Jerry Sadowitz

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 25, 2010 3:56 pm    Post subject: Jerry Sadowitz Reply with quote

Jerry Sadowitz : Talking through his hat
Jerry Sadowitz wants to be billed as 'the most offensive comedian in the world'. But offstage, he's the very model of decorum, as Julian Hall discovers
Tuesday, 11 May 2004

It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Edinburgh and it seems that most of the city has gathered on the Meadows to sun themselves. Even Jerry Sadowitz is happy. Well not exactly. By his own admission, he will never be happy. Let's just say that his disposition when we meet outside the Queen's Hall, where he will perform later that evening, is favourable. Despite nearly 20 years of relative fame - a level he remains resolutely bitter about - the 42-year-old comic and magician is enjoying his current tour of Scotland. "It's keeping me moving and keeping me busy, which is healthy for me." Since childhood Sadowitz has suffered from ulcerative colitis. This unpleasant complaint goes a little way to explaining his other afflictions; being a "fucked-up individual" and being "extremely bitter". "I'm also away from London which is good for me; I have no life there except for helping out at the magic shop [International Magic in Clerkenwell]." He mumbles something about being away from bad influences, but doesn't

It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Edinburgh and it seems that most of the city has gathered on the Meadows to sun themselves. Even Jerry Sadowitz is happy. Well not exactly. By his own admission, he will never be happy. Let's just say that his disposition when we meet outside the Queen's Hall, where he will perform later that evening, is favourable. Despite nearly 20 years of relative fame - a level he remains resolutely bitter about - the 42-year-old comic and magician is enjoying his current tour of Scotland. "It's keeping me moving and keeping me busy, which is healthy for me." Since childhood Sadowitz has suffered from ulcerative colitis. This unpleasant complaint goes a little way to explaining his other afflictions; being a "fucked-up individual" and being "extremely bitter". "I'm also away from London which is good for me; I have no life there except for helping out at the magic shop [International Magic in Clerkenwell]." He mumbles something about being away from bad influences, but doesn't expand.

One thing is for sure, he doesn't mean alcohol. Sadowitz is teetotal, something that he believes has helped reinforce his status as a social misfit because he is never able to soften up. "Going into a bar is a traumatic experience for me," he admits, sipping the jasmine tea he has ordered from the Chinese restaurant where we now sit. Most who meet Sadowitz are surprised to discover how self-aware, polite and reflective he is. He shows little of the robust, focused character that shook up the comedy scene in the late 1980s and will again take the stage a few hours hence. "I didn't want to cultivate a likeable stage character and be a bastard off-stage," he says, but he winces when I remind him of some of the fluffier off-stage descriptions of him, one recently going so far as to call him a "cuddly bunny". Sadowitz wouldn't even pull one of those out of his trademark stage hat and cuddly bunnies don't peddle the Comedy of Hate.

Proud to have "invented" politically incorrect humour in the UK, Sadowitz's expletive-laden act continues to treat subjects like rape, homosexuality, Aids and multi-culturalism with all the grace of an abattoir hand. Show me the bunny, I think to myself later while watching the show.

Describing himself as a "moralistic, ethical and non-violent person" Sadowitz paraphrases the late US Comedy of Hate pioneer, Sam Kinison, to explain the line between what he says on-stage and what he actually believes: "I don't advocate wife-beating, I understand it." This empathy is used to explain a recent comment he made about voting for the BNP. "I was very angry that day. What I am saying is that I can understand working-class frustrations that their needs are not being met and why they might turn to the BNP. To dismiss them all as mindless thugs is fanning the flames."

Sadowitz, of course, wants a debate on immigration more open than any mainstream politician could countenance and using language that would require the resignation of everyone concerned. Unsurprisingly he has some sympathy with Ron Atkinson's recent transgression: "He shouldn't have had to resign. Using horrible words means, yes, they lose their currency, but it also makes you stronger if you can take it on the chin - like I do when a friend of mine calls me a big-nose Jewish bastard."

A year ago at The Soho Theatre, a woman who had recently been raped walked out of his show while he was explaining that he admired rapists "because they have to work in the dark". "Oh yeah, I remember. My only regret is that I wish I had been able to come back at her with something funny. You can't take out everything that offends people, there would be nothing left." The walkouts continue but it is hard to believe that audiences can be in any doubt about the Sadowitz shtick. His most recent tour title, Not For The Easily Offended, could have been applied to any of his shows. "I wanted it to be called Master Baiter", he responds, "with maybe a line on the poster saying 'Most Offensive Comedian in the World' ".

