A line was crossed

Bold highlighting, mine:

A large number of people walked out of Jerry Sadowitz’s show [contrary to Sadowitz’s tweet] as they felt uncomfortable and unsafe to remain in the venue. 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.

“At the Pleasance, our values are to be inclusive, diverse and welcoming. We are proud of the progress we have made across our programming, which includes significant investment and support for Black, Asian and Global Majority artists, LGBTQ+ voices, those from working-class backgrounds, and the strong representation of women. We do not believe that racism, homophobia, sexism or misogynistic language have a place in our venues.

“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.

“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 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.”

Same week:

Salman Rushdie stabbed in New York State.

Bill’s Opinion

If you don’t value free speech, feel free to stop using it.

Defending free speech as a concept is useless if you then fail to defend speech with which you disagree.

I’ve seen Sadowitz live twice. They were two of the best comedy and close hand magic (that’s his other skill) shows I’ve ever seen. The jokes he told were outrageous and offensive, and I laughed like a drain.

On stage, he plays a character, a bitter, hateful failure with mental illness. It’s partially based on himself, of course, but it is an on stage persona.

If the line we can no longer cross is in-character comedy, or if offensive words are treated as if the context in which they are spoken is irrelevant, how do we differ from the Ayatollah who ordered what happened to Salman Rushdie?

If you want to help, buy a Sadowitz DVD and a book by Rushdie (Midnight’s Children is least bad; I generally dislike his writing but I’ll defend to the death his right to write shite).

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