JK Rowling has joined authors and comedians slamming a decision to cancel a comedian’s Edinburgh Fringe show as ‘beyond shameful’ after it said he made ‘indefensible jokes’ – despite the venue claiming to ‘champion free speech’.
Jerry Sadowitz, 60, was scheduled to play at The Pleasance at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Friday and Saturday.
But the American-born Scot took to social media to reveal that his second night would not be going ahead, before the venue confirmed that it had been pulled because his material ‘does not align with our values.’
It came despite warnings prior to his show that it contained ‘strong language’ and ‘themes some may find distressing’.
One female audience member claimed he got his penis out in front of a woman on the front row and used a racial slur to describe Rishi Sunak, the Scottish Sun reported. It was not clear if the allegedly exposed genitals were a prop.
Harry Potter creator JK Rowling was among authors and comedians criticising the decision – made just a day after Salman Rushdie was stabbed on stage.
She ‘liked’ a tweet from lawyer Adam Tomkins saying: ‘The day after the attack on Rushdie, *this* is the action of leading venue at the Edin Fringe?!?
‘To cancel an event because some people may find offensive?!? It’s beyond shameful.’
Broadcaster Jeremy Vine added: ‘I’ve seen Jerry Sadowitz perform four times. Each gig was more offensive than the last.
‘No one complained because that’s what Jerry does. Have a listen.’
Jerry Sadowitz (pictured), 60, who also performs magic, was scheduled to play at The Pleasance at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Friday and Saturday
The Pleasance (pictured) has so far refused to confirm what part of the act was deemed offensive, but it said in a statement that ‘opinions such as those displayed by Sadowitz are not acceptable’
Harry Potter creator JK Rowling (pictured) was among authors and comedians slamming the decision
Piers Morgan said: ‘Imagine getting a comedian cancelled on the day Salman Rushdie was stabbed? Pathetic. Free speech is being destroyed.’
Comedian Bennett Arron added: ‘I once supported Jerry Sadowitz in a theatre. All I was told was not to speak to him and that I should warn the audience before he came on, that some of them might find his material offensive.
‘When I said it, it received a round of applause. Audiences knew what they were getting.’
A woman who was in the crowd for the comedy gig told the Scottish Sun: ‘I was at the show. He called Rishi Sunak a ‘p***’; said the economy was awful because it is run by ‘blacks and women’.
‘He got his penis out to a woman in the front row. The problem was not the audience – I knew he was an acquired taste. It was his indefensible content’.
The Pleasance has so far refused to confirm what part of the act was deemed offensive, but it said in a statement that ‘opinions such as those displayed by Sadowitz are not acceptable.’
In an updated statement today, the theatre said: ‘As previously stated, The Pleasance chose to pull Jerry Sadowitz’s second and final show. Due to numerous complaints, we becme immediately aware of content that was considered, among other things, extreme in its racism, sexism, homophobia and misogyny.
‘We will not associate with content that attacks people’s dignity and the language used on stage was, in our view. completely unacceptable.
‘A large number of people walked out of Jerry Sadowitz’s show as they felt uncomfortable and unsafe to remain in the venue. We have received an unprecedented number of complaints that could not be ignored and we had a duty to respond.
‘The subsequent abuse directed to our teams is also equally unacceptable. At the Pleasance, 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.
‘We don’t vet the full content of acts in advance and while Jerry Sadowitz is a controversial comedian, we could not have known the specifics of his performance.
‘The Pleasance has staged his work numerous times over the years, but as soon as we received complaints from those in the building which caused us great concern, we knew we could not allow the final performance to go ahead.
‘The arts and comedy in particular have always pushed the boundaries of social norms but this boundary is always moving. Our industry has to move with it. However, this does not mean that we can allow such content to be on our stages.
MailOnline has contacted Sadowitz for comment.
It comes after some furious fans said bosses already knew he was controversial, as the original listing carried a warning which read: ‘This show contains strong language and themes some may find distressing.’
A few took to Twitter to brand The Pleasance ‘pathetic’, while others said the cancellation amounted to ‘censorship’.
One fan said she thoroughly enjoyed the set but that about ’20 lefties’ had walked out mid-way through.
Revealing the decision, Sadowitz said on Twitter: ‘Did a show last night, 75 mins, thought it went well. Didn’t see any walkouts.
‘Today I’m told my show’s been cancelled. Great stuff. I’m truly sorry for everyone who travelled to see the show tonight.’
Jerry Sadowitz announces his show’s cancellation on Twitter, in a move branded ‘pathetic’ and ‘depressing’ by his fans
In a recent promo video, Sadowitz held up a bird puppet as he told would-be patrons what they could expect.
Referring to himself, Sadowitz said: ‘He’s gonna be funny. He’s gonna be rude. He’s gonna do magic tricks.
‘He’s gonna do impressions. He’s gonna get his d*** out.
‘He’s gonna do every f****** thing, so make sure you go and see him.’
A further show description vowed he would return with his ‘whacky impressions of Greta Thunberg, Frankie Boyle and deep vein thrombosis’.
It said he ‘also promises to do less hate-fuelled swearing and focus more on faux liberal pish in order to appeal to the middle class and their disposable income and personalities’.
He added: ‘Please note that I might just do card tricks and say nothing for a whole hour or I might just do the usual ‘screaming fascist’ schtick. Or both.
‘Patrons may wish to drink alcohol pre-show to avoid boredom, embarrassment and guilt.’
Announcing the show’s cancellation, The Pleasance director, Anthony Alderson, added: ‘The Pleasance is a venue that champions freedom of speech and we do not censor comedians’ material.
‘While we acknowledge that Jerry Sadowitz has often been controversial, the material presented at his first show is not acceptable and does not align with our values.
‘This type of material has no place on the festival and the Pleasance will not be presenting his second and final show.’
Refunds will be issued to those who bought tickets to the Saturday show, the venue said.