Last weekend, actor Will Smith (a former comic) slapped Chris Rock (a current comic) in the face at the Oscars ceremony for allegedly slighting his wife with an ad-libbed joke obliquely-referring to her alopecia-caused baldness/shaved head.
I can’t help but feel that Americans’ sensibilities are a little too touchy and their attempts at edgy comedy could do with a bit more edge-sharpening.
Still… it was the slap that echoed round the world, making front-page news and generating much comment.
On Twitter, British comedian and writer David Baddiel observed: “As a comedy moment it’s still not up there with a member of the audience at Montreal’s Just For Laughs 1991 punching Jerry Sadowitz out cold for opening with Hello moose-fuckers!
The full line was: “Hello moose-fuckers! I tell you why I hate Canada: half of you speak French, and the other half let them.“
As David Baddiel pointed out, there is no footage of that particular punch, but there is a video of Clive Anderson interviewing comedians Denis Leary and Bill Hicks about it after the event…
In a comment on David Baddiel’s Tweet this week, Mr AR Felix (who describes himself as a “Ferrari supporter, casual artist and culture vulture”) wrote:
“The rarely-quoted follow up line, which Sadowitz claims is what actually led to him being attacked was: Why don’t you speak Indian? You might as well speak the language of the people you stole the country off of in the first place.”
When I mentioned the Sadowitz attack on my own Facebook page, former Time Out editor Dominic Wells commented:
“Loved Jerry/Gerry Sadowitz — the reason for my G/J being that when I was still chief sub on Time Out, and editor Don Atyeo showed his new columnist round the office, I asked him (pre-internet): How do you spell G/Jerry?
“Spell it how ye fucking want, son, ah don’t give a shite, quoth the comic.
“So I (unlike Wikipedia, now that it exists) spelt it with a G in all his Time Out columns and the cover he was on, throttling the Spitting Image puppet of Ben Elton, for which Ben apparently never forgave us.
“G/Jerry was by a long chalk the funniest columnist I have EVER read, let alone subbed. I would hoot with laughter at his copy. Sadly G/Jerry proved too close to the edge even for Time Out. The editor couldn’t handle the letters of complaint and sacked him after just four or five, despite my entreaties.
“I guess the tone was set by his very first column, replacing Muriel Gray, who had departed for the Guardian or similar. It opened with a poem:
“See that Muriel Gray/ In a’ the Fleet Street papers/ You can read her if you want/ But I’d rather fuck the Proclaimers.“
After this Facebook comment, comic and cultural icon John Dowie reminisced:
“What’s the worst opening remark a comedian could ever say? asked Nick Revell, backstage prior to a 1980s comedy gig. Nelson Mandela – What a cunt! was the winning answer… Jerry opened with it… Of course.”
Then, returning to the subject of outrage caused at Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival, Rob Williams (who describes himself as a “writer of stuff” added:
“Malcolm Hardee at Montreal got told before going on that they love observational humour. Do observational stuff and you’ll be fine, they told him… So he opened with: Have you ever noticed that if you stick a carrot up your arse and lick it it tastes like shit?”
I can’t help but feel that Will Smith – especially as an ex-comic – was being more than a tad over-sensitive and Chris Rock could have been more offensive.