Tag Archives: TV

Edinburgh Fringe Day 1: Good shows, a questionable director and a late disaster

Mark Borkowski is looking for originality

In the afternoon, with Kate Copstick, I recorded the first in a revived series of Grouchy Club Podcasts with stunt-loving PR guru Mark Borkowski who is up here partly to find right-wing comedians who may appear in a series of TV shows on RT (Russia Today). Well, that is my spin on it. Really he is looking for anyone who is so original and different that they are unlikely to get onto the currently bland and unoriginal British TV channels. Mark, in performance terms, has a taste for the bizarre and the original. He is well worth a listen.

After that, I went to see Robert White’s show billed as a comedy opera InstraMENTAL which was – rather dauntingly for the first Fringe show I have seen this year – utterly brilliant. Robert won the Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality in 2010 so can he be nominated again? Who knows? This unified show is so different it is not what he won for before and, unexpectedly, Kate Copstick’s voice turns up about ¾ of the way through. When I texted her about being in his show, it was news to her.

Narin Oz, budgerigar & Brunström belly paint

I had forgotten to take a photo of Mark Borkowski during the podcast recording, something I did not fail to do at Fringe Central when I was accosted by Narin Oz, who showed me a photo on her phone of her blue budgerigar in front of a blue painting created by Malcolm Hardee Award winning Michael Brunström’s belly.

Anyone present at the relevant Brunström shows will be aware this is not a joke.

Narin also showed me a photo of herself covered in mud and pointed out that her show #DirtyWoman includes copious amounts of real mud. She told me all her #DirtyWoman shows are being billed as ‘work-in-progress’ shows and, after the Edinburgh shows are finished, she will do previews in London of the already-performed shows. She said she reckons she may end up performing back in her mother’s womb. You maybe had to be there.

Elf Lyons – colourful Swan

Later, I saw that infinitely-rare thing, an act that has arguably been made even better by going to see that Gaulier man in France. Admittedly, we are talking about the already-highly-talented Elf Lyons. In her show Swan, she is telling and acting out the story of Swan Lake in eccentric costumes with dancing and mime and ongoing spiel in a form of Franglais. It is difficult to do justice to it all in a written description but, in parts, it is a sort-of disguised stand-up show with a Gaulier veneer, a lot of movement and her personality making it sparkle. She was justifiably playing to a full room.

In the audience watching her was Juliette Burton, whose Butterfly Effect show was today and will in future be (it is getting heavily booked-up ahead) playing to full houses.

All of the above titbits are part of the joy of the Fringe.

But I also received an email today from an act telling me about their show’s director:

The cobbles of Edinburgh have seen some blood flow in the last 70 years of the Fringe.

“I have paid (the named person) more than £2,000 over the last year to be director for my show and (the person) just told me TODAY that they won’t be coming up to the Fringe this year as if that’s the norm. They say their other clients who have shows here don’t mind. And I am even expected to pay an invoice for August because (the person) says they can direct my performance from London. It has really knocked me for six. This same person was here for my first few shows last year. I thought a director’s job was to sit in the audience early on to take notes. I worked really really hard doing various jobs to pay the director’s fees.”

Then, as I was about to post this blog online, Kate Copstick turned up at 1.00am (we are sharing a flat) saying she is due to review highly-esteemed musical act Die Roten Punkte for the Scotsman tomorrow night (well, tonight, in fact) – their opening night – but British Airways have lost all their musical equipment collected over many years and a very, very specifically-designed drum kit.

“British Airways,” Copstick told me, “don’t seem very concerned”.

Meanwhile, Die Roten Punkte are trying to borrow equipment and have arranged an emergency technical run-through at 07.00am.

The Edinburgh Fringe. Home of dreams and nightmares.

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How to edit your script and not be invisible at the Edinburgh Fringe (etc)

To be pompous… and, if I can’t be pompous here, then where can I be?…

If you fancy yourself as a wordsmith on stage or screen, my advice is to write as little dialogue as possible.

If your work of genius would work as well on radio as it would on stage or screen, then it needs visuals added.

Television is not radio.
Movies are not radio.
The stage is not radio.

That’s a big thing of mine.

If a script will work on radio, then it is probably a bad script for stage or TV/movie production.

Having said that, Johnny Speight and a lot of Galton & Simpson TV shows are all dialogue….

So what do I know?

One Foot in the Grave, though, has loads of visual gags. There’s a gag where the phone rings and Victor, asleep on a chair, sleepy, reaches down and picks up a small dog.

The tortoise episode has visual gags aplenty. There are loads of surreal visuals in Grave which don’t rely on spoken words.

