Comedian Jerry Sadowitz defends cancelled routine as 'funny and worth saying'

The veteran standup was condemned by an Edinburgh venue as 'unsafe, homophobic, misogynistic and racist'


Jewish comedian Jerry Sadowitz has dismissed an allegation his cancelled Edinburgh Fringe show was "unsafe, homophobic, misogynistic and racist".

In a statement, the veteran standup defended his routine as "funny, sometimes important and worth saying" after it was condemned as “completely unacceptable” by the venue booked to host it.

Mr Sadowitz had performed once at The Pleasance on August 12 before managers axed his second date.

In a statement, they claim a “large number” of people walked out of the show, and they received an “unprecedented” number of complaints.

The venue added: “In a changing world, stories and language that were once accepted on stage, whether performed in character or not, need to be challenged. There is a line that we will not cross at the Pleasance, and it was our view that this line was crossed on this occasion.”

On Sunday night, Mr Sadowitz said: "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."

The arch-provocateur added: "A lot of thought goes into my shows and while I don't always get it right, especially at the speed of which I speak... and I don't always agree with my own conclusions (!)...

“I am offended by those who, having never seen me before, HEAR words being shouted in the first five minutes before storming out without LISTENING to the material which I am stupid enough to believe in funny, sometimes important and worth saying."

Responding to accusations he had exposed his genitals on stage, Mr Sadowitz said: "There's a lot of silly, exaggerated irony and nonsense, real fake and exaggerated anger and bile, and even getting my d**k out if for the purpose of the funny line which follows it."

The performance in question was entitled “Jerry Sadowitz: Not for Anyone” and potential audience members were warned that it contained “strong language and themes some may find distressing”.

The decision to cancel Mr Sadowitz provoked anger among Fringe performers and attendees. 

Comedian Richard Herring told The Guardian: “To complain about him being offensive is like asking the actor who plays Macbeth to be arrested for murder. 

“His audience should know what they’re getting into, as should any theatre that books him. It’s not like he’s a new act… it is another example of the Fringe not feeling very Fringey this year.”

International Booker Prize judge Viv Groskop said: “If the cancelling of Jerry Sadowitz’s Edinburgh show is about nudity then loads of other shows should get cancelled too… 

“If it’s about content... then let grown adults Google acts before they buy tickets. It’s not difficult. You should be asking for your money back if you *don’t* get offended at a Jerry Sadowitz show — and if you haven’t worked that out, you shouldn’t be there.”

In a statement, The Pleasance said: “Due to numerous complaints, we became immediately aware of content that was considered, among other things, extreme in its racism, sexism, homophobia and misogyny. 

“We will not associate with content which attacks people’s dignity, and the language used on stage was, in our view, completely unacceptable…

“We don’t vet the full content of acts in advance and while Jerry Sadowitz is a controversial comedian, we could not have known the specifics of his performance.

"The Pleasance has staged his work numerous times over the years, but as soon as we received complaints from those in the building which caused us great concern, we knew we could not allow the final performance to go ahead. 

“The arts and comedy in particular have always pushed the boundaries of social norms but this boundary is always moving. Our industry has to move with it. However, this does not mean that we can allow such content to be on our stages.”

Mr Sadowitz was born in New Jersey to a Scottish-Jewish mother and American-Jewish father. At seven, he moved with his mother to her native Glasgow. 

From the 1980s, he became a star of the alternative comedy circuit with a deeply provocative brand of comedy. 

In 1991, Mr Sadowitz was knocked unconscious at a show in Montreal after telling the crowd: “I tell you why I hate Canada, half of you speak French, and the other half let them. Why don't you speak Indian? You might as well speak the language of the people you stole the country off of in the first place.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive