CQAF: Jerry Sadowitz

Madcap magician offends and entertains at the Festival Marquee

The words 'magician', 'conjurer' and 'comic' don’t always sit well together - for every Tommy Cooper there are a hundred more performers who come off worse than Paul Daniels.

Enter Jerry Sadowitz, a man who has spent 25 years successfully creating an inimitable blend of all three aspects.

Ten years since the axing of his television vehicle The People Versus Jerry Sadowitz, Sadowitz's sell-out appearance at the 9th Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival finds him as nasty, bitter and riotously funny as ever.

Sporting his trademark black felt top hat, long coat and wild curly hair, the passing years have done little to blunt Sadowitz’s ire. 'My job is to find things that are untenable,' he says, 'and make light of them.'

Eschewing the rambling, observational wit favoured by many on the comedy circuit, Sadowitz opens with rapid-fire one-liners that never really let up during the 70-minute set.

Where traditional magicians pull bunny rabbits out of hats and recite ‘amusing’ anecdotes, Sadowitz uses his card tricks and conjuring feats as foil for profanity-filled rants about his life and the world around him. In one routine the card faces are used to tell a hilarious story about an ill-fated visit to an Aberdeen prostitute.

Sadowitz is also an accomplished magician. Calling on the assistance of an audience member, he performs impressive sleights of hand which culminate in the appearance of an initialled playing card inside a zipped-up wallet.

Determinedly iconoclastic, Sadowitz sets out to offend every member of the audience. With topics like Madeline McCann, men’s putative right to rape, and immigrants in London, Sadowitz clearly has no time for sacred cows.

The filth is not just aural; halfway through the act a three-minute video clip of hardcore lesbian pornography is projected overhead.

As befits a Jewish-Glaswegian who lists his heroes as Genghis Kahn, Kim Jong Il, Pol Pot, Vlad the Impaler and the Pied Piper of Hamlin, Sadowitz is nothing if not confrontational. 

Whether Sadowitz's act is ironic, or his bitterness genuine, is impossible to say. As he scrawls a crude cartoon of the prophet Muhammad as a bomb, on the back of a playing card, what becomes clear is his love of offending.

With a gleeful glint in his eye, Sadowitz's Belfast show combines the offense with great one-liners and an impressive array of card tricks. The evening is testament to the undiminished powers of Jerry Sadowitz: magician, conjurer and comic.

Peter Geoghegan