Lewis Schaffer: What Have You Heard? (1 star)

Lewis Schaffer: What Have You Heard?

Deeply uncomfortable show stretches anti-comedy well beyond its limit

Lewis Schaffer's latest Edinburgh show is either a barely passable exercise in anti-humour, or a hugely misguided disaster. The show runs for a shade over 40 minutes, a fair portion of which involves Schaffer arguing with a group at the back of the room. It's a trick he seems to be repeating each night where he implores a group or individual to leave. Tonight he targets a younger woman in her early twenties. 'I just don't think you'll enjoy the show,' he says, over and over. While he's probably got a point regarding the content of What Have You Heard?, the prolonged singling out of this person is uncomfortable, patronising even.

Despite the absolute dearth of comedy here, she doesn't leave at any point. Nobody does. How could you? Staying the distance is presented as a challenge by Schaffer, and nobody wants to admit defeat. There's something magnetic in the tragedy of his performance, as this self-proclaimed 'creepy white dude' falls to pieces in front of us. You'd have to be a sadist to take any lasting pleasure from it.

Schaffer has been accused of 'being a Weinstein'. Apart from a few ironically racist and sexist jokes and a brief comment that 'times have changed', this is the sole thrust of the show. He claims that the reason he's here is twofold: to call the accusations levelled against him 'bullshit' (Lewis Schaffer isn't going anywhere) and to 'laugh at some horrific stuff'.

On the second count he fails spectacularly. The subject matter is difficult, yes. In the current climate, Schaffer's show is the antithesis of woke. Still, that alone doesn't mean What Have You Heard? should fail before it starts. Schaffer could have written something, anything, for a kick-off. Instead we get a vague, featherweight denial of wrongdoing and precious little besides. There's a brief glimpse of a skilled comedian tonight, but the overall impression is that Schaffer's situation, and whatever salvation he's looking for, requires more than a half-assed Edinburgh show. I hope he's in a better place next time.

Laughing Horse at The Counting House, until 26 Aug, 8.30pm, free.

Lewis Schaffer: What Have You Heard?

  • 1 star

Lewis Schaffer Something's up with Lewis Schaffer. 'Disturbingly hilarious' (FringeGuru.com). 'You have to admire the gall of the man' (List). 'Unique combination of supreme arrogance and gnawing self-doubt' (Chortle). ★★★★★ (Scotsman). Age category: 16+

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