Jerry Sadowitz (born 4 November 1961) is an American-born Scottish stand-up comic and card magician, known for his frequently controversial "sick humour". He is also an accomplished practitioner of sleight of hand, he has written several books on magic and invented many conjuring innovations. In 2007 he was voted the 15th greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups and again in the updated 2010 list as the 33rd greatest stand-up comic. His controversial style has also influenced a whole generation of comedians and he is widely acclaimed as one of the best close-up magicians in the world.
Sadowitz was born in New Jersey. His American father was Jewish. His mother, Rosalyn, was Scottish. Sadowitz was brought up in Glasgow and attended Calderwood Lodge Primary then Shawlands Academy. At the age of 9, Sadowitz took an interest in magic and at the age of 11 he decided to become a magician.
He often comments in a seemingly callous way on contemporary disasters and tragedies which have struck groups or individuals. He performs his act by mocking bigotry and stereotypes of ethnic groups by having his onstage persona endorse them in an ironic fashion. 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.
Some of his earliest performances as a magician, with comic asides, were at a Glasgow pub (the Weavers Inn) run by future comedienne Janey Godley. He first came to prominence as a comedian in London in the early 1980s and was, for a time considered part of the alternative comedy movement. While living in Scotland he would travel down to appear at The Comedy Store in London by express coach. In his early days he was managed by anarchic comedian and club proprietor Malcolm Hardee, whose provocative selling line was that Sadowitz 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."
While still with Hardee, Sadowitz's hit 1987 Edinburgh Fringe show Total Abuse was filmed at the Bloomsbury Theatre. It was also turned into the album Gobshite, but was soon withdrawn due to fears it might have libeled Jimmy Savile after referring to Savile as an expert in child abuse (a year after Savile's death in 2011, police investigations began). 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 no longer being managed by Malcolm Hardee but by Jon Thoday's fledgling Avalon management company. This 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 at the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal he was knocked unconscious by an irate audience member during a performance which 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."
In 1992 he 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 1990s he was part of a short-lived double act with Logan Murray, in the shows Bib & Bob and Late Night Filth. His work with Murray took the form of sketches aimed at alienating almost everyone, including stamping on a blow-up doll of the recently deceased Linda McCartney, and tipping Logan Murray, dressed as Superman, out of a wheelchair into the audience (a reference to the paralysis of Christopher Reeve). At one point he spat in the face of a drunken heckler who was constantly interrupting the show. His final act was to strip naked and run for a few minutes across the stage, prompting a mixture of disgust and hilarity from the audience.
In 1999 he performed for a month at the Penny Theatre in Camden, London, performing close-up magic to 30 people at a time. In recent years he has performed more of these close up magic shows in smaller venues where the focus has been on the tricks and the offensive patter forming an incidental, yet still angry and obscene, part of the act. He performed two separate shows at the 2005 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 broke the Soho box office record for ticket sales when he performed his close up magic show at the Soho Theatre. In 2007 his Edinburgh show "Comedian, Magician, Psychopath" at the Smirnoff Cowgate sold out.
In March 2008 as part of the Glasgow Comedy Festival Sadowitz sold out the Glasgow Theatre Royal. Sadowitz 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 in Southbank, London.
Since 2010 Sadowitz has performed runs at the Leicester Square Theatre in London. In April 2011, Sadowitz recorded two of these performances with the intention of releasing a DVD. Sadowitz indicated that if he wasn't happy with the shows, he would just bin the recordings.
Sadowitz played the part of Jimmy the Jew in the 2012 Sky Atlantic comedy-drama Walking and Talking written by Kathy Burke