Jerry Sadowitz (born 4 June 1961) is an American-born Scottish stand-up comic and card magician.
Notorious for his frequently controversial brand of black comedy, Sadowitz describes Bernard Manning as “the good cop” to his bad, and believes that audiences going to see a comedian should suspend their beliefs. He has influenced a generation of comedians, but states that "politically incorrect comedy is no genre: it’s me, and it’s been ripped off by loads and loads of comics". In 2007 he was voted the 15th greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups. In the 2010 list, he was voted the 33rd greatest stand-up comic.
Sadowitz is also widely acclaimed as one of the best close-up magicians in the world and an accomplished practitioner of sleight of hand, having written several books on magic and inventing several conjuring innovations.
In 2008, Sadowitz published an open letter to reviewers asking them not to quote his material stating that "a very important element of comedy is surprise, and it can often make the difference between a show that works and one that does not". He also actively protects his intellectual property, removing clips of himself from YouTube and torrent sites within hours of their appearance.
Sadowitz was born in New Jersey to a Jewish American father who worked as a scrap metal merchant and Scottish mother, Roslyn. His parents split up when he was 3, and he moved with his mother back to her native Glasgow when he was 7. Sadowitz attended Calderwood Lodge Primary and then Shawlands Academy. He took an interest in magic at the age of 9, and by the age of 11 decided he wanted to become a magician, acquiring books from Tam Shepherd's Magic and Joke Shop. Sadowitz was encouraged by his mother to research magic at his local library and was once kicked out of an exam after the examiner discovered his pack of cards and thought he was cheating. He has suffered from ulcerative colitis since childhood.
Sadowitz made his comedy debut in 1983 at a Glasgow club and secured a regular stand-up slot at the Weavers Inn pub on London Road in Glasgow. The pub was run by future comedian Janey Godley, and he got the gig after her brother Jim begged her to put him on. Sadowitz began travelling down to London to perform at The Comedy Store every two weeks for two years, making the 400+ mile journey via Stagecoach express coach. He moved to the city permanently in 1986, living with his mother in Hampstead until 2005. There, he began his first job working in Selfridges.
In the early days Sadowitz was managed by anarchic comedian and club proprietor Malcolm Hardee, whose provocative selling line for Sadowitz was that he was too shocking to appear on TV; this may have actively put off TV producers from booking him. As a bet with fellow comic Nick Revell, he produced one of his most famous lines of that era: "Nelson Mandela, what a cunt. Terry Waite, fucking bastard. I dunno, you lend some people a fiver, you never see them again." For a time Sadowitz was considered part of the alternative comedy movement, but his act proved too un-PC with the Guardian stating that Sadowitz "shook up the right-on values of the 80s alternative comedy circuit with his willingness to say the unsayable".
Sadowitz's 1987 Edinburgh Fringe show Total Abuse was filmed at the Assembly Rooms and also released as an audio release in the form of the album Gobshite. The album was quickly withdrawn from sale due to fears of being sued for libel by Jimmy Savile as Sadowitz references rumours of the TV personality being a paedophile. Following Savile's death in 2011, a police investigation into his alleged activities began. An article in the Daily Mail referred to the Sadowitz accusation.
After a brief run as a columnist for Time Out magazine, he embarked on the Lose Your Comic Virginity tour in 1989. At this time he was how being managed by Jon Thoday's fledgling Avalon Entertainment Ltd. The tour culminated in a show at the Dominion Theatre in London, the climax of which was an illusion in which he appeared from the rear of the auditorium wearing a kilt and a huge plastic phallus from which he proceeded to spray the audience.
In 1991, Sadowitz was knocked unconscious by an irate audience member during a performance at the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal, where he mocked French Canadians, starting with the greeting "Hello moosefuckers! I tell you why I hate Canada, half of you speak French, and the other half let them." 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."
