because I’m too passionate.”


After our chat finished, Lewis Schaffer recorded a 2-minute chat with Will/Sarah Franken and me inside a Big Mac toilet… It is on YouTube.

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Will Franken revert from being Sarah?

Lewis Schaffer (left) with Will/Sarah Franken and apple pie/cheeseburger

Lewis Schaffer (left) + Will and/or Sarah Franken in London last night plus an apple pie and one of three cheeseburgers

A few months ago, London-based American comic Will Franken decided that he would wear women’s clothes on stage and off stage and would be called Sarah Franken.

I met Will/Sarah last night for a chat with fellow American comedian Lewis Schaffer. Will/Sarah was wearing men’s clothes, so I shall call him Will in what follows.

We met at a branch of McDonald’s in Holborn. Lewis Schaffer ordered apple pie and brought his own water. Will Franken ordered three double cheeseburgers and a small Coke. They are Americans. What can I say?


Sarah Franken’s current stage show

“When I became Sarah… a feeling of being accepted.”

“So,” I asked Will, “are you going to revert to being Will again?”

“Well,” he replied, “I was making a pros and cons list…”

“So Sarah might be a pro and Will a con?” I asked.

“I look on this as a prolonged break,” he said.

“Dressing as a man?”

“Yes. When I became Sarah, there was a feeling of being accepted, but there were a lot of comments and abuse in East London – I’m 6’5”; I stick out like a sore thumb. A lot of people were nasty. They shouted out: Gay boy! Trans-sexual!”

“This was in Bethnal Green,” I said, “and I’ve heard you say there were particular problems from Moslems.”

“…and sometimes,” said Will, “you would get the tourists who just wanted a photo like you were the Ronald McDonald clown.”

“You could charge them,” I told him.

“I’m a whore,” he replied, “but I never sell out when the opportunity presents itself.”

“Because you don’t want to be a success,” suggested Lewis Schaffer.

“Well, that’s not being a success,” argued Will. “Being a tranny and getting your photo taken.”

“That’s why you did it,” said Lewis Schaffer. “Because you knew it would annoy people.”

“That’s not why I did it,” countered Will.

“That’s why I would do it,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“But the other problem,” said Will, “is I fancy women and I think I was like kinda swept up in this idea: Oh! Women love confidence! It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. As long as you’re confident. That’s what women are attracted to. But I found it was just utterly confusing. I didn’t know when to make the move. I mean, I never knew when to make a move when I was Will either, but Sarah confused the hell out of me.”

Will/Sarah Franken - "I didn’t know when to make the move"

Will/Sarah Franken – “I didn’t know when to make the move”

“A female friend,” I said, “once told me the biggest turn-on line for any woman was a man saying: I think I MIGHT be gay. Then it’s a challenge… So, surely, if you dress in women’s clothing but say you’re still heterosexual that might surely be even more of a turn-on?”

“Women want to hunt,” suggested Lewis Schaffer. “Like men. It’s human nature to want to hunt. But women, unfortunately, are not really allowed to hunt so, if you give them an opportunity, I think they really enjoy that.”

“I need people,” said Will, “but I’m very afraid of them too. I think I’m really shy and withdrawn in a lot of ways.”

“That’s all comedians,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“Comedians,” I suggested, “are often extroverts who want to hide in a cave.”

“Absolutely,” agreed Will.

“I am like a refrigerator light bulb,” said Lewis Schaffer. “You open the door and I’m on… If I’m at home or with someone I know, I’m miserable but – out and about, if I meet strangers…”

“That’s where you and I differ,” Will told him, then turned to me: “Lewis Schaffer will be a really good friend and he will stand with you in Leicester Square and say: Look, you DON’T wanna get the razor blades. There’s no reason to put your wrist in the way. And then he sees someone passing and it’s: Tommy! How are ya? and he’ll go right off. When somebody passes by that he knows – he could hate their guts – but he will…”

“Because,” explained Lewis Schaffer, “I’m happy to see them.”

“But why,” asked Will, “would you be happy to see someone you don’t like?”

