Laughter costs nothing – a principle New York-born comic Lewis Schaffer is taking literally in the UK tour of his long-running show, Free Until Famous, writes Hannah Worrall.

The 58-year-old comedian, who holds the record for the longest-running residency at London’s renowned Leicester Square Theatre, will welcome in comedy-lovers for free in Harpenden on freaky Friday, February 13.

Despite the ominous date, the father-of two is unfazed and ready to deliver his unique style of comedy in a 90-minute show – before passing round a hat at the end for those willing to contribute.

“With my luck it will be an amazing show,” jokes Lewis, who has been performing as a stand up for 23 years after launching his career back home in The States.

He explains: “It works because it is free. If people laugh they give me money, if they don’t laugh they drink, and if people drink the bar at the Harpenden Public Halls makes money. This is my way of trying to get famous.”

Lewis, who now lives in Peckham, says: “I started comedy in 1993 and it was a bad time for comedy in New York – at that time there were no audiences for stand-up comedy and I would go into the street and drag customers in to come into the show for free and I basically started my career doing that.”

The first of its kind, the tour promises shows brimming with Lewis’s quick-witted jokes and chatty style exploring a variety of topics from American life to the workings of his own mind.

“It’s always a rollercoaster. Where most comedians try for 90 minutes of just funny, I don’t feel I’m like that. At the end you think I’ve just spent time with somebody I know,” explains Lewis, who says he likes to make each performance a collective experience.

He admits the show, which has received rave reviews from critics, is constantly changing in content and is largely unscripted, but this gives him more freedom to interact with the crowd.

“Some people think that because it is free they don’t know how much to pay, some will think it’s worth hundreds of pounds maybe and think it’s the best thing they’ve ever seen. It’s up to the audience to decide.”

Harpenden Public Halls, Southdown Road, Harpenden, February 13, 8pm. Details 01582 767525,