I had never heard of Sadowitz before the cancellation of his show. I have never attended a comedy show but am now keen to see him perform. Hopefully, all this free advertising will have the opposite effect on his career to that which the woke mob intended by having his show cancelled.
Honestly, as a University of Edinburgh alum, I just find this really depressing. I have dim memories of seeing Jerry Sadowitz while there in the very early 90’s, although I don’t think it was at The Pleasance. I do not recall thinking he was particularly offensive, but sensibilities were more robust then.
I saw Kevin Bloody Wilson around the same time. Now that would NOT happen today.
He’s on tour at the moment, not all cancelled I hope, the first para of his blurb (Andrew quoted the second para) goes like this:
Jerry Sadowitz returns with his whacky impressions of Greta Thunberg, Frankie Boyle and deep vein thrombosis. He also promises to do less hate fuelled swearing and focus more on faux liberal pish in order to appeal to the middle class and their disposable income and personalities.
What I find particularly infuriating is the annexation of the word « safe » to mean some kind of perceived right to be unchallenged and unoffended simply by the existence of contrary ideas.
It’s unsafe to live in Ukraine or Yemen. It’s unsafe to go to school in Texas. It’s unsafe not to have clean water. And from my own experience, it’s unsafe to walk down a street in Belfast in the 80’s, knowing there are people who are trying to shred you alive with flying glass from a bomb.
There is a certain irony in publishing an article in support of Sadowitz in a publication that routinely deletes comments contains words that might be regarded as offensive in different contexts and opinions that might offend. I am a big fan of Unherd but it nevertheless has a censorious filter that has a pretty woke aspect to it when it comes to comment – something the editors sedulously avoid commenting on or discussing.
I just now made a comment about Doyle’s hypocritical reference to Mr Royston Vasey and had it removed! Ho hum…
It’s censorship by robot. Companies such as OpenWeb are making fortunes from their tedious algorithms
I used to read the comments on the UK Motley Fool where moderation kept conversation civilised and generally interesting while I didn’t bother with Adfin where the comments tended to descend into pointless flame wars – so I am not against some level of moderation to avoid pointless vulgar flame wars.
What is irritating is the robot censorship that is triggered by pretty common words and blanket censorship of any comments where “sensitive” subjects are discussed coupled with over-sensitive moderation. The ability to flag up comment for consideration by the moderators should be sufficient when coupled by robust rather than sensitive moderators. Can Unherd not find less sensitive and woke automatic systems at a reasonable price? It is a free speech issue that deserves discussion by Unherd. Right up their alley I would have thought, but they seem reluctant to touch the subject despite its potential to generate interest.
I don’t usually get caught out myself now as I have worked out a fair number of the trigger words and know not to refer to ex Metropolitan Police Chief Cressida “Richard” for example.
If I have a comment deleted anywhere or put into moderation I unsubscribe.
My wife and I were not particular fans of Jerry Sadowitz when he first appeared on the scene (late 80s). Deep in our own struggles, we wouldn’t have had or spent the disposable income to go out and be shouted at in an age of shouty comedians.
But give the guy his due, he was cancelled back then also after publicly calling out Jimmy saville.https://hmsfriday.com/2012/10/12/jerry-sadowitz-on-jimmy-savile-back-in-1988/
And yet even you, Andrew, single out Roy Chubby Brown as an acceptable target for your opprobrium. Thousand of people go to his shows every year, and they couldn’t care less about the joyless exercise in narcissism that is the Edinburgh Festival.
On the contrary, I was openly critical of the cancellation of Brown’s show. You’ve misunderstood my point.
Ok but your paragraph was somewhat ambiguous – maybe you should clarify the distinction you refer to
Jeff, I don’t think Andrew singled out Roy Chubby Brown for his opprobrium. He was writing about how comedians view Jerry Sadowitz and Roy Chubby Brown.
Andrew, you have been openly critical of the cancellation of Roy Chubby Brown‘s show but I don’t think that was in this article. You said it elsewhere and Jeff may not know that.
I have seen neither Jerry Sadowitz nor Roy Chubby Brown so I won’t compare and contrast their work but I will compare and contrast something else.