Apart from the small matter of the title, Sadowitz has been delighted with the tour, put together by Tommy Sheppard, founder of the Stand comedy club in Edinburgh. Over the years Sadowitz's admirers in the comedy world, who are legion, have scratched their heads and wondered who can harness his talent. For a while he was managed by the eccentric promoter and performer Malcolm Hardee ("that was desperation"), and approached the infamous Off the Kerb impresario Addison Cresswell before ending up at Avalon for a while. Now, as arguably then, he pretty much looks after himself. Well, nearly. "I hate making phone calls and setting things up. No disrespect but I nearly forgot the interview today because I don't keep a diary." So could someone come in and manage the unmanageable? "I have such contempt for agents, managers and promoters" he says, but on the other hand, "I'd love someone to help who is nice, competent and honest. Is that too much to ask? All sorts has been said about me, that I'm difficult. What? Because I need a radio mike and two tables for my show?"

Trust is the key issue for any venture with Sadowitz. He can be generous, yes, as evidenced by the helping hand he gave fellow magician Derren Brown. But he doesn't suffer fools or the rampantly ambitious gladly; he cites Ben Elton and the US card conjuror Richard Kaufman, his "nemesis" in the magic world, as examples of the latter. Add to the pot an obsession with his place in comedy and intellectual copyright; Jasper Carrott and the late Bob Monkhouse are among those he believes have lifted his material. And, oh yes, there's that bitterness again, stemming partly from having watched his own and subsequent generations of comedians bypass him in fame.

"For as long as I can remember, people have lied to me on almost every subject. I have learnt not to lie and to tell the truth at all costs. I hate game-playing, I hate roles and I hate costumes." Sadowitz must know that this, rightly or wrongly, comes across as uncompromising. It is one of the reasons that the people gate-keeping along his path to tangible success, such as TV executives, have shut him out, often seeing him and his stage act as one and the same. Since Channel 5's The People versus Jerry Sadowitz was cancelled he has been trying to get back on the small screen. "I've got lots of ideas for TV" he tells me, unconsciously tying his curly locks into something like a ponytail. One is for a sitcom based around the magic shop where he works in London. "It's written itself," he says, so earnestly that I don't know if even he has seen the obvious joke.

Magic for Sadowitz is more than just escapism, but "one of the great defences of God". "If I do a trick, or an effect, as magicians call it, you see the effect not the method. Isn't that a fair analogy to the universe? The effect is that we are on a planet that appears to be home and that everything is quite natural but we don't actually see the method. There is a magician I think, and he's a very good magician, he's not going to tells us what the method is." Despite being a Glaswegian Jew, Sadowitz's god is a non-denominational magician: "Religions are just the way God disseminates himself to different tribes around the world so they have a way of reaching him, different phone numbers, or a stamped addressed envelope in the case of the Jewish religion." And of the life beyond? "As strongly as I believe in God, I also believe that when you die you return to nothingness - which has got to be better than heaven." Asking Sadowitz, with his funereal pallor, about death is almost like hearing it from the horse's mouth, or at least from the pall bearer. He may repudiate the idea of eternal bliss but in the midst of his answer he says: "The tragedy is that I really love life, but it is tragic, short and - in my case - wasted."

Jerry Sadowitz plea to reporters not to quote his material
28 July 2008
By Kate Copstick

Last week Jerry Sadowitz sent an open letter to all newspapers covering the Fringe, asking them not to quote his material. Was he just being precious? Absolutely not, says Kate Copstick
THE word "critic" is derived from Greek, meaning "one who discerns", and ancient Greek – "one who offers reasoned judgment or analysis". At the risk of sounding overly literal, there is nothing in the job specification that says "one who scribbles down all the best lines, accessorises a comic's set list with them as examples and calls it a review".

During the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where the number of shows and their performers' desire for reviews mean that critics can be seeing five or six shows a day, the option of taking the easy route and simply quoting a comic's lines to give the potential audience an idea of the feel of the show is always there, and increasingly attractive to the lazy, the tired, the jaded and the inept. But doing this is not to review the show, but simply to report it. And those nice free seats (free to us, the press, but not to the performer) are for reviewers, not reporters.

This year, veteran comedian Jerry Sadowitz has drawn a line in the sand. In an open letter to arts editors across the land last week, he wrote: "Dear sir/madam. This email is a request to all newspapers/magazines, that if they feel they must review my show in Edinburgh, could you PLEASE not quote the actual material in the review? A very important element of comedy is surprise, and it can often make the difference between a show that works and one that does not."

There will be comics everywhere who will agree with him, because he is right. The good comics spend months writing their acts, honing them, road-testing them in front of their real critics: the public. Then a reviewer pops in, watches, scribbles and files their piece, a goodly percentage of which said comic has painstakingly written for him or her. The art and the craft of comedy criticism has to be better than that.

Many years ago in a review of a show by Simon Munnery I quoted a line of his because I honestly wanted to give people an example of his comic brilliance and I probably, with hindsight, wasn't a good enough writer to do it otherwise. I certainly didn't think enough about what I was doing, and being told afterwards by someone as smart and as reasonable as Simon Munnery that I had killed a line in his act was one of the most important lessons I have ever learned.