And, of course, allegedly the British public’s most beloved and memorable TV comedy sequence is not Ronnie Barker’s “four candles” routine nor John Cleese’s ‘dead parrot’ routine but the visual gag from Only Fools and Horses.

Just because something ain’t got spoken words doesn’t mean it ain’t a good piece of scripting.

Clint Eastwood says he told Sergio Leone to cut acres of his character’s dialogue out of the original script of A Fistful of Dollars. He told Sergio: “I can do those two lines of dialogue by just one look”.

The 2mins 40secs pre-credits opening of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in The West is brilliantly scripted but has only three short, totally inconsequential lines of dialogue.

So write a stage or screen script.

Then go through it and try to cut out as many words as you can because, if you can, they are unnecessary.

Then go through it again and try to cut out as many of the necessary words as you can and replace them with something visual.

If words can be cut out and the point made visually, that’s miles better – though, if it’s for a stage performance, the people at the back have to see it. So subtle eye movements may be invisible.

And I get SO annoyed when performers sit or lie on the floor in venues bigger than the ones they are used to.

It may have worked in some room above a pub with an audience of 5 but it don’t feckin’ work when you are sitting in the audience at the back of a non-tiered room with even only three rows of people seated in front of you. If the performer’s head is below the heads of the people sitting in the front row then the odds are that even the person sitting in row 4 can’t see it clearly if at all.

End of pomposity. Raises eyebrow. Slaps forehead. Says nothing.

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Lynn Ruth Miller reveals what it is like to be on TV reality show “First Dates”

Lynn Ruth and John on First Dates

Over the summer, the people producing Channel 4’s First Dates series were desperately keen to have comedian Lynn Ruth Miller on as their first 82-year-old lady. But they were having a lot of trouble finding someone of an appropriate age. She and I even talked about trying to get me dating her on the show, although the format is blind dates with strangers.

Eventually, though, the TV company found a suitable date for her and the result was screened on Channel 4 last night. Coincidentally, her date was also called John. At the end, a caption said that, after meeting up for the date, John (from Milton Keynes) had gone down to meet Lynn Ruth (in Brighton) for fish & chips.

“Fish and chips?” I asked her in an e-mail last night.

This morning, she replied: “Not chips”.

“Tell me more,” I said. 

So she did. And here it is.

923597_first_dates_john_and_lynn_00f1fe90c1723516f6ffa5ef7675a21a

I have to say this was a beautiful example of what a reality show is.

The editing and the filming were excellent. The people co-ordinating each interview were marvellous and helpful. They made everyone feel very at ease. The truth is I was so at ease I said a few things I should have censored, but there you are.

This programme is all about selective perception. We see what we want to see and the editors at First Date are experts at piecing together a very deceptive encounter where absolutely nothing is not true but everything is out of context.

We had a pre-interview first to see if we were suitable and would make good television, then a recorded interview that was really lovely because they did not film anything you asked them to omit. After all, most of the questions are very personal.

However I am very open about my life since I do cabarets about it, so I was not bothered.

The actual date is really lovely but people should know it is completely orchestrated.

We met in a restaurant that was near the First Dates restaurant and the staff let me put on some make-up. I did not want to look like they resurrected me, after all. I have my pride.

Then we waited in a little room and they told me exactly the path I was to walk to the restaurant where the Maitre D’ welcomed me and sent me to wait for my Romeo at the bar.

Had I seen the programme before, I would have known that I was being recorded since we were miked up before we entered the place, but I did not. Again, I was my usual blunt, untactful, filthy self.

John First Dates

“Then my paramour came into the restaurant and kissed me…”

And then my paramour came into the restaurant and kissed me (even though we had NOT been introduced!) and BOUGHT  me a drink. They gave each of us £25 towards our meal – enough to actually pay for a serviette and a toothpick at this place.

After we were seated, they called each of us out at least twice to ask us to ask a question about something or discuss something they wanted in the programme.

After the meal, my little darling paid the difference between the £50 we were allowed and the total. Since he had had a couple beers and quite a substantial lunch I hate to think what the total was.

They interviewed us alone and then together. Then we were told to say goodbye and get into a pre-arranged cab that took us about a yard away to the corner.

We had to make our own way home.

John, despite what he said, did not call me. He definitely thought better of it when he got away from the heady atmosphere of being filmed for TV.  Please remember he said that he still had feelings (you might remember the kind?) and all he needed was a little blue pill to get him up and ready for action.

I believe he realised that, if I had to wait four hours for a cuddle, I would find better ways to spend my time… a movie perhaps… or doing it myself.