When Jerry Sadowitz’s Edinburgh show was cancelled expressions of dismay from fellow comedians came very quickly and there has been discussion of the issue of free speech in comedy in various media outlets in the last few days.
Venues have been cancelling Roy Chubby Brown’s shows on the grounds that the show’s content may cause offence for years. I have found news reports about nine different Roy Chubby Brown shows which have been cancelled, the earliest being in 2016. I haven’t found any reports of fellow comedians expressing dismay for the cancellation of Roy Chubby Brown’s shows or discussions of Roy Chubby Brown’s right to free speech.
That’s very helpful thanks
Totally off topic but just wanted to say how much I love you on GB News :o)
Not sure why but I think Jerry Sadowitz is a genius. To say the things he says, with the style and panache that he says them with, and to refuse to be compartmentalised and intimidated by authority, makes him a hero of our times. Look forward to seeing him on tour later in the year, provided the new puritans dont cancel him first.
Comedians have become the canary-in-the-goldmine in the USA as well. What’s left once you eliminate all offense is incredibly awful stuff, really boring, and truly unfunny material. Case in point – A few months ago, my husband and I, both comedy enthusiasts, spent an evening at Stand Up NY on NYC’s Upper Westside. One gets to sample about 6 to 8 comedians in an evening. It’s a small club so the audience is almost as prominent as the act itself. As we coursed through the evening more than half of the comedians noted our ‘older ages – 65 & 70’ – one noted that my hair matched the silver wallpaper (that was funny?!), another told my handsome husband he could star in a Cialis (viagra) commercial (huh?), etc, etc. It was as if they were really straining for something to say. It was okay to go after the old folks though! Funny enough – when the show was over and we were walking out – the club manager & some of the comedians were standing around smoking and one of them, with head bowed down sheepishly apologized for the ‘attacks’. OMG what comedian would apologize for their work. Don Rickles is howling from the skies above.
Cathy, I’m fascinated by and grateful for your comment because I’m interested in what the comedy scene is like in the USA. Comedy (and particularly stand-up) is something that has not crossed borders as much as music or film or TV drama but I have heard a lot of comedy aficionados say that American comedy is much better than British comedy. I’m a fan of Bill Hicks, I like what I’ve seen of Doug Stanhope and Chris Rock and I’ve seen a couple of George Carlin’s last specials and wonder what his earlier work was like but I’ve always thought Louis CK is massively over-rated.
However, I’m curious about the comedy you’ve seen recently that has disappointed you and what sort of comedy you would like to see. Is what you have seen bland and tame? Do you want political satire or offensive comedy? What topics do comedians talk about and not talk about? If I was a comedian in America in the last few years I would have been doing routines about Trump, QAnon, Biden, dead rappers, Black Lives Matter, mass shootings and the person I want to stand in and win the Presidential Election in 2024.
I don’t dispute the existence of cancel culture but I don’t like the way some people talk about it and Dave Chappelle is an example of that. There isn’t a single person or organisation with the power to ban someone from all venues and media outlets. Some people would like the power to do that and some people believe that if they are offended they have the right to expect that the person who has offended them should be banned from all venues and media outlets but no entity has that power.
However, people and organisations have the power to ban someone from their own venues or media outlets and have used that power. Dave Chappelle’s show at First Avenue in Minneapolis was cancelled by the venue but instead he performed at another venue on the same night and he has continued to perform and to appear on Netflix. Lots of Roy Chubby Brown shows have been cancelled over the years and one of those cancellations was discussed at length at the time but not in great depth because no-one discussed what the council involved had allowed to happen on its premises for eighteen years and what it was still failing to do. Enough people and organisations have used or encouraged others to use that power to create what we now know as “cancel culture” but it is not the only or first such culture.
Andrew Doyle is standing up for a noble cause and whilst I haven’t been to a Comedy Unleashed show the idea of a comedy show which guarantees free speech for comedians is an excellent one and I wish I had thought of it (actually I did and I wrote about it years before Comedy Unleashed was established). However, the fight for free speech in comedy and in general hasn’t been going well and that’s because it hasn’t been fought well and because comedy is not a significant cultural or political force. Decades ago comedy was more popular and what comedians and comedy shows said or did was more influential but in this century comedy has become increasingly irrelevant as it has become dominated by lazy panel shows, self-obsessed stand-ups and sitcoms and comedians who don’t care about being funny.