Jerry Sadowitz has suffered more than many at the hands of not only the quoters but the misquoters. One hack brought outrage from the comic by quoting only the first half of a close-to-the-bone but classic two-liner about Nelson Mandela.

Laughter is a much more fragile commodity than most people tend to give it credit for. Comedy is not just about the words; it is about the context, the timing, the tone, the voice, even the physicality of the comic in the moment when their words are let loose. All these factors determine the audience's response to the joke. And printing someone's line doesn't allow for that from those seeing the show after having read the review.

Added to which, quoting from a show sets an idea of the comic and the show in the reader's head. Supposing you were reviewing a Michelangelo exhibition and all you did was print a page of close-ups of penises. The guy was big on penises, people would conclude. If you go to see his work you will see penises. And this is true – David's has been a talking point for centuries. But it's not exactly what you'd call a review of Michelangelo exhibition, is it ?

Of course, giving an example is a fast, easy way to give a "taste" of someone's act. But we are, supposedly, critics. Shouldn't we be better than fast and easy? (Please, save the laughter, I have a weak finish.) In quoting a stand-up comic's material, the reviewer is not only taking from the performer his or her justifiably expected right to be the one to hit the public with their carefully crafted lines and garner the laughter – their laughter, their payback – but is also taking from the public their right to hear these carefully crafted lines in context and from the comic who crafted them.

Interestingly, the number of comics who don't want critics in their shows at all is rising – Daniel Kitson has been refusing to give out press tickets for years; this year Stewart Lee is joining him.

If this continues, comedy reviewers could find themselves out of a job. I suppose that at least some of us, if nothing else, have great skill at taking dictation. You can quote me on that.

• Jerry Sadowitz's latest Fringe show, Comedian, Magician, Psychopath II is at Udderbelly's Pasture, Bristo Square from 31 July to 25 August at 7:40pm. Kate Copstick will be reviewing Fringe comedy for The Scotsman from next weekend.

Interview: Jerry Sadowitz
Magician and comedian Jerry Sadowitz wants to be billed as 'the most offensive comedian in the world'. But as he prepares to return to Norwich for a special one-off show, ABIGAIL SALTMARSH finds him on his best behaviour.
04 December 2008
Norwich Evening News

Morose magician Jerry Sadowitz, who has long revelled in a reputation as one of the country's most confrontational stand-ups, is not looking forward to returning to Norwich - but that's is not because he doesn't like the city. “I have been to Norwich a couple of times before and I'm ashamed to say I quite liked it,” said the comedian, who is known for his somewhat grumpy demeanour and provocative style of presentation. “The reason I'm ashamed to say it is because I actually never look forward to anything.”

Widely considered to be one of the best stage magicians in the country - magic, not comedy, is his first love and he is the person who gave Derren Brown the introductions that led to him becoming such a success - Sadowitz admits he has courted controversy in his time. His hard-hitting humour takes jokes almost as far as possible - to a level some find offensive and others hysterical. His reputation frequently goes before him.

Rude, crude and sometimes provocatively misogynist. No subject is too tasteless, no taboo too sensitive. He's been banned, booed off, picketed by pensioners, and physically attacked. His material will sometimes reference disasters or tragedies and he happily uses obscene language liberally. According to his fans, its all to cutting comedic effect, others fail to see the funny side.

On his last appearance at the Norwich Playhouse in April, the Evening News reviewer Peter Walsh wrote: “I consider myself to be pretty broad minded and like my comedy to be on the edge, but even with that in mind, I have to confess that some of this performance made for pretty uneasy viewing. There is no doubt that he is indeed hugely talented…but while the card tricks were mind-boggling, some of the comedy was so acidic that it burnt holes through even the broadest of moral mindsets.”

"No subjects were off limits from his shock filled rants that left very few taboos untouched resulting in some members of the audience that night rising from their seats and leaving during the show. Parts of the performance were brilliant, but there are some subjects which just are not funny, no matter how many swear words you garnish them with,” observed Walsh.

Born in America in 1961, but brought up in Glasgow, Sadowitz began conjuring when he was a young school boy. An early influence were the Derek & Clive sketches by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, which were littered with obscenities as the pair pushed taste as far as it would go, and much of his comedy emulates. Today he is considered an accomplished close-up magician, known particularly for his card tricks.

His comedy, performed while dressed in black and wearing Victorian funeral directors style hat, combines the visual traditions of the magician. He often uses gaudy conjuring props, with political social and cultural observations which deliberately challenge the norms and taboos.

“I will be doing my Edinburgh show in Norwich,” he said. “For anyone who has seen me already - it's just more of the same really.”