I e-mailed him after the director asked if he had contacted me.

We made a date to meet in London but, when he realised this would keep him out after dark (mercy me!) he broke the date.

A month or two passed and Vic the director asked again if I had heard from him, so I e-mailed again.

I told John when I was free but, for some reason I attribute to meagre grey matter, he did not bother to give me a specific date. He just appeared in Brighton.

We did not eat fish and chips

Since he came unannounced, I just took him along with me on my previously-arranged lunch date.

What I did not realise was that it was not my immense charm and hot little body that brought him to Brighton.

THEY PAID FOR HIM TO COME TO BRIGHTON.

Lynn Ruth Miller First Dates

“Horrified… It was a side of life he had never encountered.”

I had a pre-arranged lunch date with Melita Dennet, a very lovely lesbian lady I love very much, and I just brought him along. We went vegetarian. I think he was horrified. It was a side of life he had never encountered. All he did the entire time we were together was stop people on the street to tell them we were going to be on television.

As you should know by now, my mind is definitely my erogenous zone and he didn’t get anywhere near it.

He was, of course, very very kind and just a tad insipid.

Perfect person for an old lady.

I like to think that is not me

The sad thing is that people think we fell in love when there was absolutely no chemistry between us. His greatest joy is changing his grandchildren’s nappies and mine, as you well know, is throwing them into an audience – the nappies not the grandchildren.

And this brings me to my main point.

People do not instantly fall in love and cement forever relationships in 30 minutes any more than someone who thinks he can sing can be an opera star if Simon Cowell decides he has talent.

Things that are worth achieving take time and effort.

Anyone who wants to understand the dynamics of real relationships needs to come to my show I Love Men at Leicester Square Theatre, November 20 & 27 @ 5pm and 29th @ 9:30pm.

That tells is like it is (I hope).

First Dates tells it like we wish it could be.

lynn_ruth_miller

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Scott Capurro is going back to Australia despite what happened last time…

Publicity for Scott Capurro’s show Yuletide Queer

Publicity for Scott Capurro’s stage show Yuletide Queer

I have been getting a flurry of automated emails about comedian Scott Capurro’s shows in California.

So, because I think of him as being London-based, I FaceTimed him a couple of days ago in San Francisco.

“I produced a show here,” he told me, “so I’m on this thing called Eventbrite and they send out a reminder every day of the show.”

“Where are you staying?”

“I’ve had this apartment here for 25 years,” he told me. “My husband, Edson, likes it here; my family’s here; and I’m trying to decide where we should live. London is easier for me in a lot of ways. I own a home there whereas, a renter in San Francisco has fewer rights. Also, there’s so much work in London and I can work all the time. Here, I’m on a local radio show in San Francisco. I’ve been on it for 17 years; I come on once a week.”

“What sort of show is it?” I asked.

“It’s morning radio in America. So it’s Hey! Puppies! Kitties! Let’s talk about celebrities! It’s like Italian girls in the 1950s: all we talk about is celebrities and our pets. Seriously. I love these people, but we are penned-in on what we can talk about, especially me.”

“It must be difficult for you to be squeaky-clean?” I asked.

“No.” Scott told me, “I do morning TV in Britain all the time. I do The Wright Stuff a lot. I love it and I really like Matthew because he likes comics. I’ve been doing that for eight years and I know I sometimes push it, but I’ve never been in trouble, really.

Scott Capurro - a regular on The Wright stuff on UK TV

Scott Capurro – a regular on UK Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff

“Also, I started on radio in college. I kind of understand the limits of it and I can be clean if necessary. When performers perform live, the expectations are different. I was really into stand-up as a kid and I would hear rumours that these comics I saw on TV were – Oh! If you see them live! Oh my God! It’s so shocking and different! My mother would say: Oh my God! Red Foxx! The things he says about women, live! He seems so nice! and that really intrigued me. The idea that, when you perform live, it’s like Jekyll & Hyde: you are someone else.”

“So,” I said, “at the moment, you are doing radio and live stage shows in California.”

“I do my own stage show,” said Scott. “An hour or an hour-and-a-half in different venues. And I make more money per show doing that here, but the production stuff is a lot of work. I work less often and make more money here but it’s harder work than in Britain.

“In a way, if you’re a comic in London, you can be lazy and make a decent living. You just show up and do your 20 minutes. You are not expected to do anything other than hit a home run when you’re on stage.

“I have been playing the (London) Comedy Store more the last two years and it’s so hard to fail at the Store. I mean, you’re only on stage really for 18-20 minutes and people walk in there assuming they are seeing the best. So they’re on your side although, if you fuck up and lose them, it’s impossible to get them back because you’re only on stage for 18-20 minutes. It’s a bit tenuous if you mess up, but messing up there is almost impossible on a weekend.”

