Cheaper Than Therapy presents its audience with a changing line up of five comedians performing sets based on phobias, anxieties and hang-ups. Considering that the show is held for Scottish Aid for Mental Health, the majority of the performances were only very tenuously linked to the theme (or, in the case of Lewis Schaffer’s set, not at all). Sets varied from good to diabolically bad.
What started as a pleasant evening ended in the worst disaster I have ever seen on a stage.
The strongest stand-up was Micky Bartlett, the show’s compère. Hearing a single, male comedian talk about his lack of luck in love and anxieties concerning the opposite sex may not be the most unique stand-up experience, but Irwin covered the topic with a charming awkwardness which suited his material. He also had a great rapport with the audience, which made his crowd feel comfortable and ready to be entertained by the acts to follow.
Next came Justin Hamilton, whose slow start picked up wonderfully at the least expected moment. A large number of latecomers arrived and, rather than being thrown by the disruption, Hamilton proceeded to improvise the rest of his set around the new arrivals. Here he showed real comedic flair and intelligence that surpassed his planned routine.
Brydie Lee-Kennedy and Red Redford’s sets both lacked the same pace of the previous comedy. Kennedy was entertaining in her frankness, and her routine was the most cohesive of the evening, if not as packed with laughs as Irwin or Hamilton’s sets. Red Redmond made the most effort to fit to the theme, having brought a list of anxieties around which he based his set. Some of his jokes felt a little underdeveloped, and the whole thing didn’t feel very well unified, despite being themed. Redmond excelled, however, with his mental health based material, and though not the strongest comic, he was the closest to getting to the heart of what the show should have been.
The evening took a drastic turn for the worse when Lewis Schaffer walked onstage. Upon discovering that his audience was entirely British, he informed us how much he hated us all, committing - with a particular brutishness - the ultimate stand-up faux-pas of blaming his audience for not finding him funny. Things did not improve; in fact, they got much, much worse. Schaffer not only failed to be funny, but was incredibly racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic and anti semitic. He presumed audience members’ religious beliefs based on their appearances, and referred to one woman in the crowd as ‘doable’. When he realised I was a reviewer, he complained that I would probably give him a one star review (one star is too much praise for this man) and then, standing in the aisle so that he was only a metre from me, aggressively directed a horrendously offensive, horrendously unfunny joke about 9/11 at me. This wasn’t simply a case of disliking Schaffer’s sense of humour, but rather feeling violated by it.
What started as a pleasant evening ended in the worst disaster I have ever seen on a stage. Another night, with a different line-up, this could be a perfectly enjoyable show. As it was, it was a traumatic experience. Do not under any circumstances attend this show if Lewis Shaffer will be doing so too: you will leave feeling yourself to be the one in need of therapy.