There are some acts whose reputation precedes them. The anticipation of some acts in fact can be so overwhelming as to deflate the experience of their actual performance to something of an anticlimax.
While Jerry Sadowitz’s reputation greatly precedes him, with even bar staff at the Tivoli Theatre anxiously acknowledging the potential of an onstage verbal atrocity occurring, it does nothing to cushion the performance and render it any less brutal, horrifying, and of course – funny.
Queuing up and getting seated it becomes apparent that a sizeable portion of the crowd are generally bald, middle-aged men. Beyond that, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that there is probably a minority of bigots in the audience that take everything Sadowitz says at face value. But for the majority, there is a palpable fear present, and though they will surely be aware of the torrent of racist, sexist, and homophobic abuse that is coming their way, and understand the “ironic” implications of the material (or is it really ironic at all?), there is still apprehension about how they might react or how it will make them feel. There has to be sympathy extended to any unknowing attendees who have come in on a whim expecting a warm and convivial evening of jokes and magic tricks.
Apparently Sadowitz doesn’t do press tickets for his shows, and has previously stated his displeasure at critics quoting his material, claiming “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.” This does not sound like a comment from a man who does not care about his work, or consider what he does as art. This is not Bernard Manning, Roy “Chubby” Brown, or Jim Davidson. The difference being that even though the filth, depravity, and utter hatred that is spat out (literally) in globules towards the front row is delivered with more hostility than those three combined, Sadowitz has that distinct artistic ability of shifting your sense of intellectual equilibrium and making you think: why are you laughing? Is this real or is it not?
And even more genius is how aware Sadowitz is of what he is doing: of how he knows he is lowering the audience down to his level so that they are complicit in his worst impulses of thought; of the ironic reading of his material – and even though he dismisses this latter notion disdainfully, it only leaves you more unsure if it really is or not.
Though it hardly bears repeating, this is not a show for the faint-hearted or easily offended. There is nothing off limits and there is likely to be something you genuinely find deeply unpleasant. Even the magic, which is excellent (Sadowitz is regarded as one of the best close-up magicians in the world), is intertwined with the occasional offensive joke.
It should also be said that not everything goes off without a hitch, that there are moments where Sadowitz appears to momentarily lose his place, or a trick doesn’t work the way it is supposed to, but then perhaps this only enhances the oft-repeated description of him to explain why his comedy works: being the man who punches outwards but only hits himself.