In 2006, Jerry was voted number 15 in the Channel 4 production One Hundred Greatest Stand-Ups. The same year he broke the Soho box office record for ticket sales when he performed his close up magic show at the Soho Theatre. Some of the card tricks he performs are so technically difficult that there are only a couple of magicians in the world who can do them. But his determination to push the boundaries have in the past ruffled the feathers of the notoriously secretive Magic Circle when he fails to stick to the rules of particular tricks.

His in-your-face stage persona has arguable been a double edged sword. Though he stands out as the most shocking of UK comics, his non-PC material has meant that, in his view inferior, contemporaries have progressed on to TV, while his own television appearances have been limited to late night spots.

So what can Norwich expect from his show? Some decent magic and some daring humour. “I was going to do some ballet dancing too,” he said. “But then I thought maybe not…”

Empire Theatre, Eden Court, 31 March 2009)
JOHN BURNS relives childhood terrors as Jerry Sadowitz stalks the stage
01 April 2009

WHEN I was a small boy on the Wirral my Gran used to take me to see the Punch and Judy show on the sea front at New Brighton. I was always a little scared of Mr Punch, with his hooked nose, starring eyes and violent temper he was a sinister character, a puppet bogey man. As a boy I used to have nightmares that Mr Punch would somehow follow me home and invade the sanctuary of my bedroom. Many years have passed now since my childhood day trips and memories of my lavender scented grandmother have faded. I had even forgotten my terror of Mr Punch, pushed it into the darkest recesses of my mind … or at least I had, until last night, when Jerry Sadowitz took to the stage at Eden Court.

There, unmistakably, in the persona of Mr Sadowitz, was Mr Punch. He had grown up as well, the pointed hat with bells had been replaced by a top hat, but the prominent nose and the wicked glint in his eyes were still there – he even still had his stick. Mr Punch had found me.

Sadowitz is probably the most uncompromising comedian in Britain today. He is, as they say, mad, bad and dangerous to know. In the opening two minutes of his act he unleashed enough profanity to shock my Grandmother into several seizures and seriously wound most of my aunts. If there had been a swear box in the theatre it would have collected enough money by the end of the show for the Bank of England to declare the recession over.

Dressed in his top hat with wild hair escaping beneath it, Sadowitz’s personality filled the theatre from the moment he stepped on to the stage. He is an intimidating character on stage and anyone unlucky enough to have sat in the front row must have had a tense evening.

From the outset he began a systematic destruction of every pretentious politically correct doctrine Radio 4 has ever held dear. No one is safe from the scorn of Sadowitz, no religion, no ethnic group escapes his scathing tongue. He even reserves his harshest comments for himself and his own Jewish origins.

His comedy is breathtakingly fast as he machine guns every liberal, right-thinking Guardian reader he can find. I found myself continually asking myself, “Should I be laughing at this?” Before I could answer the question Sadowitz had moved on and was happily slaughtering another sacred cow, before barbecuing it over the intense heat of his intelligence, and force feeding it to the vegetarians on the front row.

Sadowitz is as fine a magician as he is a comedian. He performed a series of card tricks and other illusions throughout the show. These were shown projected on to a screen behind him so that the audience could see, or rather not see, the skill of his sleight of hand. The magic blended well with the comedy and provided entertaining respite from the barrage of jolting humour that he performed for the greater part of his act.

Sadowitz is a superb showman; in earlier eras he would have been equally at home in a circus tent, on the stage at a Victorian music hall or warming up the audience at a Roman colosseum before offering the lions their Christian lunch.

Was he obscene? Yes, certainly. But was he offensive? The second question is much harder to answer. This is no Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown, knocking laughs out of an audience of morons with a series of blue gags. What Sadowitz is doing is far more subtle, more subversive and more dangerous.

A man who hates everything and everyone actually hates no one. Perhaps that is the irony of this man. The controversial nature of his material will probably ensure that you never see Sadowitz with his own special on TV and that is a pity, because he deserves greater public exposure.

Unfortunately there isn’t a watershed late enough to allow for Sadowitz. Towards the end of his act he took a moment to rage against other comedians, including Bill Hicks. Yet there is something of Hicks in Sadowitz’s style. He, like Hicks, is a comedian with the ability to make the audience think, to challenge their perceptions of the world. If you are offended by Sadowitz, maybe you have missed the point. Perhaps there is more to Mr Punch than meets the eye.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 20, 2011 4:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Profile: Jerry Sadowitz, comedian
Jay Richardson
18 March 2011

ARGUABLY Scotland's greatest comedian, and undoubtedly the most underrated, Jerry Sadowitz remains a cult, enigmatic figure. A misanthropic monster on stage, appalling, obscene, ferocious, he holds nothing back – not his ugliest thoughts, nor his oft-exposed penis – yet he reveals little of himself, the sleight-of-hand of an acclaimed magician who's been keeping audiences speculating about his mind's furious workings for a quarter of a century.