“It’s maybe easy for you,” I suggested, “because you are so professional.”

“It’s not easy,” said Scott. “But it’s hard to fail. If they hire you, it’s usually because you’ve been doing it for a while and can do 20 minutes without failing. And I also play a lot at The Top Secret Comedy Club on Drury Lane, where my husband runs the bar – it’s like an Edinburgh venue but well-run and clean. The guy who runs it – Mark Rothman – is a performer so he can get big names at the weekends.”

“Is Edson with you in San Francisco?” I asked.

Scott Capurro (left) in London with his husband Edson

Scott Capurro (left) in London with his husband Edson

“He’s in Brazil, with his family, but I’m going there in January, then we come back here and then I go to Australia from February 22nd to March 5th.

“Then I’m doing a solo show on March 25th at Blackfriars in Glasgow and hosting and appearing in other Glasgow Comedy Festival shows over that weekend. After that, I’m going to Berlin for a week. I did one show there two months ago and they’re bringing me back for a week. April 18th to the 23rd.”

“So you’re all over the world,” I said. “Do you go to Australia a lot?”

“I was banned from there 14 years ago.”

“You can probably see the excitement on my face,” I said. “Why were you banned?”

“In the 1990s, I had been going to Australia for a while and really liked it. then my management made me stop, because the trip is really long and they didn’t want me there that long.

“But I was invited back in 2001, so I went, and I was really excited because, at that time, Ross Noble was going over a lot and Stephen K Amos. I thought: Oh this will be fun because I’ll see my friends and maybe I can start spending time in Australia, because it’s pretty and it’s nice during the winter and it might be a good outlet for me writing good stuff. I could get established in Australia.

Scott Capurro: "Are you sure you don’t want to see the stand-up in rehearsal?"

“Are you sure you don’t want to see the stand-up in rehearsal?” Scott asked them.

“So I arrive in Melbourne and they say: Oh, we want you to do a live TV spot right away! OK, fine. It was a live programme called Rove, which is like their Tonight show or Jonathan Ross. There was going to be an interview, which they cut but there was also stand-up too and I said: Are you sure you don’t want to see the stand-up in rehearsal? – They said: No, we don’t want to see it. We’re fine.

“Oh dear,” I said.

“Yeah,” replied Scott. “So I sent them the script. I was just going to do the first seven minutes from my Holocaust, Schmolocaust show…”

“Oh dear,” I said.

“So,” said Scott, “I objectified Jesus and jacked-off to Jesus a bit, but I didn’t get my cock out. I just did the hand motion.”

“Were you jet-lagged from the journey?” I asked.

“I was terribly jet-lagged because I had come from England, but also I had been to a party with the TV executives right before the taping of the show. I showed one of the execs this joke and he said: You’ll be fine. It’s after the watershed.”

“And what happened?” I asked.

“They got 300 calls, which was a lot for them and they freaked out and they went to the press and it became this huge thing where they tried to pull my stage show from the Melbourne Comedy Festival and the Cardinal of Melbourne had me banned… Yeah… It became this thing where, apparently, I had made jokes about raping the Virgin Mary – which I didn’t… I mean, if I’d had them, I might have, but I didn’t have those jokes, so… It became a myth is what I mean.

“Now there is a word over there – Don’t pull a ‘Capurro’ on us on TV – Don’t go out there and do something you didn’t say you were going to do. Don’t fuck us. Apparently some people got fired. Anyway, I never got invited back.”

“It all seems a bit unfair,” I said, “if they saw your stuff on paper before the show was transmitted.”

“But did they even read it?” Scott asked. “Did they even look at it? Who the fuck knows?

Scott capurro: "“I think once the shit hit the fan, the network decided to run with it"

“I think once the shit hit the fan, the network decided…”

“I think once the shit hit the fan, the network decided to run with it to get press for the show and didn’t care about me. And, I think, because my management wasn’t in Australia and wasn’t there to help me, I was left to my own devices. I tried to fix it myself and I think I might have fucked it up even more.

“Soon after that, Australia went through the roof economically and everyone wanted to play there and I’m like: I fucked it up! I fucked it up!

“Then a couple of writers from Australia contacted me and said: You should come back. But I couldn’t find anyone who would produce me. Then the Comedy Store said they would, but it took three years to get a date. Now I’m going over to Sydney for two weeks to play the Store and we will see. They might hate me.”

