Scottish comedian Jerry Sadowitz has hit back at his critics with a lengthy response after his Edinburgh Fringe show was cancelled by the famous Pleasance venue amid accusations of racism, homophobia and misogyny.
The American-born stand-up, who’s known for his controversial and often shocking antics on stage, was said to have made a racist comment about Prime Minsterial hopeful Rishi Sunak and was also slammed for exposing his genitals during the Friday night routine at the Pleasance at Edinburgh International Conference Centre — the venue where the Edinburgh Television Festival will be held next week.
The Pleasance cancelled the following night’s performance after receiving “numerous complaints” and released a statement saying his content “did not align” with its values. It has since released a longer follow up statement outlining its reasoning.
Sadowitz has responded in a Twitter post saying the venue had made a “victim” by the Pleasance doubling down on its position, that his 75-minute show had gone “pretty well” and he had “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, mysognistic and racist.
“I am not [vilified British comic Jim Davidson] folk… 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.”
He also acknowledged exposing his genitals, saying his acts contained “a lot of silly, exaggerated irony and nonsense, real fake and exaggerated anger and bile, and even getting my d*** out is for the purpose of the funny line which follows it.”
His comments came after The Pleasance released a statement saying: “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.”
— Jerry Sadowitz (@RealJSadowitz) August 14, 2022
In its follow up statement, the Pleasance said: “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.”
The incident has become the latest battleground over the limits of free speech in the UK, with figures such as satirist Andrew Doyle and Harry Potter novelist JK Rowling criticizing the cancellation as censorship and many other opposing Sadowitz’s routine and supporting the Pleasance’s position. Podcaster and stand-up Richard Herring called the Pleasance’s move a “very worrying development” and wrote on his blog: “To complain about him being offensive is like asking the actor who plays Macbeth to be arrested for murder.”
Sadowitz has been on the stand-up circuit for three decades, known for mixing wild performances with magic trick routines. He has performed at the Pleasance several times over the years. The comedian has appeared on British shows such as Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle and Rab C Nesbitt, but has broadly stayed away from mainstream media.