In the US, comedian Gilbert Gottfried just lost a commercial endorsement after joking about Japan's natural disasters. Yet if Sadowitz fails to emulate him on his Scottish tour – by not reprising his gag from the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 – crowds shouldn't feel short-changed.

As Logan Murray, his partner in the 1990s sketch act Bib and Bob, says: "He may violently disagree, but I think his magic background made him of the opinion that you should never give them the same trick twice unless there's a compelling reason to do so. Never let them see the mechanism, second guess or feel safe in what you're doing."

Janey Godley, who in 1983 as publican of the Weavers Inn in Glasgow gave "this bedraggled, grumpy bloke" his first gig, recalls vividly Sadowitz's introduction, bursting onto the stage with a cartoon-style bomb labelled "BOMB", the fuse fizzing: "Everybody stopped and stared at this guy running about, they'd never seen anything like it. Mouths dropped." Godley says she was later "physically stunned" by Sadowitz's line: "What's pink and fluffy and doesn't move? Norman Tebbit's wife's slippers." "For me, Billy Connolly can't touch him, neither can Bill Hicks. He was a generation starter who defined what comedy was and what it was to become. He makes Frankie Boyle look like a surly child in a playground, throwing his shoes at passersby."

Richard Herring, who supported Sadowitz before the latter was sacked by their shared management, agrees: "I like Frankie (Boyle] and Jimmy (Carr]. But they are framed in a knowing irony that Jerry doesn't have, which makes him the real deal and attending his gigs unpredictable and slightly scary. He is properly offensive and can offend me, but in the way that art should, rather than in that way of someone saying something for effect – which is true of most other offensive comics, including me."

Seeing Sadowitz recently, Herring wrote: "You will certainly be offended by some of the stuff he says, unless you are a moron and yet in a sense you'd have to be a moron to be genuinely offended … I can't exactly pin down why Sadowitz's use of the word 'spastic' is funny whilst Frankie Boyle's is not (in my mind at least), although I think it's mostly to do with the raw pain that underlies Jerry's act. It has an honesty that is lacking in most comedy, even though perversely I don't think Jerry honestly thinks the things he says. But even if it's not true, it's real, or the anger comes from a real place, even if it is exaggerated. He hates everyone and everything, but mostly himself. He is punching downwards, but managing to punch himself in the face. I laughed till I cried, I felt sick, I watched in awe at the wonderful responses and emotions he elicited from his crowd. You can understand his anger against all other comedians, because compared to him they are all phonies."

The chequered career of the "cunt in the hat" appeared to have grown increasingly out of step as alternative comedy became mainstream, with stand-up's boom seemingly intensifying Sadowitz's hatred of a scene he inspired. Murray recalls their liberal indulgence of hecklers sparking a theatre riot. And on the first night of Bib and Bob's run in London's West End, reeking of baked beans they'd smeared themselves in for their final sketch, they realised their PR company hadn't invited them to their own aftershow party.

"I remember Jerry and I wandering around Piccadilly with a bag of props, a hula hoop, vaguely smelling of baked beans, looking for one or two venues we thought the party was at. We finally got to the place, saw all these arseholes enjoying themselves and drinking our champagne, turned, and walked off to find our proper mates. That experience seemed to typify the business."

A typically charged element of Sadowitz's shows comes when he voices his opinion of other comics. "I love him for doing this," enthuses Herring, "that he holds no-one in such esteem that he won't attack them. It is almost the final taboo of comedy to round on your peers and it can easily be mistaken for bitterness or envy. With Jerry, myself and Stewart Lee, that's part of the joke. Railing against the more successful comics is allowing that part of all of us that craves for huge success to come to the fore. And, of course, there are some comics who have had great success without necessarily being as skilled or as funny as some that haven't. Comedians should really be outsiders and it should make people uncomfortable when they become rich, part of the establishment or start back-slapping at awards ceremonies."

If Sadowitz's influence can be perceived, in a diluted form, in Craig Ferguson's Bing Hitler character and, latterly, the styles of Boyle and Carr, Herring also acknowledges it in the persona he adopts for his Collings and Herrin podcasts, "where I allow my subconscious to take control of me and the voice that politeness usually suppresses to take the reins. "

"Jerry likes to be a Scrooge but I'm sure he enjoys the fact that he influenced me," remarks Godley. "Whenever I've done shows with him, he's always been very supportive, told me how proud he is and how he really appreciates what I do. He's my hero and he'll hunt me down and punch me in the face for saying that."

Murray frequently quotes his former best man in the stand-up courses he runs, and likens the Edinburgh Comedy Award-nominated sketch trio We Are Klang!, whom he directed, as the revival of "idiots just being stupid" that they tried to pioneer with Bib and Bob. Greg Davies, Marek Larwood and Steve Hall "are very clever blokes," he maintains, "and I think they would have arrived at this structure naturally. But I was pushing them to follow what we did, which is hit the audience hard at the start and prove you have a perfect right to be there, bang, bang, bang, bang. Grab them by the throat with one game, then another, one type of laugh, then a different one, until you have them. Only then can you take your foot off the pedal a bit and muck around."

