Comic is out to prove his worth
IT was always going to be a risky plan.
Put on a comedy show and invite the audience to come along for free, but ask them to dig into their pockets at the end of the night to give the comic what they think his performance was worth.
Consequently Lewis Schaffer has heard that saddest of noises, a single pebble being dropped into his collection bucket as he works the audience.
And he has amassed a fine collection of foreign coins.
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But Lewis has no trouble laughing at himself, he says.
"Yes, I have had lots of foreign currency. And a stone.
"I also got a note, which I have framed, saying, 'I have heard better jokes on the back of a Penguin Bar'.
"But I have been given 50,000 dollars as well. They were Zimbabwean dollars though.
"But I also have framed a quote from a 1930's comedian, Will Rogers, saying you are dead as a comic when you take yourself seriously.
"I agree with that.
"And the plan is going OK. People are giving me money and I am getting to meet them and to get some honesty from them about my act."
A Jewish New Yorker who ended up living in Nunhead, on the outskirts of Peckam, through no fault of his own — "It was a woman. It is always a woman." — Lewis has drawn comparisons to Jerry Lewis and to Woody Allen.
And his vowel sounds can't fail to transport you to those two.
Much of our interview is taken up by his interest in the idea, just mooted by a UK newspaper, that the god-fearing get more done in their lifetime and have better morals than the non-believers.
So far so Woody Allen.
But don't expect a night of angsty Jewish jokes from him, he says.
"You have spoken to me and listened to me.
"I'm a mess. Its just chaos isn't it? I will never get on the Michael McIntyre show.
"I might do some Jackie Mason style jokes, I might not, I never know what is going to go on."
However, he did stumble across his own facility for funniness at a Jewish summer camp.
"I was seven years old and my sister and I went to a summer camp for Jews.
"So at the end of the stay we would be asked to write a prayer for the next year's arrivals.
"I got up and I was supposed to wish them a happy Hanukah and a happy new year and instead I wished them a happy Christmas. It wasn't a joke. It was a mistake.
"People laughed and I realised that it actually was a joke. That's where it started."
See Lewis Shaffer, Free Until Famous, at Llanelli's Theatr Elli on Saturday, from 7.30pm.