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Lewis Schaffer: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

With the arrogance that defines his act, Lewis Schaffer has come up with a theory that proves he’s the greatest comedian in Britain. His fellow American acts, he observes, always seem to be working hard on stage – while UK acts always  affect the casual disposition of making no effort.

So by this logic Schaffer is, therefore, the best because he makes the least effort of any other comic.

Not only arrogant, but self-effacing – the apparently contradictory dichotomy at the heart of his persona. I say persona, but the divide between on-stage Schaffer and off-stage is wafer-thin – and that shows how little apparent effort’s involved.

Here he greets the audience as they arrive, talking at them with trademark New York chutzpah, the one-sided banter  continues as he seats them to his liking, then all of a sudden he’s talking to us from the stage. The show has begun… although his failure to check the mic means he has to abandon the amplification, the only thing that really identifies this as  a show at all.

The material largely concerns his lack of professionalism, the demands of the comedy industry, and the way both this gig and his career are going. This is either very clever meta-comedy or simply a man so self-obsessed that himself has to be the dominant topic of conversation. When it’s not about Schaffer’s comedy, it’s about his ‘harrowing midlife’ that informs it… if only he were still midlife.

But although this might sound like a stream-of-consciousness complaint about his lot, he has got proper jokes, too, and some pretty damn good ones at that. What he hasn’t got, so much, is stamina. Ten minutes in he’s starting: ‘Alright, I’m giving up already….’ Then after just over half an hour: ‘I’m going to be honest with you, I’ve run out of steam, I’ve lost interest in you as an audience.’

It’s not the end – there is no end in the 24-hour-a-day Lewis Schaffer show – just an opportunity for him to get even more relaxed, flirting with every female in the audience and seeking permission to do old material, as requested by a couple of fans who see him every year.

In the end he concludes this hasn’t been a great show, but it’s been all right. In truth it’s been better than that, even if it’s not him on top of his game. It’s been fun. It’s been an experience.

Review date: 8 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: xxxxLaughing Horse @ The Free Sisters

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