A broadcasting pariah who refuses to compromise artistically, "for all the bloody good it's done him" Murray semi-jokes, Sadowitz hasn't fronted a television series since 2002 – "Nothing to do with Jerry's talent, everything to do with Jerry," maintains Godley. Regardless, he appears set to record his first DVD next month, a significant development for a comic who fiercely guards his intellectual property and has YouTube videos of himself removed within minutes of their appearing online. The blurb for these recorded shows steals Lynx deodorant's commercial's tagline, threatening "Angels Will Fall".

Perhaps it does so because no other living stand-up conveys quite the same satanic struggle of inflamed intimidation and wounded vulnerability. As Murray reveals: "He'll kill me for saying this. But his mum is a very nice woman, raised him well and to be polite. In the early 1980s, he was coming down to London from Glasgow over a couple of months, doing the card magic and working in some company, when he came to the realisation that good guys always come last. Everything he'd been taught was wrong, being nice, holding doors open, it was all bollocks. The scales fell from his eyes and he made a pact with this particular demon that 'I'm just going to say what I f***ing want onstage. Don't get mad. Get even.'"

• Jerry Sadowitz's Scottish tour begins at Falkirk Town Hall tonight, and continues until 28 March. Richard Herring: Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming, is at Oran Mor, Glasgow, 26 March. Janey Godley: The Godley Hour is at Oran Mor, Glasgow, 10 April, both as part of the Magners Glasgow International Comedy Festival, which begins today.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2011 1:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Incendiary comedian Jerry Sadowitz lets loose on fame, fortune and failure
John Dingwall,
Sunday Mail
Mar 20 2011

COMEDIAN Jerry Sadowitz has predicted he will die penniless and lonely. The Scots-American funnyman shot to fame in the 1980s and has been voted one of the greatest standup comedians of all time. But he describes himself as a failure and admits he has struggled to find work since his last television series, Channel 5's The Jerry Atrick Show, was axed almost a decade ago.

Asked whether the anger that has fuelled his troubled career is genuine, he sneered: "I'm more like livid. The worst thing about it is that my health is not strong enough to take the level of anger I have. The worry is that, at some point soon, it will develop into a heart attack or cancer because it has to go somewhere unless I start getting a lot more work."

Born in New Jersey and raised in Glasgow, Sadowitz rents a small flat in London but insists he'd move back to Glasgow if he had the chance. He said: "The only thing stopping me moving back to Glasgow is my mum. Most of my time is spent as her carer so I couldn't move back. I resent moving away in the first place. I did so because there were no comedy outlets. I had to support bands in pubs and lie to get gigs. I moved down to London in 1986 because The Comedy Store had opened. I would take the Stagecoach bus and the journey every two weeks for two years was horrendous. I moved and ended up staying at my mum's and things went downhill from there."

Sadowitz headlined a late-night show at Glasgow's King's Theatre last night, as part of the Magners Glasgow International Comedy Festival and is touring Scotland on a rare jaunt throughout the coming week, with another Glasgow show on Friday. He said: "Another thing I am angry about is that if there was no Glasgow comedy festival, I would never have done a headline gig in my hometown. When I moved to London, I wasn't approached by anyone in Scotland to do gigs. But because the Glasgow comedy festival has to have a certain number of Scottish comics, I got approached by default, I think. If it wasn't for the festival's director Tommy Sheppard, I wouldn't be doing anything in my home town. It isn't even my home town because I wasn't even born there so the whole thing is a mess."

On the subject of his unhappiness, Sadowitz - who has declined all other interview requests - admitted: "I would rather be happy with no act. But that won't happen. Not at the age of 50. Unless they build a time machine and I get another crack of it from the beginning. I'm terrified if anything good happens to me because I am not used to it. But I don't want a miserable article. You'll probably have the headline Sad-O-Wit or Sad Prat Still Moaning. I don't do interviews because I don't have anything at all positive to say."

Sadowitz can't even rely on the critical acclaim he once enjoyed after one critic described his act as a tirade of racist, sexist, borderline psychopathic bile. Far from revelling in criticism, he is stung by it. Sadowitz said: "That specific review happened on an attempt to do a warm-up gig for a show in London. It was a pub. There was no microphone and no stage and it wasn't used for standup. I hadn't done a gig in eight months. There were 10 people in front of me. It didn't work out, but the person didn't realise it was a warm up. She reviewed what she honestly saw. At the same time I don't want to excuse myself.