In 1992, Sadowitz appeared in his own television show The Pall Bearer's Revue. This name was taken from an old magic magazine. This show attracted a record number of complaints and has never been repeated. A typical joke on it was: "It's funny, why do you never hear anyone say the word 'cunt' on TV?" In the same year, he appeared in the music video of The Shamen's UK number 1 hit "Ebeneezer Goode". Sadowitz later expressed regret over his appearance in the video, stating that "it shows how stupid I am. I didn't even know that song was about drugs. I don't take drugs and had I known I wouldn't have done it". He also befriended Derren Brown, who he met whilst working the International Magic shop in Clerkenwell, London. He helped Brown in his early career by putting him in touch with H&R publishers and Objective Productions, a production company founded by the television magician Andrew O'Connor. which led to his breakthrough show Mind Control in 2000.
Between 1994 and 1998, Sadowitz performed as part of the double act Bib & Bob with Logan Murray. His work with Murray took the form of sketches aimed at alienating almost everyone, with the duo stamping on a blow-up doll of the recently deceased Linda McCartney, and tipping Murray, dressed as Superman, out of a wheelchair into the audience (a reference to the paralysis of Christopher Reeve). At one show, Sadowitz spat in the face of a drunken heckler who was constantly interrupting the show. His final act was to strip naked and run across the stage, prompting a mixture of disgust and hilarity from the audience. The Herald newspaper described the show as featuring "Pyrotechnical swearing. Lavatorial straining noises. Wanton foodstuff-smearing. Simulated sodomy. Gratuitous adoption of Indian accents, plus spitting, shouting, and penile dismemberment".
In 1998, Sadowitz joined the newly launched Channel 5, hosting his own panel show, The People vs. Jerry Sadowitz. The show featured Sadowitz sitting at a desk inviting members of the audience to join him and talk about a topic close to their heart and trying to get Sadowitz to agree with them. If they succeeded in winning Sadowitz over, they were invited back at the end of the show for a chance to compete for a £10,000 cash prize. If Sadowitz was not convinced or became bored during the audience member's time, he would ring a bell on the desk signalling for the show's resident bouncer Dave Courtney to escort them from the stage. Contestants on the show were regularly verbally abused by Sadowitz, and over the course of the series no one managed to win the cash prize. The show led to the channel being reprimanded by the Broadcasting Standards Commission, after they concluded that the repeated use of the F and C words "had a cumulative effect that was both excessive and unnecessary". In the same year, a full-frontal nude shot of Sadowitz appeared in Esquire magazine as part of a 14-page "uncensored sex special". Despite the reprimand, Sadowitz continued to work with Channel 5, co-presenting The Jerry Atrick Show between 2000 and 2002.
In the early 2000s, Sadowitz began performing close-up magic shows in small venues, where the focus was on the tricks and the offensive patter forming an incidental, yet still angry and obscene, part of the act.
In 2005, Sadowitz performed two separate shows at that years Edinburgh Fringe, a stand up comedy show (Not For The Easily Offended) at The Queens Hall and Jerry Sadowitz – Card Tricks & Close Up Magic at The Assembly Rooms. The comedy show included a character named "Rabbi Burns", a cross between a Jew and the famous Scottish poet. He performed a similar series of shows at the Soho Theatre in London between December 2006 and January 2007.
In 2006 he toured his "Equal Opportunities Offender" show and broke the Soho box office record for ticket sales when he performed his close up magic show at the Soho Theatre. In 2007, he performed his Edinburgh Festival show "Comedian, Magician, Psychopath" to a sold out crowd at the Underbelly.
In March 2008 as part of the Glasgow Comedy Festival, Sadowitz sold out the Theatre Royal. He performed the show "Comedian, Magician, Psychopath 2: Because I Still Have to Pay the Rent" at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in 2008. In this show he celebrated the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, making stereotypical references to Chinese people. In December 2008 Sadowitz sold out the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Southbank, London.