“Well,” I told him, “the good news is you are bound to get interviewed again after that back story.”

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Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer explain the “Judge Rinder” scam trial disaster…

Will Franken (left) and Lewis Schaffer angling for Pret a Manger sponsorship

Will Franken (left) and Lewis Schaffer hoping for sponsorship?

Yesterday’s blog ended with American comics Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer about to go to Manchester for the recording of the ITV reality court show Judge Rinder last Wednesday – on the basis that Lewis Schaffer was annoyed because Will owed him £42 and Will was annoyed Lewis Schaffer had never called him Sarah when Will dressed as a woman and performed/lived as Sarah Franken.

Two Fridays ago, a car from the Judge Rinder programme delivered a ‘Witness Statement’ to me at my home, based on a telephone call I had had with one of the production team. I signed it – to be read out at the TV court appearance in Manchester the following Wednesday. The statement (with their mis-typings) read:

My statement for the Judge Rinder programme

My statement to be read out on the Judge Rinder programme


Two years ago Lewis loaned will £50. To date Sarah has only returned £8. Although the situation is unfortunate, Will still owes Lewis £42, and he should pay Lewis back. It’s is a matter of principle, and I agree wholeheartedly that Will should pay him the funds. The money was given as a loan; and it’s only right that he pays Lewis back.

Lewis has built a reputation for being quite controversial on stage – he actually has one of the best Holocaust jokes I have ever heard in my life! Lewis will say the unexpected – the things that people take offense to, but he honestly means no harm.

In regards to Will, we’ve always known Sarah as Will so I don’t believe that Lewis’ intends in any way to insult, degrade or offend Will. If I am honest, I believe that Lewis has always referred to him as Will, and as a result he continues to address him by his name.

Although it is in Lewis’ nature to be annoying, I firmly believe there is no intention on Lewis’ behalf to cause any harm to Will.

I’m sad that they have fallen out over something so menial. It’s sad that a matter such as this has affected their relationship. I hope this matter can be resolved.


I met Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer again last Sunday, at the Pret a Manger eatery in St Pancras station. I believe both may be open to offers of sponsorship by any retail chain. Lewis Schaffer was wearing a black eyepatch on his left eye for no discernible reason. I did not ask why because I suspected there was no reason.


“As far as I was aware,” I told them, “the programme was going ahead. The programme people never told me it was not going ahead.”

“I might use it in my Edinburgh Fringe show next year,” said Will. “Our attempt to defraud them.”

“You speak for yourself!” Lewis Schaffer objected. “The story is totally true! You owed me money and I wanted it back.”

“You told people you had a £250 gig,” said Will, “and you didn’t.”

“No,” said Lewis Schaffer, “I did not tell them a £250 gig.”

“So why did it not go ahead?” I asked.

“I got scared,” said Will, “because I was recruiting witnesses to bolster my defence and my witnesses were getting scared because the TV people wanted pieces of paper signed.”

“And your witnesses wouldn’t sign?” I asked.

“I called a guy in Birmingham,” explained Will, “and said: Hey! If somebody calls you, would you say you were there the night Lewis gave me this money and that you were there for about ten different shows across England where Lewis was calling me ‘Will’ and making people very uncomfortable? And he said: Yeah, yeah. I’ll do it.

“Then they called him and asked Would you be willing to sign a document? and he said What do you mean document? This isn’t a real court, is it? And apparently they said: Yes, it IS a real court. And he called me back and said he didn’t want to sign anything and I got scared too. They were calling my ex-girlfriend to do the same thing.”

I asked Lewis Schaffer: “You told me that they cancelled because the TV people thought the two of you were getting too aggressive towards each other. Did they?”

“No,” said Lewis Schaffer, “that’s not what it was. It was because you had two plonker losers negotiating at the same time. It was escalating. I thought we could get some money out of them. I told Will: Ask for some money. I could have gotten £250.”

“I liked the idea of us being grifters,” said Will. “I think the term ‘grifter’ makes it sound cool.”

“It isn’t cool,” said Lewis Schaffer, “it’s just business. We were asking for money.”

“I’ve got this guy on the phone from the TV show,” said Will, “and he’s thinking Oh, we’ve got this great little trans-gender caper and emotional distress caper! and he’s so enthusiastic… Oh, so you and Lewis Schaffer were really good friends? and I’m cupping the phone and like laughing, cos it’s so funny. It’s a prank joke.”

Lewis Schaffer said: “You took it a bit too far.”

“No, you took it a bit too far,” Will told him.

