I suppose it was inevitable that cancel culture would eventually catch up with Jerry Sadowitz. We often talk about offensive or controversial comedy these days. Often regarding jokes and acts that aren’t remotely offensive or controversial to anyone other than a handful of bilious idiots.
But Sadowitz is the real deal. This US-born Glaswegian comic-cum-magician is the most genuinely offensive act you will ever see. His onstage persona is a fireball of hatred, racism, sexism, homophobia and depravity, served up with improbably brilliant magic tricks. He makes Frankie Boyle look about as edgy as Susan Boyle. And he is utterly brilliant – hilarious and almost poetic in how he vocalises hate-fuelled rage. Which is why, even as comedy has become ever more bourgeois and uptight, he has been able to continue doing his thing relatively unscathed. Until now.
On Saturday, Sadowitz announced that his second Edinburgh Fringe show at the Pleasance, one of the biggest venues at the festival, had been cancelled. The Pleasance swiftly put out a statement, a tour de force of Orwellian doublespeak. ‘The Pleasance is a venue that champions freedom of speech and we do not censor comedians’ material’, said Pleasance director Anthony Alderson, before adding the inevitable ‘but’: ‘This type of material has no place on the festival and the Pleasance will not be presenting his second and final show.’
Some staff members and punters had complained, reportedly because Sadowitz used racial slurs and got his penis out, both of which he’s been doing on stage for years. In the face of fierce criticism from comics and even calls for a boycott, the Pleasance has doubled down with another statement, calling the show ‘extreme in its racism, sexism, homophobia and misogyny’.