Fringe legend, comedian and magician, Jerry Sadowitz, has had an Edinburgh show pulled, after apparent complaints from the public. He was due to perform for a second night at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, a venue run by The Pleasance during the Fringe.
A statement from the venue said, “The Pleasance Theatre Trust have cancelled Jerry Sadowitz’s second and final show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with immediate effect.
“In today’s society, opinions such as those displayed on stage by Sadowitz are not acceptable and The Pleasance are not prepared to be associated with such material.”
Sadowitz had apparently exposed himself on stage and used racial slurs to describe members of the current government. According to one audience member, as reported in The Sun “I was at the show. He called Rishi Sunak a ‘p***’; said the economy was awful because it is run by ‘blacks and women’.
“He got his penis out to a woman in the front row. The problem was not the audience – I knew he was an acquired taste. It was his indefensible content”.
Anthony Alderson, Director of the Pleasance said: “The Pleasance is a venue that champions freedom of speech and we do not censor comedians’ material. While we acknowledge that Jerry Sadowitz has often been controversial, the material presented at his first show is not acceptable and does not align with our values. This type of material has no place on the festival and the Pleasance will not be presenting his second and final show.”
Sadowitz has been overwhelmingly supported by fellow comedians on social media.
On the Mic spoke to several staff members at The Pleasance, “the rumour and inuendo” within the organisation is that bosses want to protect future public funding. “They are worried about the media… [reporting] that the government is paying for Sadowitz to say this stuff”.
Sadowitz was unavailable for comment.
On the afternoon of Sunday 14th August, The Pleasance issued an additional statement. Here it is in full:
“As previously stated, the Pleasance chose to pull Jerry Sadowitz’s second and final show. 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.
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.
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.
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.”
Later on Sunday evening, Jerry Sadowitz responded:
“I don’t wish to humiliate The Pleasance but they are doubling down on their position and I don’t want to be made the victim of that. I repeat… 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.
“I am not J** D******* folks… 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 is funny, sometimes important and worth saying.
“Additionally, 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. (No I won’t tell you what it is… see the show for yourself… or better still… just stay at home.)
“I ask nobody to agree with anything I say or do on stage… God forbid they should end up like me… and I have never ONCE courted a mainstream audience to come to my shows because guess what??? In real life, I really DON’T don’t want to upset anyone… including Anthony Alderson.
“The show is what it is, for those who enjoy it. The rest of you… please stick to Carry On films.
“P.S. If the Pleasance can’t apologise to me they should at least apologise to the 300 people who paid for and travelled to see the show on Saturday.”