“I asked for a little bit of money,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“He asked for £250,” Will told me. “So I get off the phone and he tells me: They’re gonna give me £250. So now I get the free hotel, I get the trans-gender pity and he gets £250, cos he had the wherewithal to say: Oh, by the way, I’m missing work.”

“This is how I screwed myself,” said Lewis Schaffer. “Because I told Will I was doing £250 and I told them: Will needs £250 because of the ‘Comedy Union’.

“The what?” I asked.

“The Comedy Union,” said Lewis Schaffer and Will together, like a Greek chorus.

“We got a Comedy Union now!” laughed Lewis Schaffer. “So then Will asked for £300.”

“No,” said Will to Lewis Schaffer. “First thing I did was I said: I need you to send me a Facebook message taunting me and saying ‘Ha ha, Will, I’m getting £250 AND my £42. Ha ha ha.’ – So I could then tell them Look – Lewis is taunting me. So they don’t think we’re friends. Then I got the producer on the phone to me going: OK, well, the thing is you’ve not mentioned missing any gigs the night of the recording.”

“All you needed to do,” said Lewis Schaffer, “was say: Listen, you gotta pay us some money for this! You gotta pay us a per diem or something!

“But you told them you were missing a gig,” said Will.

“I didn’t say specifically,” explained Lewis Schaffer. “I said I might miss a gig. We could have gotten offered a gig in the two days before the recording.”

“So,” I said, “you didn’t tell them you’d miss a gig; you told them you might miss a gig.”

“Yeah,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“So,” said Will, “Lewis had upped the ante with the £250, so I get the TV guy on the phone and say: Look, Lewis is taunting me with the £250 he’s getting. I’m gonna lose money too.”

“We were just pushing the money,” said Lewis Schaffer. “They didn’t trust us after a while.”

“Of course they didn’t.” said Will. “We embellished the story.”

“What happened,” said Lewis Schaffer, “was it was an escalation of demands and they just thought: These people are trouble. I think they just realised that Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer is double trouble. It’s vortex of trouble. We couldn’t make money if we owned the Mint.”

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How Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer decided to con ITV out of lots of money

Lewis Schaffer videos Will Franken by a Big Mac toilet

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog conversation with London-based American comedians Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer.

A few months before, Will Franken had decided that he would wear women’s clothes on stage and off stage and would be called Sarah Franken. For the conversation I had, Will had come dressed as a man and there was some discussion about whether or not he might drop the Sarah Franken persona.

The blog continued in a post the next day, in which Lewis Schaffer mentioned that Will owed him some money and Will mentioned Lewis Schaffer had never called him Sarah Franken.

One reason this conversation was split into two blogs was to draw a little attention to the ‘he owes me money/he didn’t call me Sarah’ narrative, because there was one part of the chat we had (in a McDonalds in Holborn) which I carefully omitted from the two blogs.

In the second blog I posted, Lewis Schaffer is quoted as saying: “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,” after which Will said: “The first thing that goes though my head now is: Is there money? I don’t think about exposure any more.”

The section of the conversation which I omitted came immediately following that.

Below is what I omitted.


Lewis Schaffer (left) and Will Franken concocted a comedy idea in a McDonalds

Lewis Schaffer (left) and Will Franken concocted a comedy idea in a McDonalds

“I don’t give a fuck about exposure,” Will continued. “I got an email from the Judge Rinder people.”

[Judge Rinder is a British reality court show. It stars criminal barrister Robert Rinder as the judge, who oversees disputes between two real members of the public in a mock-up of a small claims courtroom. It is similar to the US TV show Judge Judy]

“It was Friday afternoon,” Will explained, “and I got an e-mail and it was somebody from ITV studios in Manchester saying: We may have an opportunity for you. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years now and I’ve never learned my lesson. The first thought that goes to my hayseed, Missouri hick brain is always: They’re going to give me my own show! Thankyou, God!

“You deserve it, too,” Lewis Schaffer told him.

“So I go back home,” Will said, “and, of course, the terrorist thing happened in Paris. So I called the guy the next day and he said: OK. Do you know this show called Judge RinderWe are looking for people who have a funny story, like maybe somebody took your laptop but didn’t bring it back? Something like that. Do you have any stories?

“I asked: Is there any money for this? And he said: No, but we will give you money for a nice hotel in Manchester. I said: Do you have any idea what the fuck happened last night, man? What kind of whorehouse is this?

“And then today, he e-mails me again and says: OK, have you had some time to think? Do you have any friends? And I said: No, we would all need a fee. every one of the people I know would need a fee.”

“No money?” said Lewis Schaffer. “I wouldn’t do that, because that’s not comedy. You would have to do some actual work before it. The thing is, you’ve got to get two insane people to be on that programme.”

