Jerry Sadowitz at the Eventim Apollo review: not for the squeamish but hard to take seriously

·2-min read
Jerry Sadowitz  (pr handout)
Jerry Sadowitz (pr handout)

The Apollo might not have been totally sold out but this was easily Jerry Sadowitz’s biggest ever solo gig. Needless to say there was no pleasing this serial misanthropist. Onstage he put the ticket sales more down to sudden curiosity rather than growing popularity after his show, Not For Anyone, was cancelled at the Edinburgh Fringe in August. There were reports of complaints and walk-outs and allegations that he called Rishi Sunak a P**i and briefly exposed himself.

This time he appeared to be on his best behaviour. Everything is relative. He used the P-word after a blistering critique of the establishment, explaining that it was previously taken out of context. And context is everything for Sadowitz, who in a moment of solemnity described comedy as the last bastion of free speech. He is not like Jimmy Carr, playing with taboos. He steamrolls through them.

After a tantalising piece of Covid mask-related magic – the America-born Scottish stand-up is a widely respected sleight-of-hand illusionist – there were frenetic blizzards of bile and tirades aimed at politicians, celebrity culture, young people and more. Sometimes scorchingly funny, sometimes uncomfortable. You don’t ever settle with Sadowitz, you laugh from the edge of your seat, buttocks slightly clenched.

Jerry Sadowitz is a widely-respected sleight-of-hand illusionist (handout)
Jerry Sadowitz is a widely-respected sleight-of-hand illusionist (handout)

The top-hatted, corkscrew-haired Mr Punch was certainly shocking. He is not the kind of performer to be caught saying something unpleasant off camera, he just comes out and says it in public. A joke about Jews backstage counting the ticket stubs was deeply repugnant until one remembered that the self-loathing stand-up has a Jewish background. And even then it was satire with a nasty aftertaste.

In a show that lasted well over 90 minutes it was always going to be hard to keep up the early non-stop pace. Fusillades of comic fury were broken up by magic tricks which acted as palate cleansers. It was not all pure rage. There were even jokes that bordered on Peter Kay-style nostalgia, such as a gag comparing modern fancy-flavoured healthy chocolate bars with 1970s chocolate bars, which were “99 per cent glue”.

The problem was that he tended to circle back to the same targets. Jimmy Savile – who he accused of child abuse while the DJ was still alive – was a recurring theme, popping up in various routines, including a particularly scurrilous one involving the Queen.

Was he offensive? Of course. Sadowitz is definitely not for the squeamish. But he was also so outrageous it was difficult to take seriously. After the Fringe furore, anyone who bought tickets had a good idea what they were going to get and there were no significant walk-outs this time. Will it mark Sadowitz’s move towards regular Michael McIntyre-sized gigs though? I very much doubt it.