"Deep down a lot of it is genuine, a lot of it is the opposite of what I think, some of it is extreme exaggeration of a germ of what I think. I am not going to be so churlish to deny what anyone thinks. Maybe she is right. It hurts me - otherwise I wouldn't be doing the act that I do. I feel as threatened by praise as by criticism. It's very difficult to talk about because, don't forget, I have been doing this for 25 years and I am still below the radar. Maybe people know my name but most haven't seen me. So there's a history and progression of my act they're not aware of. So if somebody sees me for the first time now, I can't turn the clock back and go to early material and show the progression.

"Also, I hate analysing comedy and discussing it. It is a mess. It's how you could describe everything about me and the show, the career and life, everything. I have to look at my life and view it from that perspective. There is no way I am a clever guy. I have achieved nothing that I wanted to. I still live in a rented flat. It's not very good. I'm 50, I don't drive, I haven't had a relationship, I haven't got a career, an agent, a promoter or a manager. I'm unable to sort my mum's problems out. I've failed to the point that I don't even want to discuss it because I can't stand any performers, artists or celebrities who go into their private lives."

Sadowitz admits he can't stand to hear about the success of a new generation of comedians. And he feels this bitterness feeds his uniquely twisted, painful view of the world and which of course makes his act what it is. Sadowitz said: "Do you think there is somebody else on this planet who is as sick as I am, who has the pain and thoughts I have in my head? I don't even want these thoughts in my head. Subjects like politics, religion, drugs and the battle of the sexes had been covered so brilliantly by Lenny Bruce that I tried to find subjects he had not covered. If that means crawling deeper under the rock to find subjects like rape or paedophilia, I'd rather fail and be original than tread well-worn ground."

Asked if his failings could be self-imposed, he said: "Why would you think that? Would I choose not to be working? It's such a myth, the refusal to compromise. The lack of success is because I am Scottish and working class and I am not more gay and public-school English. I know that. Showbusiness, like everything else in this country, is owned and run by the English ruling classes. So if they see anything you or I do and think it is great, they look for one of their own who can do that.

"Billy Connolly succeeded because he was doing standup before the corporate lot got their hooks into it. Comedy is big business and the next big comedian will probably be sponsored by Sony. If you are a toy doll and you have an English ruling-class guy behind you, you can't not succeed. It becomes nothing to do with the act and all to do with the promoter."

Sadowitz also rails against the idea that any of his misfortunes are down to the notion he might be unpredictable or difficult to work with. He said: "I go to the Edinburgh Festival every second year and I am not approached by anybody. Maybe they are frightened of the level of commitment I have got for what I do. How much more predictable do you want me to be? I have been doing the same thing for 25 years and I am wearing the same top hat. So I just don't accept this idea that I'm unpredictable."

Sadowitz would love to walk away from comedy altogether but can't afford such indulgences. He added: "I am doing everything myself. I do very few gigs each year. If I won the lottery, I'd stop performing and say, 'Go fuck yourself - enjoy the imitators'." Asked if his anger is a useful emotion, he said: "Not for me. No, I don't have anything useful. Card tricks are the best thing that I do and that is about as useless as it gets."


This is quite a sad interview, but doesn't ring entirely true at all - when he threatened me with legal action for having a 20 year old video of his on here, I argued (fairly half-heartedly!) that I was helping to promote him for free. In response he spluttered with rage that I would 'dare to patronise' him.

Still, good luck to the cantankerous ratbag.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 5:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jerry Sadowitz interview
Jerry Sadowitz is the ultimate comedians’ comedian, loved and feared in equal measure. As he returns to the stage, he tells Ben Williams what keeps him angry. Photography Rob Greig.

‘Call in Jimmy Savile. You can’t afford to fuck about – bring in an expert. He may have fooled you, not fucking me.’ That was Jerry Sadowitz discussing the Cleveland child abuse scandal in his routine in 1987. A full 25 years before recent revelations, the New Jersey-born, Glasgow-raised and legendarily foul-mouthed comic and magician proved that he would always say what he thought, even if no one else was saying it, or even thinking it. Particularly if it enabled him to attack an institution or puncture a sense of moral complacency.

‘Offensive’ is an easy, maybe lazy, word to throw at Sadowitz. His is a broad church: race, religion, sexuality and disability come under scrutiny in his hate-filled, blistering, but also relentlessly funny shows. Gays, straights, blacks, whites, Christians, Jews, Muslims and often Sadowitz himself – all are strafed with F-words and C-bombs in performances that are unapologetically brutal, and often, as the Savile line suggests, uncomfortably close to the bone.