“Why don’t WE do it?” Will asked Lewis Schaffer. “I would do it if you and I could do it.”

“THAT would be funny,” agreed Lewis Schaffer.

“But what,” I asked, “could you sue each other over?”

“I could e-mail the guy right now,” said Will, “and we could say, if he gets Lewis and me each a hotel room in Manchester and covers our travel…”

“…and food,” added Lewis Schaffer. “And we want a per diem of some kind.”

“Were you serious,” I asked Lewis Schaffer, “when you said you lent Will some money?”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“Well, that’s the basis,” I said.

“He needed money,” explained Lewis Schaffer, “and I said to him If you come down and come on my radio show – because I needed a guest and I’m very last-minute – I was desperate for a guest and I said to Will: Come down and I’ll loan you the £50.”

Will said: “I thought you said: I’ll GIVE you £50.”

“I’m not gonna GIVE you £50!” said Lewis Schaffer.

“Say it’s £150,” I suggested. “It’s sexier.”

“But,” replied Lewis Schaffer, “then the judge will ask: Did you fuck him?

“I think it will be funny,” said Will.

“It will be funny,” agreed Lewis Schaffer, then said to me: “He’s given me a total of £8 back.”

Will, laughing and adopting a hick mid-Western accent, said: “He took my catchphrase, which was Cheerio, Yankees! Let’s just make up something.”

“If,” I said, “you’re going to tell a lie on TV about anything, base it on reality. He lent you £150.”

“What’s the difference?” asked Lewis Schaffer.

“It sounds better,” I said. “For £50, you wouldn’t go on TV; for £150, you might.”

“Maybe I’m just angry at the guy,” said Lewis Schaffer. “It’s payback time.”

“This is kind of funny,” said Will. “Shall we do this?”

“Yeah,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“It’s a good idea,” I agreed.

“Do it tomorrow,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“No,” I said. “Do it now.”

Will started composing an e-mail.

This guy Lewis Schaffer…” he started.

Comedian Lewis Schaffer…” Lewis Schaffer corrected him.

“Say he’s another American,” I suggested, “because then they get two Americans having a go at each other.”

“… another Yank…” said Will, “says I owe him…”

“We can just ‘Yank it up’,” laughed Lewis Schaffer.

“£50?” asked Will.

“£42,” said Lewis Schaffer. “And this Lewis Schaffer guy is angry. And he wants to embarrass me.”

“You both want to embarrass each other,” I suggested. “Do they know about the cross-dressing? Do they know about Sarah?”

“When he was on the phone,” explained Will, “he said Sarah. Well, that’s obviously not your REAL name and I thought: Well, this is some guy who’s not into the PC thing!

“Your angle,” I suggested, “is that Lewis Schaffer was the only guy at the Edinburgh Fringe in August who did not call you Sarah and that really annoyed you.”

“I could ask for damages,” said Will. “I owe Lewis £42 but I want £1,000 from him for emotional damages.”

“But,” said Lewis Schaffer, “there isn’t a pool where one of us will get the money.”

“I don’t know,” said Will, “I’ve never watched the show.”

“Maybe we should ask for £250,” said Lewis Schaffer, “and we split the money.”

“They don’t pay you the £250,” said Will. “They expect me to pay you.”

“No they wouldn’t,” Lewis Schaffer told him. “They can’t. It’s not a court. It’s a TV programme.”

“It’s not a court?” asked Will.

“It’s not a court,” said Lewis Schaffer.

“How about £242?” suggested Will. “That sounds more believable.”

I said: “Keep it simple. He hates you because you owe him money. You hate him because he didn’t call you Sarah.”

“Exactly,” said Will. “We could use this as a showreel. These two guys dicking around in McDonalds with John Fleming hatched a plot…”

I said: “Two comedians. Two Yanks. They’re both vocally fluent. They’re bitching at each other. And one is in a dress. The TV people will love it. If you say ‘trans-genderism’, they’re going to have an orgasm on the spot. They’ll go for it.”

And they did.

Will sent the e-mail.

The Judge Rinder producers arranged the recording date for the following week in Manchester.

…CONTINUED HERE

Lewis Schaffer (right) with his arms round Will Franken at St Pancras station

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Grouchy Podcast extract: Will Franken’s lack of commitment to being a woman

Copstick and Fleming and a world of Pain

Copstick & Fleming trapped in a not totally comedic podcast

In this week’s 38-minute Grouchy Club Podcast, comedy critic Kate Copstick and I discussed The Jewish Comedian of the Year, a man with plastic testicles, the best Holocaust joke ever, Lewis Schaffer (no surprise there), how BBC TV executive Alan Yentob re-cut controversial comic Jerry Sadowitz’s TV series, the power of TV advertisers, Noel Gay TV and, in this brief extract, trans-gender comic Will Franken aka Sarah Franken and a TV series with horrendous visuals. (You will have to listen to the Podcast to hear details of the visuals… that’s how teaser extracts work.)