Since 2010, Sadowitz has performed several runs at the Leicester Square Theatre in London. In April 2011, Sadowitz recorded two of these performances with the intention of releasing a DVD. The release was shelved after he changed his mind about releasing anything, stating that "I don’t want people looking at me on a DVD for the first time – and there are loads of people who haven’t seen me – and thinking: "Oh, he’s a bit like Frankie Boyle. Oh, he’s a bit like Ricky Gervais, he’s a bit like Jimmy Carr or Chubby Brown. I’ve heard Doug Stanhope do that..." So I don’t want people saying that about me." In 2012, after Sadowitz's first UK wide tour in many years he is quoted as saying he didn't make a penny from the tour. Sadowitz appeared in the 2012 Kathy Burke comedy-drama Walking and Talking on Sky Atlantic, playing the character Jimmy the Jew. A stand up tourette 'Comedian, Magician, Bawbag !' in February 2013 and close up magic and comedy 'Comedian, Magician, Psychopath! in the spring of 2014, when Sadowitz was promoted by an unknown friend, seemed to put Sadowitz back on the circuit with several sold out shows including Manchester, Leeds, Brighton,Glasgow and Inverness. In 2016, Sadowitz launched the "Trick of the Month Club" in which he teaches a new card trick every month to paying subscribers. In late 2016 Sadowitz tour "Comedian, Magician, Psychopath!" visited London, Glasgow, Manchester and Wolverhampton.
In October 2015, Sadowitz set up Farbissener Limited to promote and present his stage act. Fabissenner is Yiddish for embittered.
In 2012 Sadowitz created "Magic Challenge", a live magic panel show most notably performed at the Soho Theatre. At select times throughout the year Sadowitz teaches beginners magic courses at the Leicester Square Theatre.
In early 2017 Sadowitz performed a brief run of shows at the Soho Theatre entitled "Card Tricks with Inappropriate Patter" and in summer 2017 embarked on his new show "Comedian, Magician, Psychopath!".
The Derek and Clive sketches by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were an early influence on Sadowitz. Much of his comedy emulates in its provocativeness and sheer offensiveness (he once described the Derek & Clive dialogues as "comic poetry").
Sadowitz often comments in a seemingly callous way on contemporary disasters and tragedies which have struck groups or individuals. He uses obscene language liberally and to cutting comedic effect. His comedy style combines the visual traditions of the magician, often using gaudy conjuring props, with political social and cultural observations which deliberately challenge the norms, taboos and transient sensitivities of contemporary culture. He has often been considered as one of the world's most offensive comedians. His controversial style of humour has also influenced a generation of comedians, or "imitators" as he refers to them. Comedians who now use his style of humour include Frankie Boyle, Jim Jefferies, Jimmy Carr and Ricky Gervais. Speaking on his "imitators", he said that "I'm sorry I've given some very nasty people a good living."
He reacted against the alternative comedy movement by dealing in an aggressive and uncompromising way with issues of race and gender which challenged the prevailing orthodoxy of the alternative comedy scene. Outbursts of his savage comedy during his conjuring shows have sometimes alienated him from the more conservative magic community.
- Rab C. Nesbitt, BBC, 1988
- The Last Laugh with Jerry Sadowitz, British Satellite Broadcasting, 1990
- The Other Side of Gerry Sadowitz, Channel 4, 1990
- The Pall Bearer's Revue, BBC Two, 1992
- Without Walls: The Greatest F****** Show On Earth, Open Media for Channel 4, 1994
- Stuff the White Rabbit, BBC 2, 1997
- The People vs. Jerry Sadowitz, Channel 5, 1998–1999
- TFI Friday, Channel 4, 1998
- The 11 O'Clock Show, Channel 4, 2000
- The Panel, Network Ten, 2000
- The Jerry Atrick Show, 2000
- The People of New York vs Jerry Sadowitz, Channel 5, 1998-1999
- The Jerry Atrick Show, Channel 5, 2000–2002
- 100 Greatest Standups, Channel 4, 2007
- Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle, BBC Two, 2009 (two episodes)
- Walking and Talking, Sky Atlantic, 2012 (four episodes)
- Malcolm Hardee: 25 Years in Showbiz, 1990
- 1 Giant Leap, 2002
- Gobshite, (1987) – Withdrawn (Copy may be consulted at the British Library Sound Archive)