However, for me the worst thing is that some comedians have expressed support for the cancellation of comedy shows. One comedian who recently expressed support for Jerry Sadowitz signed a letter expressing support for the cancellation of a stand-up comedy show and which led to the cancellation of a TV comedy show. Another signatory to the same letter is a close friend of Jerry Sadowitz. Some comedians are part of cancel culture.
I remember Sadowitz from the early 90s: in particular I recall him mercilessly sending himself up on his television show. Whatever he dished out, he didn’t seem to spare himself. Kudos to him for that if nothing else.
Ah, what brave people the culture warriors and religious extremists are: taking up weapons to fight… words, words, words, words, words. And a high ranking lawyer lecturing us all on power and privilege? That really is weapons-grade irony, made all the more potent by being apparently unaware. Tragedy played out as farce.
Jerry Sadowitz is a very funny man. He makes me cry from laughing so hard! How dare kids tell me who I am allowed to laugh at. How dare kids who know nothing about the dark side of life tell me what as I am allowed to find funny. Life in the vanilla lane is extremely boring and not worth living. We need edgy, adult comics who understand life in all its glorious riotous colour to make old crabbit women like me laugh out loud. The kids need to get back in the toy box until we tell them they can leave, and that won’t be anytime soon!
This does feel like an important moment and there’s so much to say around this issue that it probably deserves a whole book (up for that Andrew?).
Lots of comments around the web saying ‘never heard of Sadowitz”, which is exactly right and how it should be. His is a niche act.
My first encounter with Sadowitz was in 1987 when the NME championed his album “Gobshite”. At that time, the NME didn’t cover comedy, so to give a comedy album their “Album of the Week” award and to give it a full page several-hundred-word review was unusual. I was a teenage comedy obsessive, so thought “wow”, this is going to be good, went down to my local HMV and bought a copy.
And I liked it. Didn’t love it, but it was OK. Some have compared Sadowitz’s work to the Derek and Clive albums of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, but I always felt it was closer to what Alexei Sayle had done at the start of his career, with his ‘Stream of Tastelessness” routine, which you can hear on the Comic Strip album, which was recently re-released on CD.
There was a number of performers at that time who were exploring the role of the “fool”, and this is where I’d place Sadowitz. Tony Allen’s book “Attitude” provides a good overview of this scene. And for me, Sadowitz’s onstage persona is rather like a fool from a Shakespeare play – he’s there to cause mischief and mayhem.
The most staggering thing for me, though, about this whole episode is the behaviour of The Pleasance, which, for over 30 years, has been at the forefront of Fringe comedy. Comedy only became a dominant art form at the Fringe in the 1980s because of performers like Sadowitz and because venues sprung up like The Pleasance to cater for those performers.
The Pleasance isn’t a single venue. Initially, it was a collection of mostly small rooms in an old building just south of Edinburgh’s city centre. It has expanded massively since the days when Christopher Richardson used to run it and now, as well as the original building, it operates venues throughout the city.
So the history of the Pleasance and the career of Jerry Sadowitz are intertwined. Neither are that well known in the world outside comedy festivals, but both are legendary within that world. They are part of the same legacy.
So for The Pleasance to say that they couldn’t have possibly known what Sadowitz’s performance would consist of is rather like Smirnoff saying they aren’t aware that their vodka contains alcohol.
Or maybe they can, because this seems to have been a screw up from the start. Sadowitz’s performance did not take place at one of the core Pleasance venues, but at the EICC, a huge, soulless conference centre, totally unsuited to comedy at the best of times. What on earth were they thinking? Apparently, it was less than half full. Of course it was. It’s a niche act for a minority audience. This does seem to suggest that those running The Pleasance these days are not all that knowledgable about the “product” they’re selling.
Furthermore, why would a “fringe” venue even want to rent out a space like the EICC? The point of the Fringe was to provide an alternative to the main Edinburgh International Festival. It’s only in the last 25 years (since it uncoupled itself from the International Festival and changed dates) that it has become this huge profit-making enterprise, which I think goes against its original ethos. The Fringe is no longer a “fringe” – it should now be called “The Edinburgh Mainstream Festival”.
