Pleasance faces censorship backlash after unplugging Jerry Sadowitz
Fred MacAulay, Brian “Limmy” Limond, Katherine Ryan, Richard Herring and Michael Redmond are among the comics who offered their support to Sadowitz after Pleasance ended his show on Saturday night, saying his material was “not acceptable” and did not align with its values.
Broadcaster Piers Morgan and Jeremy Vine, Waterboys singer Mike Scott, actor Tam Dean Burn, poet Jenny Lindsay and actress and writer Emma Kennedy also denounced Pleasance’s decision.
He claimed he “stands for free speech” and does not “censor” performers, but also suggested that Sadowitz’s show had “no place in the festival”.
Audiences were warned in advance that the 61-year-old’s show – Not for just anyone – would contain “strong language and themes that some may find distressing”.
Sadowitz, a regular Fringe performer since the 1980s with a reputation for offensive performances, insisted he was unaware of any release from the first of the Fringe’s two shows at the EICC.
However, the Pleasance, which programs the venue, said it received a “significant” number of complaints about Friday’s show.
Sadowitz reportedly exposed himself on stage, made sexist comments and hurled a racial slur at former Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Anthony Alderson, artistic director of The Pleasance, said: “The Pleasance is a place that champions freedom of expression and we do not censor comedians’ material.
“While we recognize that Jerry Sadowitz has often been controversial, the material presented is not acceptable and does not align with our values. This type of material has no place in the festival.”
Herring said, “Jerry is a tough comedian, but that’s the whole point of his act. The Fringe should not cancel shows under any circumstances. Very worrying development.
Vine said, “I’ve seen Jerry Sadowitz perform four times. Each gig was more offensive than the last. Nobody complained because that’s what Jerry does.
Ryan said: “Very strange to have someone’s entire ride canceled for an apparent ‘infringement’ when there is a content warning right on the booking page.”
MacAulay said, “It’s an utterly appalling development.”
Scott said: ‘I don’t know what Jerry said, but the Pleasance can’t cancel his show and in the same statement says he stands up for free speech. It’s one or the other.
“Cancel the show or stand up for free speech. It’s the choice. Don’t pretend otherwise.”
Lindsay said, “I think there are far too many young writers, comedians, artistic staff, theater workers, who don’t realize how abnormal and unhealthy it is for things like this to happen.”
Morgan said: “Imagine a comedian being canceled the day Salman Rushdie was stabbed? Pathetic. Free speech is destroyed.”
Kennedy said, “Going to a Sadowitz show and thinking you’re not going to be offended is like jumping into a shark tank with a bloody leg thinking you’re not going to be bitten. In for money. Canceling it is ridiculous.
A spokeswoman for the Fringe Society said: “Because the Fringe is an open-access arts festival, the work of artists is not programmed, organized or censored by the society.”