Controversial comedian Jerry Sadowitz's performance at the Pleasance Theatre in Edinburgh was canceled Friday amid claims he was too offensive for the audience. Sadowitz, who was born in New Jersey but is based in Scotland, allegedly exposed himself to a woman in the audience and used racial slurs. His performance was the first of two planned performances as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Although there were warnings about Sadowitz's show, titled Not for Anyone, some members of the audience were still shocked by what they saw. "I was at the show. He called Rishi Sunak a 'p—,' said the economy was awful because it is run by 'blacks and women,'" one audience member told The Sun. "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 Guardian reports that about 30 to 40 people walked out, but Sadowitz claimed he didn't see anyone leave.
"Did a show last night, 75 mins, thought it went well. Didn't see any walkouts," Sadowitz tweeted on Saturday. "Today I'm told my show's been canceled. Great stuff. I'm truly sorry for everyone who traveled to see the show tonight."
The Pleasance defended its decision to cancel Sadowitz's second show, citing "numbers complaints" about "content that was considered, among other things, extreme in its racism, sexism, homophobia, and misogyny." The venue said it will "not associate with content which 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," the venue said. "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."
"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," the venue's statement continued. "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 event concluded. "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."
On Sunday, Sadowitz posted a longer statement on Twitter, adding that there was "no hint of anything going wrong" during the performance in front of 600 people. He said his act is now being "cheapened and simplified as unsafe, homophobic, misogynistic, and racist." As for the allegation that he exposed himself, he said that was "for the purpose of the funny line which follows it." Sadowitz went on to say that he never asks anyone to agree with what he does onstage and he has never attempted to court a mainstream audience. In the end, Sadotiz said if the Pleasance doesn't want to apologize to him, they "should at least apologize to the 300 people who paid for and traveled to see the show on Saturday."