It’s going to be very interesting to see how comedians particularly on the left (where most are) respond to this. It has been good to see a wide range of performers speak out, but I’ll be particularly interested to see what Stewart Lee has to say, as (A) he has long called Sadowitz one of the best stand-ups of his generation and (B) has in the past performed material which some will find very offensive.
That’s probably all very rambly, sorry, but it’s annoyed me.
Agree with every word, except your last para – wokescolds started targeting respected comedians such as Ricky Gervais and Dave Chappelle years ago. It’s a disgrace. May they all die of boredom.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I sense a pressure building in which all of this nonsense is suddenly going to flip, and the poor folks, some more innocent than others, stuck on the wrong side of a collapsed narrative will flee from it in abject fear. Including the poor folks running the Pleasance in Edinburgh. Expect many hushed denials of complicity in the failed revolution, even more revisions of history, and lots of “but everyone else was doing it” and it “just seemed like right thing to do” and “I just wanted to keep my job”. Etc etc etc. It will get very boring very quickly.
Let’s be kind to them if and when it does happen, and treat them as we would want to be treated – because there, but for the grace of God, go we. We are all human, the same flesh and blood. Forgive but do not forget, so that when the dark forces inevitably manifest themselves again, maybe – just maybe – it will be just a little bit easier for the future minority (with genius misfits like Sadowicz in the vanguard), who have no choice but to, once again, stand up for truth, love, justice, and beauty against the boot stamping endlessly on the human face.
No. Let’s be extremely unkind to the woke. Let’s cancel the living schidt out of them.
Sadowitz sounds like exactly the kind of comedian me and my late husband would have loved to see. This censorship is getting ridiculous – I always thought the Fringe was about pushing boundaries, clearly I was mistaken.
being able to take the p*** is not only a sacred freedom, the more offended the offended are, the funnier! I only takeafence out hunting or on the gallops…
I agree with this piece, apart from the bit where Andrew suggests that Mary Whitehouse and others were wrong to believe that adults are swayed by the culture they are exposed to. I’m 63 and though I’m not as easily influenced as I was as a teenager, still my views are constantly changing due to things I’ve seen, read or heard.
This is the logical outcome of the ‘alternative comedy’ process. When jokes in front of an audience are seen not as entertainment but as part of a wider progressive political project, this will always be the result. Andrew does it himself when he mentions Roy Chubby Brown with such horror and disdain
My understanding (second hand) is that it was the kn0&-out antics rather than the jokes. No surprise if it came from staff rather than punters either. But you can’t say he didn’t give a ‘trigger warning’, eh?
Humour shatters the illusions and delusions of the ego. In other words it stops us taking life seriously and believing it makes logical or indeed any other kind of sense. It is all theatre of the absurd. It is the shock of the new that we can’t protect ourselves from as it is horribly unpredictable.
I have not seen him perform, and after reading what he does I cannot see my doing so. I actually wonder why anyone would book him (money, I suppose) or go to see him, but having done so, why the suprise? If I owned a comedy club I wouldn’t book him, perhaps I’d go bust pretty quickly, though, seeing the amount of filth people seemed to like at the comedy venues that I have had the misfortune to attend. Perhaps they should have warned the people working in the theatre what he was like so that they could avoid listening to him, however, for the punters there is a simple rule – just don’t go.
The punters can’t choose not to go if the venue refuses to book him.
A venue can choose who they book, whether they are right or wrong will then depend on how many people turn up.
Indeed. And plenty of people bought tickets. If the Pleasance had cancelled the shows because they had not sold any tickets, that would be the free market at work, but it didn’t. Unfortunately at venues such as the Young Vic and the Pleasance management has allowed the staff to be self-appointed censors.
Couldn’t agree with you more. Just because his act seems repulsive (from what I’ve read) and I would neither see nor hire him, doesn’t mean I agree that he should be cancelled. It’s just that I cannot understand why anyone would want to see him, unless what I’ve read about his act is untrue, of course.