Opinion: Jerry Sadowitz And Being Cancelled

Jerry Sadowitz –  “I wouldn’t continue performing if it was just an audience of Nazis.
The first time I saw Jerry Sadowitz was over thirty years ago. It was in The Rub-A-Dub Club in Sydenham at a gig hosted by an impossibly young Vic Reeves. Sadowitz came on and told the following joke: "How do you get six p**** into a Datsun?" "I don't know but they manage it don't they". I might have the precise wording, numbers or the brand of car wrong but he definitely used the p word. It was so rarely used that it stuck out a mile. There was an audible gasp in the audience. But, as far as I can remember, nobody walked out.
Depending on who you believe there were either no walkouts at the Pleasance venue at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Friday night or a lot. Sadowitz allegedly called Rishi Sunak a P***, said the country was run by blacks and women and briefly got his cock out. Sadowitz issued a statement saying he was not aware of any walkouts. The Pleasance issued a statement saying there were.
The Pleasance said: "A large number of people walked out of Jerry Sadowitz’s show as they felt uncomfortable and unsafe to remain in the venue.  We have received an unprecedented number of complaints that could not be ignored and we had a duty to respond. The subsequent abuse directed to our teams is also equally unacceptable. At the Pleasance, our values are to be inclusive, diverse and welcoming.  We are proud of the progress we have made across our programming, which includes significant investment and support for Black, Asian and Global Majority artists, LGBTQ+ voices, those from working class backgrounds, and the strong representation of women. We do not believe that racism, homophobia, sexism or misogynistic language have a place in our venues."
This was a slight rewording of their initial statement when they said: "The Pleasance is a venue that champions freedom of speech." Needless to say there was outrage in the comedy community at the cognitive dissonance of a venue championing free speech in a statement talking about cancelling a show. Comedian Simon Evans suggested everyone should find out what Sadowitz said and say it in their show.
Sadowitz issued a statement responding to The Pleasance: "I did a 75 minute show for 600 people that went pretty well and left with no hint of anything going wrong. In addition to now being told there were multiple walkouts and 'abuse of staff' my act is now being cheapened and simplified as unsafe, homophobic, misogynistic and racist....There's a lot of silly, exaggerated irony and nonsense, real and exaggerated anger and bile, and even getting my dick out is for the purpose of the funny line which follows it."
Given that he has previously be billed as "the world's most offensive comedian" it would not be shocking if people did walk out. But likewise the Pleasance must have known who they were booking. Unless he had made assurances that he wouldn't say/do certain things and then went back on an agreement it seems harsh of them to cancel him. Maybe they could have put up more high profile warnings about the material in the foyer before the second show. 
This could run and run. And in the process Sadowitz has become entangled in the latest round of culture wars. Someone joked that he'll end up with a show on GB News. Let's hope he turns down any offers from them if they come. I would imagine that he wouldn't want to be a flagbearer for the free speech movement, the right, the alt right or anyone for that matter. Has the Pleasance become too woke? Let's just assume for the moment that he did say/do the alleged things. This should have come as no surprise to anybody who bought a ticket. As my opening anecdote reminds us, Sadowitz has been doing this sort of thing for over three decades. Which is why he is rarely on TV. He had a series on BBC Two, The Pall Bearer's Revue in 1992, but, quelle surprise, it was not recommissioned.
OK, so maybe some people at the Fringe were looking for a show to see and did not know who he was. With the greatest respect to Jerry, I can't imagine punters unaware of him bought a ticket because he had a nice friendly face. There were copious warnings about the nature of his act, in the press information and in a video trailer where he said that he would be unfurling his penis. 
So what do we make of Jerry Sadowitz? Obviously this has been a talking point among comedians over the weekend. While there is an ongoing debate about what he actually did onstage there is a suggestion among comedians that know him that he may have been offensive onstage because that is what he does. But on the other hand he is anything but offensive offstage. Difficult? sometimes. Ask the countless management companies that have tried and failed to tame him over the years.
Interestingly some people say that there are two Jerrys and it depends which one you get. If he is doing his brilliant sleight of hand magic he could be the personification of politeness. Well, maybe not quite, but he will show you some superb tricks (caveat, maybe some punters thought they were buying a ticket for a nice magic show, but then maybe they should have been paying more attention...). He is a true magic fanatic. He used to work in a magic shop in Holborn. Imagine being sold a cup and balls by Sadowitz.
He does not do many press interviews and when he does things do not necessarily go as planned. There is a hilarious interview on the British Comedy Guide website from 2011. The interview reveals that walkouts are certainly not unknown when he is onstage. The article says an entire audience walked out on him at the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe, apart from some comedians and a promoter. "Strangely, it was a comedy character that I was doing...I hadn't even got to the 'offensive' material."
I've not had many dealings with Sadowitz over the years. But I do remember one occasion when he had a thrusting manager who wanted to get him into the Evening Standard. I was all set to review his latest show when Sadowitz himself rang me and asked me very politely and charmingly not to review him. This was not the Sadowitz you see onstage and I can only assume it was a side of the real Sadowitz we rarely encounter, though his hardcore fans might not want to know that.
Others also confirm he can be perfectly reasonable. Sadowitz is touring in the autumn, details here, and in September is headlining a new comedy club in Margate. The Margate promoter Jim Driver has been dealing directly with him and says he has had absolutely no problems. More info on that gig here.
He is clearly a complex individual. People call hm an archetypal foulmouthed Glaswegian but he was actually born in New Jersey. It is not clear where his rage comes from but in the British Comedy Guide interview he describes himself as a "nice, if fucked up individual. My onstage persona actually thinks he has something to offer. The one off-stage is beyond despair, desperation and bitterness, but he's too cowardly to kill himself. I'm aggressive on stage due to the intense anger of everything I have experienced, not experienced and observed since birth." There are many sides to Sadowitz. And do you know why? Because he's a real person, not a cartoon character.
As for what he may have said and done onstage maybe there is one problem. Times are different. When he used to P word at the Rub-A-Dub Club the audience was outraged. But they didn't get triggered. They didn't storm out. They didn't post anything on social media (ok, there wasn't any back then, but they didn't write letters either). As far as I know Sadowitz wasn't banned from the venue. Maybe it was a more tolerant time? Maybe it understand the nature of context and the difference between Jerry Sadowitz and Bernard Manning.
Sadowitz has been doing the same thing for all of his career. The trouble is what might have been acceptable back then in front of a broad-minded audience is becoming increasingly unacceptable now. I'd still like to know exactly how many people walked out on Friday night and why. One person who was there and who knows his act suggested that maybe he did go further than in the past and that here were a few walkouts but not droves. When I pressed The Pleasance for a specific figure they replied "numerous". However many there were I'd love to know what they thought they were going to see and what exactly offended them. 



Articles on beyond the joke contain affiliate ticket links that earn us revenue. BTJ needs your continued support to continue - if you would like to help to keep the site going, please consider donating.

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.