“Because,” Lewis Schaffer explained, “I know the guy, so I think I must like him, else why would I know him?”

“And then,” said Will, “I have to remind you that you don’t like them.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“But,” I said to Will, “to get back on the Sarah track, you found there were drawbacks…”

SarahFranken_photoMihaelaBodlovic

By the time you get to the 15th or 20th interview …

“Yes,” said Will. “The stares, the comments, the wanting to get laid by women. And then there was feeling like I was a poster child for trans-genderism. The first interview you do about trans-genderism feels really cool but, by the time you get to the 15th or 20th, you’re like… I mean, you know I do other things apart from being trans-gender? I developed sympathy for what black comedians must go through in interviews – black, black, black, black, clack, black, black.

“I think one of the most interesting things in the show I’m doing right now at the Museum of Comedy – Who Keeps Making All These People? – is that it’s completely blasphemous towards radical Islam… I think that is more newsworthy, given recent events.”

“I think,” said Lewis Schaffer, “the reason you’re not a huge success is you get bored. In order to be a success in comedy – a success in anything – you gotta do the same shit all the time, over and over and over again.”

“I love,” said Will, “how you don’t consider yourself a success, yet you sit here and hold court on how to be a success.”

“That’s right,” said Lewis Schaffer. “I don’t think I’m a success – I think, objectively speaking, a guy who lives in his living room, who has to buy a phone in Tesco’s, is not a success.”

“Back on the Sarah and Will track,” I said. “Will, your current show…”

“It’s the one I did in Edinburgh,” Will told me. “Who Keeps Making All These People?

“You know what your show is about?” asked Lewis Schaffer. “It’s about How can I annoy people?

“That’s not true,” said Will.

“Yes it is,” insisted Lewis Schaffer.

“What are you talking about?” asked Will.

“That’s what your show is about.”

“No it’s not.”

“You,” I told Lewis Schaffer, “are just trying to be annoying.”

“Your thing,” Lewis Schaffer said to Will, “is similar to mine, except I have a filter on what I say… I’m trying to make it funny. You will say it whether it’s funny or not…”

“But,” said Will, “my show IS funny!”

“…and then it becomes funny,” continued Lewis Schaffer, “You will say things even if you haven’t figured out how to make them funny.”

“Excuse me,” I said to Lewis Schaffer. “Pot kettle black.”

The Division Bell started ringing for Will in 2014

Did The Division Bell start ringing for Will back in 2014?

“My show at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe – in 2014,” said Will, “was like a Pink Floyd album. Weird sound cues and everything. It just felt like a psychedelic experience. I liked it. This year’s show – when I came out as Sarah – it felt more like Johnny Rotten. Like the style was the same but I began riffing. I’m starting to do some stuff off the top of my head. I feel more vulnerable doing that.”

“Because you’re being you?” I asked.

“Yeah. Cos, if I’m putting on an accent, it could be that guy’s beliefs. If I’m speaking as myself, it’s really scary.”

“What,” I asked, “was your act like five years ago? Were you not you?”

“Never was,” said Will. “The first Edinburgh show I did, I started off as a British butler and I think I ended as a disabled teenage American girl.”

“In 2014” said Lewis Schaffer, “you were BBC Radio and you were drinking and you were talking to somebody on the phone.”

“So coming out as Sarah,” I said, “is just another way of not being you – another mask.”

“No,” said Will, “I don’t think so. I felt Sarah was me.”

“But,” I said, “you were wearing clothes you were not wearing before, therefore that’s a costume, in a sense.”

“Well, I think that’s why the riffing this year. I felt I just had to go out there and just explain: I’m a character comedian, but this is not a character and here’s some of the shit I deal with. This show is so heavy. There is about ten minutes of peripherally related trans-gender related stuff and then it reaches a point where it just flips and I go after over-diagnosis and the psychiatric industry and ISIS and that was my reaction to what I thought would be people expecting me to write a nice little show about coming out – which I didn’t want to write. I got even angrier and less-PC as a result.”

(TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW)

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