Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy review: Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous, £5, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Claire Smith.
Audiences in Edinburgh have a notoriously strict 50-minute attention span. It is a rare show that makes you wish it could start again as soon as it is over.
This is one of the most brilliant and amazing comedy shows I have ever seen in my life.
Schaffer, the tetchy, difficult irascable New York Jew, takes his audience right up to the edge and back again. He’s pulled up for racism by a guy in the front row. This isn’t a plant, this is real.
A gay couple in the front row walk out in disgust – then change their minds and walk back in again, hand in hand, to cheers from the audience. A man in the front row is humilated in front of his girlfriend to gasps and boos from the crowd.
Surprise is one of the most important elements of comedy – but with so many comics all trying to be outrageous all over town it is incredibly difficult to be genuinely shocking.
I have seen Schaffer tons of times but he always shocks and surprises me. And in this show he is electrifying.
The outrageous material is all part of a gag-splattered narrative about outrage. Schaffer plays with taboos, twisting and turning his attitudes and upsetting expectations until the audience is dumbfounded and helpless with laughter.
His voice repeats, stutters and whines with an incredible hypnotic rhythm while his black eyes sparkle with tears, laughter and a more than a touch of crazy. By the end, the audience is utterly in Schaffer’s power. And the show becomes a bizarre cross between performance art, a swingers’ party and a papal blessing.
Afterwards, big strong men are embracing Schaffer, queuing up for selfies and repeating a catchphrase so incredibly unlikely everyone starts laughing all over again.
You’ll never see the Lewis Schaffer show I saw. He is a fragile creature with a world-beating talent for self-sabotage so you might see something truly horrible that makes you cry.
But if you do go, you might see me there. I’m going back.
Just the Tonic at The Community Project (Venue 27) until 30 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 22 August 2015
Edinburgh Festivals 2015: complete coverage
• Get everything on our Festivals homepage – on desktop, mobile or tablet
• Looking for reviews? Check out the latest Scotsman reviews – or browse all the reviews ranked by star rating
• Don’t miss a thing: sign up to our daily email newsletter
• Watch all the latest videos from the #WOWwagon
• Get distracted by our Festival Blog
• Check out today’s half-price ticket deals
• Follow our social accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – and join the conversation with #WOWfest
• Download the WOW247 app for iOS and Android