Lewis Schaffer: You Are Beautiful

Early on, Schaffer decided that the show wasn’t going so well. And shortly after that, he appeared to give up. Throughout, there were occasional glimpses of the show he was ostensibly meant to be performing; I suppose it was just bad luck that he decided not to bother.

He wants to perform shit shows, he insisted; that’s where he’s most comfortable.

Instead, I was treated to an utterly tedious, rambling performance. Over the course of an interminable hour, Schaffer — with a conspiracy theorist’s penchant for grand, bland assertions — held court on the invalidity of modern physics, the error of wearing glasses and the stupidity of Einstein, Hawking, and Woody Allen. There’s nothing perceptive about these meanderings; nothing funny either.

As he prattles, Schaffer rejects the traditional performer-audience divide to cultivate an uncomfortably intense relationship with the crowd. He spurned the stage entirely, preferring to wander up and down the aisle between the seats, or to perch with one knee on a seat in the unoccupied front row; and almost every line of the show was delivered as he looked deeply into someone’s eyes. At one point he decided to “take a break” and sat amongst the audience for a while. The line between performer and audience was so blurred, in fact, that it was an audience member’s wit that won the biggest laughs of the night, not Schaffer’s.

And sure, maybe it’s more opaque performance art than standup comedy. It’s obviously meant to be aggravating, challenging, and excitingly unconventional. But for most of the show I just felt nothing — not anger, not sorrow, not pleasure, and certainly not (God forbid!) mirth. All I felt was a persistent sense of boredom, coupled with a niggling certainty that I could better spend my time doing absolutely anything else.

When the laughter finally came — the show picked up a little in the final ten minutes — it was too little too late. I understand that Schaffer’s not really going for ‘comedy’, as such — that much is obvious. But in the absence of much else, the lack of many real laughs was sorely felt. Schaffer (more than once) bemoaned the fact that this was the worst show he’s done. It’s possibly the worst I’ve seen.

I really don’t know what happened to Schaffer. Coming off the back of a widely acclaimed show at last year’s Fringe, Schaffer is not enamoured of this taste of success. He wants to perform shit shows, he insisted; that’s where he’s most comfortable. I suppose he’ll be pretty happy with how this one went then.

Reviews by Jamie P Robson

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The Blurb

The same show as last year – but what do you care? You never saw it. The New York comic takes the audience on an exhilarating journey with a hilarious, uplifting and altogether surprising conclusion. 'The strangest finale I could have possibly imagined' according to one reviewer. 'Amazing and brilliant' ***** (Scotsman). 'Genius' (Stewart Lee). 'Genuinely liberating' (FringeGuru.com).

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