I was interviewed by Andrew Castle on his LBC radio show this morning.
It followed the Pleasance venue at the Edinburgh Fringe cancelling Jerry Sadowitz’s comedy show.
On the same day that Salman Rushdie was stabbed in the US for writing something which some people found offensive, Anthony Alderson of the Pleasance (normally a logical man) issued a statement saying surreally:
“The Pleasance is a venue that champions freedom of speech and we do not censor comedians’ material… the material presented at his (Jerry Sadowitz’s) first show is not acceptable… This type of material has no place on the festival and the Pleasance will not be presenting his second and final show.”
My reaction on air was:
Well, I think he should do a comedy show based on that. shouldn’t he?
The story is that Jerry was offensive. I mean, Jerry has been doing offensive material for 30 years – 40 years? – and the Pleasance have been going for about 30 years. The Pleasance and Jerry have been going for about the same amount of time.
He is famous for being offensive. That’s why you book him in. That’s why the Pleasance booked him in, presumably – that he would be offensive. That’s his schtick.
So, if he’s NOT offensive, people will complain. But now, because some people complained about him being offensive – despite the fact he was clearly flagged as being offensive – the Pleasance appears to be committing professional suicide.
Interestingly, they say it’s the material. Apparently he showed his willy to the front row. But they didn’t find that offensive; they found the MATERIAL offensive.
The whole point about Jerry Sadowitz is “He’s offensive!” That’s it.
It’s a sort of doublethink from Nineteen Eighty-Four.
“We support comedy”… Well, clearly not.
Most comedy really has to be offensive in some way – or it has to be surprising. The whole point is a ‘punchline’ at the end. And a punchline is something you don’t expect, coming out of nowhere.
One of the best ways to come out of nowhere with a punchline is to do something that’s ‘offensive’. Frankie Boyle does it all the time. Bernard Manning used to do it to mainstream audiences. Bernard Manning is a great example.
I saw Bernard Manning at his own club twice and he had four-letter words all over the first half and then he stopped. They weren’t in the second half.
I thought: This is strange. Then I realised, in fact, he was being offensive to his very mainstream, middle-of-the-road audience in the first half but, having established that he was offensive, he didn’t have to do it any more. (They came to be offended.)
If you go to a Sadowitz show, you want to be offended.
There are no rules in comedy, really. People say you can’t make rape jokes. You can’t make jokes about rape. Generally, that’s true. But I have seen very funny rape jokes – But they’re not really about rape, they’re about…
I mean, Janey Godley, the Glaswegian comedian, had problems recently: being Cancelled. She put on Jerry Sadowitz’s first stand-up show in her pub. She did a show in Edinburgh – and wrote her autobiography about – being raped when she was a child, I think from about 5 to about 12.
And people laughed in the Edinburgh show. They didn’t laugh AT it. (They laughed WITH it.) She made the jokes against the rapist and she made the audience laugh despite the fact it was an ‘unacceptable’ subject.
You can make a joke about an unacceptable subject if you do it in the right way.
You have to be a very good comedian, as Sadowitz – and Janey – are.
…and, coincidentally, Jerry Sadowitz also cropped up in a blog of mine in March this year…