Jerry Sadowitz is as far as I’m concerned one of the best comedians these islands have produced in my lifetime. The problem is with this post of appreciation is that there’s virtually nothing online to show the range of Sadowitz’s talent as a comedian, but this is this video on his YouTube channel of his card tricks.
I first became aware of Sadowitz as a young lad in Glasgow where the buzz was for a pair of local comedians. One was Sadowitz, the other went by the name of Bing Hitler which was the stagename for Craig Ferguson, now a chatshow host in America. What helped create the buzz were allegations that Ferguson was ”borrowing” large chunks of Sadowitz’s act and making it palatable for a more mainstream crowd.
Because the thing was the first time I saw Sadowitz as a young man I felt assaulted because he was utterly and totally relentless. He did not stop hammering at the audience and challenging us in our beliefs, so you’d have a serious atmosphere of aggression but Sadowitz made me realise that comedy has to have no limits and it can challenge you. Ferguson’s live act was fine but it felt like he wanted you to like him so he desperately craved the approval of us in the audience. Truth is I saw both acts and never noticed too many lifts but Ferguson’s act did feel like a calmer version of Sadowitz’s and although I enjoyed it, I didn’t get the same visceral impact from it because Sadowitz didn’t want to make you love let alone like him. He wanted to make you feel something and you certainly did.
After moving from Glasgow to Leicester I never managed to see Sadowitz again til the early 90’s when by this time Sadowitz was enjoying some fame outwith Scotland, and even had a BBC 2 programme (The Pall Bearer’s Review), to play with. I saw Sadowitz during Leicester Polytechnic’s anti-racism week which was a deliberately provocative booking that ended up getting the sort of response the Poly wanted as protests sprung up against Sadowitz calling him a ‘racist’. Yet Sadowitz was not a racist. He used racist language yes, but people missed the point he was making as he had contempt for all, not to mention how he used language often challenged the audience.
At the start of the gig a lone protester started heckling him which prompted a five or ten minute discussion about racism that ended up with Sadowitz abusing the heckler in a way that I’d not seen in any comedy gig I’d ever seen. In fact I know a lot of people were uncomfortable with it, and indeed, many left, but the key to Sadowitz is understanding his misanthropy. As this article points out, Sadowitz often starts a gig by attacking his Scottish and Jewish heritage before then going on to attack every group you can imagine before setting his sights on you and there’s the thing. Can you laugh at yourself? Last time I saw him in a venue in Bath a couple of years ago there were some people there laughing a bit too hard at some of Sadowitz’s abusive jokes, but were then made to feel uncomfortable when he started attacking British soldiers calling them ”baby-killers’. I’ve heard of similar stories elsewhere when a new audience that discovered Sadowitz thanks to the Jimmy Savile story, something he was talking about back in the 1980’s when I first saw him in Glasgow.
It now seems that Sadowitz has settled down to doing the odd tour, doing his magic and very occasionally popping up on TV when you least expect it. However as said, there’s virtually nothing of Sadowitz online. No stand up, no BBC material, no Channel 5 material, not even the Just For Laughs appearance where he called the Canadian audience ”moose fuckers’.
So all I have to say is trust me. The man is a genius. He’ll challenge you and you may end up horribly offended but there’s the point. This isn’t Peter Kay talking about garlic bread, but something that makes you look at what is offensive to you, and how you’re able to draw a line in the sand for what you find offensive to you. If like Sadowitz you’re just wanting to rage at the world while making a point then he’s for you. There’s not an ounce of ironic racism or sexism here that makes you complicit in the comedian’s own bigotry. This challenges the bigotry in you.
He starts a series of gigs in London next week. If you’ve never seen him then do so now because we’ve never needed people like Sadowitz more than we do now.