Pleasance faces censorship backlash after pulling plug on Jerry Sadowitz

Actors, comedians, writers, poets, singers and broadcasters have hit out after controversial Scottish stand-up and magician Jerry Sadowitz had his Edinburgh Festival Fringe scrapped in the wake of complaints from audience members and staff.

Scottish stand-up comedian and magician Jerry Sadowitz was banned from continuing his Fringe show by the Pleasance.
Scottish stand-up comedian and magician Jerry Sadowitz was banned from continuing his Fringe show by the Pleasance.

Fred MacAulay, Brian "Limmy" Limond, Katherine Ryan, Richard Herring and Michael Redmond are among the comics to offer support to Sadowitz after the Pleasance pulled the plug on his show on Saturday night, claiming 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 have also hit out at the decision from the Pleasance.

It has claimed that it "champions freedoms of speech" and does not "censor" performers, but has also suggested Sadowitz’s show has “no place on the festival.”

Audiences were warned in advance that the 61-year-old’s show – Not For Anyone – would contain “strong language and themes some may find distressing”.

Most Popular

    Sadowitz, a regular performer at the Fringe since the 1980s who is renowned for performing offensive material, has insisted he was not aware of anyone walking out of the first of two Fringe shows at the EICC.

    However the Pleasance, which programmes the venue, said it received a “significant” number of complaints about Friday’s show.

    According to reports, Sadowitz exposed himself on stage, made sexist comments and delivered a racial slur targeted at former Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

    Anthony Alderson, artistic director at the Pleasance, said: “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 is not acceptable and does not align with our values. This type of material has no place on the festival.”

    Herring said: “Jerry is a challenging comedian but that’s the whole point of his act. The Fringe should not be cancelling shows in any case. Very worrying development.”

    Vine said: “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.”

    Ryan said: “Very strange to cancel someone’s entire run for apparent ‘offence’ when there’s a content warning right on the booking page.”

    MacAulay said: “This is an utterly dreadful development.”

    Scott said: “I don't know what Jerry's been saying but the Pleasance can't cancel his show and in the same statement say they champion free speech. It's one or the other.

    "Cancel the show or champion free speech. That's the choice. Don't pretend it's otherwise.”

    Lindsay said: “I think there are far too many young writers, comedians, arts staff, venue workers, who do not realise just how abnormal and unhealthy it is for things like this to happen.”

    Morgan said: “Imagine getting a comedian cancelled on the day Salman Rushdie was stabbed? Pathetic. Free speech is being destroyed."

    Kennedy said: “Going to a Sadowitz show and thinking you’re not going to be offended is like jumping into a tank of sharks with a bloody leg thinking you’re not going to be bitten. You get what you pay for. Cancelling him is ridiculous.”

    A spokeswoman for the Fringe Society said: “As the Fringe is an open access arts festival, artists' work is not programmed, curated or censored by the society.”