UK Cabaret Special Report
With controversial Scottish comedian Jerry Sadowitz now cancelled from the Edinburgh Fringe, after just one performance this year and fellow Scot Frankie Boyle opening up with allegations of elitism at The Fringe, Mark Ritchie attempts to weigh things up.
I must begin in all honesty and impartiality by stating that I have never seen comedian and magician Jerry Sadowitz live and in front of an audience. All I can report is the truth of the matter which is that Sadowitz, a Fringe regular for over 20-years, was cancelled after his opening night at one of the venues within The Pleasance Theatre.
A spokesman for The Pleasance said;’ The comedian’s material does not align with our values’. A statement released by The Pleasance stated;’ Opinions such as those displayed on stage by Sadowitz are not acceptable and The Pleasance are not prepared to be associated with such material’.
Pleasance director Anthony Alderson added to the earlier statement saying; ’The Pleasance is a venue that champions freedom of speech and we do not censor comedian’s material’. This has led a barrage of adverse reaction to the decision from fellow comedians. Their comments in general broadly opine that the cancellation is in itself the ultimate act of censorship.
Comedian Frankie Boyle has this year accused The Fringe of elitism, due to the spiralling costs of putting shows on and the lack of affordable accommodation during August in Edinburgh. Boyle has a point. To afford to perform at the Fringe, attendees must come from a privileged and monied background, which rules out participation from so many talented performers of lesser means.
As for Jerry Sadowitz, surely the officials at The Pleasance knew in advance what they were letting themselves in for. His name goes before him and with no exposure in the media in general, Sadowitz relies on a loyal fan base and a modicum of publicity to ensure that a/ he has a live audience to perform to and b/ the audience who attend are buying exactly what it says on the comedy tin, thereby avoiding problems from random comedy fans who are not in on the joke.
A statement given quite recently by Director of the Edinburgh Comedy Awards Nica Burns said; ‘I’m looking forward to comedy’s future in a Woke world’. Perhaps this tells us as much as we need to know.
Having attended the Edinburgh Fringe yet again this time around, I can only conclude that whether you are addressing a topic as huge as the Sir Salman Rushdie attack, or whether you are defending a comedian’s right to tell jokes of any kind, the same principals of denying free speech surely apply.
Incidentally I don’t think that The Pleasance decision-makers have acted with Woke/ P.C motives in mind. I believe this is just a bad, bad decision. I don’t claim to be an authority on Sadowitz. I don’t know why he often feels the need to get his penis out on-stage. What I do know for sure that even if we abhor what he says and if we are dismissive of Mr Sadowitz penis, we should defend to the death his right to speak and to flash his wedding tackle with impunity, if indeed he considers this to be part and parcel of his stage act.