Review: Lewis Schaffer: What Have You Heard?

Not much to laugh about in this suspiciously vague exercise in self-justification

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Lewis Schaffer: What Have You Heard?
Published 12 Aug 2018

To Lewis Schaffer, guilt is something that has to be demonstrated. As it turns out, so does comedy, which is where the wheels fall off almost immediately. Schaffer’s familiar style of performative misanthropy does not aid his standup, nor the questionable thesis behind it.

Via a rambling and suspiciously vague narrative, Schaffer explains that he has been accused of something – something sufficiently terrible that it has lost him friends and erstwhile fans, as well as raising questions about the possible toxicity of his presence on the comedy scene. And yet, to hear Schaffer tell it, he has no idea what exactly he has been accused of, resulting in what he frames as a Kafkaesque trial for an unnamed offence.

Around this dubious premise, Schaffer delivers what can only be seen as a cranky, defensive critique of the #MeToo movement. Though never mentioned by name, its controversies hang over Schaffer’s mixture of recrimination and self-justification, not least because the mysterious accusation in question came from a former partner.

Schaffer warns us early on that by the end of the night, we will not like him; his dispiriting, half-hearted sparring with the audience might prove him right for some. Even if it doesn’t, his aim—to convince us that society should refrain from judgement based on rumour and innuendo—is undercut from the outset. Schaffer tells us only one side of the story – his. That’s not much to go on, and by the end, there’s not much to laugh about.