But despite being regularly cited as an inspiration by today’s legion of excoriating gag-merchants, he remains a cult figure, having never quite reached the audience he deserves, mainly because his act is deemed too controversial for television. These days, he performs occasionally, saying he ‘doesn’t get asked’ to do more shows. When we meet on the eve of his upcoming and potentially explosive West End run he’s wearing a Santa hat and doesn’t want to talk about his Savile comment (‘It doesn’t interest me’). At 51, he’s not in person as vein-poppingly angry as he comes across on stage, but he’s unlikely to be mistaken for a ray of sunshine. ‘I hate interviews,’ he says immediately and, indeed, he very rarely gives them. ‘You do what you do, you don’t describe what you do,’ he explains. ‘You do comedy; you don’t describe comedy. Well, Stewart Lee does. He makes a living out of it…’

A lot of contemporary comedians name you as an influence. How do you feel about that?
‘I’m not pleased, because with most of them it’s not an influence, it is either the lines or the actual blocks of material. The subjects that I’ve talked about, I searched very deep to find those topics, and then had to find humour in them, simply because everything else had been done. Paedophilia had not been done, jokes about pensions had not been done, or necrophilia, or any of these subjects – they’re not nice subjects, but I wanted to find something original, rather than just go over well-trodden territory. But those subjects have been hijacked. Politically incorrect comedy is no genre: it’s me, and it’s been ripped off by loads and loads of comics. So, basically, when I say they’re all cunts, I’m not joking.’

So, many of the current generation of ‘politically incorrect’ comedians are…
‘Bullshit? Yeah. They haven’t thought about it. They lifted a subject, which they’ve given no thought to, and they’ve made a flippant gag about it. I don’t think I’ve ever made a flippant gag in my life. It’s something that I’ve thought about, really hard about, and come up with something to say. It may be the absolute wrong thing to say, which is a legitimate part of comedy. I don’t always do the right thing. But however offensive it might sound, at least there’s a genuine thought.’

Last year saw your first proper UK tour in a 25-plus-year career. What took so long?
‘People in the industry don’t want to come near me. Nobody can remember, and nobody knows, and nor is there any justification for why they wouldn’t work with me, but nobody wants to be the first one to do that. They would say I’m difficult. Now, my interpretation of the word difficult, as a comedian in this business, is somebody who demands a competent and honest promoter. In London, I’ve yet to see that combination.’

Isn’t that true for other comics?
‘I imagine that a lot of comedians allow themselves to be abused because their talent is so lacking that anything they get, and anything they make, is a bonus to them. Or they are perhaps so upper middle class that they have enough money from mummy and daddy so they can afford to spend three or four years being ripped off by the industry. I can’t. This is my job, and I’ve got a very working-class ethic. I’m not proud of it, I’m not against it, but I do a job, and I’d quite like to get paid for the job, as agreed.’

Do you treat your material in the same way, working hard to make it a good show?
‘I put a ridiculous amount of care and attention into my shows because of my upbringing as a magician. I started magic when I was 11, and magic is always about great attention to detail. You can’t master 99 percent of a magic trick because if you don’t master the other 1 percent you’ll get caught: people will see how it’s done. I think I’ve brought that in to my performance and career, if you like. I want everything to be right. Otherwise the show isn’t good enough.’

Is that why the DVD you recorded last year hasn’t been released? You didn’t think the show was good enough?
‘Well, it was a number of reasons. First of all, I don’t like looking at myself: I don’t like myself, so I don’t really want to see anything of mine.’

But you don’t have to watch it…
‘No, I don’t. But that’s a problem. And the other problem is, I don’t want people looking at me on a DVD for the first time – and there are loads of people who haven’t seen me – and thinking: Oh, he’s a bit like Frankie Boyle. Oh, he’s a bit like Ricky Gervais, he’s a bit like Jimmy Carr or Chubby Brown. I’ve heard Doug Stanhope do that… Now, I know who’s ripping who off, and it isn’t me. So I don’t want people saying that about me.’

So that would rule out a TV show?
‘I’ve got a lot of ideas that I’d love to do for telly, but they’ll never see the light of day. Loads and loads of formats, and I think potentially very successful ones. But I don’t bother submitting them any more because television executives are just too stupid. They want film footage of it; you have to go away and make it, let them look at it, then they’re going to put it before an audience and see what they think of it, and all that really says is they haven’t got any judgment of their own. Funnily enough, I wrote a script and I saw myself in it, then later I thought: The person to play this would be Ricky Gervais. There you go!’

Do you want to make your audience uneasy, confront things they’d rather not?
‘I think you’re meant to leave your beliefs at the door. What’s that thing? “When you go and see a play, suspend your disbelief.” I think when you see a comedian you should suspend your beliefs. Anything that you hold dear, just put it at the door, leave it, and just take on board the material the person gives you from his perspective. You don’t have to agree with it, or believe in it. We could dissect each [gag], and the show could last about 12 hours. It’s the old cliché: comedy’s not meant to be analysed. Fuck, I hate talking about this. It’s all fucking dreadful.’

He stands up. ‘That’s enough to be getting on with, I think.’
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