COPSTICK
So, are Will and Sarah dividing and going their separate ways; are they alternating; or what’s happening?

JOHN
I think they’ve had a creative difference with each other… No, no. I think he might be phasing out Sarah. It was in my previous blog – worth reading.

COPSTICK
If you can’t remember what’s in them, why should I read them?

JOHN
I can’t remember what’s in it, no. I don’t read them. You know I don’t write my blogs, don’t you? I farm them out to some Filipino children who are going blind in the dark with candle light.

COPSTICK
I did say I didn’t… possibly to you in a blog but, then, you wouldn’t have remembered… that it was… not exactly a phase – ‘phase’ always makes it sound…

JOHN
Star Trek.

COPSTICK
…trite

JOHN
Phasers.

COPSTICK
…trite. I never really felt Will to be like a… There was never a woman in there fighting to get out.

JOHN
There clearly was.

COPSTICK
No.

JOHN
He never wanted to have ‘the snip’, but…

COPSTICK
It’s a little bit more than a snip I think you’ll find, John. A little bit more than a snip.

JOHN
A snip and an excavation.

COPSTICK
A snip and a scoop and a flip…

JOHN
A flip?

COPSTICK
…and a turning-outside-in and…

JOHN
Ooh! what’s the flip?… Oh! the turning outside-in.

COPSTICK
Mmmm.

JOHN
Do you have pictures?

COPSTICK
I actually do. I have an entire video which I made for a television series which I produced called World of Pain…

JOHN
World of Pain?

COPSTICK
…and we were allowed to follow a sex change. Well, ‘gender re-assignmment’ surgery.

JOHN
What was in World of Pain apart from this? It was a 6-part series, was it?

COPSTICK
No.

JOHN
Ooh! What was it?

COPSTICK
It was three 15-part series.

JOHN
Ooh, wow, ooh. And do you remember what was in them? – Because you have a better memory than me.

COPSTICK
I remember everything that was in them. Every episode had a different theme.

JOHN
As I expect from you. What was the most painful bit in the World of Pain?

COPSTICK
Well, it depends. I mean, we did people who got hooks through their skin and dangled from the ceiling. We did branding. We did…

JOHN
Sarcasm?

COPSTICK
We did shark bites.

JOHN
Intentional shark bites?

COPSTICK
John, I am not going to talk to you any longer if you continue to be obtuse.

JOHN
I’m not used to the world of pain. I try to avoid it, myself.

COPSTICK
There were some horrific sporting injuries. I mean, where you see in slow motion a leg bending backwards and forw… Yes, fairly horrific.

JOHN
So it wasn’t all self-inflicted or a welcome World of Pain?

COPSTICK
No. Of course not. What I found interesting was the way the television censors looked at it. There was a really very nice little bit of film that we did in Russia and it was called Ice Babies. Because, in certain areas of Russia, what they do with fairly new born babies is take them out, cut a hole in the ice and dunk the baby in.

JOHN
For why?

COPSTICK
To kick-start their immune system.

JOHN
Like Sparta?

COPSTICK
Yes. I mean there’s a person in there. There’s a nurse and somebody else…

JOHN
In a hole in the ice?

COPSTICK
Well, it’s bigger than a hole. It’s a huge hole. And they throw the babies in and the babies are not massively distressed. Then they pull them out and swaddle them up and it’s kind of a kick-start to their immune system. In the rural villages where they do it, the kids don’t get colds and flus and whatnot and it seems to work in terms of being a bit of a smack in the face for your body’s reactions.

The babies were not distressed. the babies were not crying. None of that. And ITV would not let us show it at all. AT ALL.

JOHN
What is the nurse’s uniform in this? Is she wearing a frogman’s outfit?

COPSTICK
No. she’s wearing a bathing costume. You are being obtuse again, John.

JOHN
It’s very icy. Anyway, ITV wouldn’t show it because…


You can hear the full 38-minute Grouchy Club Podcast HERE.

Tomorrow’s blog will include a more jaw-dropping piece about Will Franken and Lewis Schaffer.

Lewis Schaffer (right) with his arms round Will Franken at St Pancras station

Lewis Schaffer (right) with his arms round Will Franken at St Pancras station – more tomorrow

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