| Magic moments with Jerry Sadowitz

Magic moments with Jerry Sadowitz

There are many words you expect from the mouth of Jerry Sadowitz. Most have four letters and a savage meaning. "Neurolinguistic" and "corporatisation", however, come as something of a surprise. But today Jerry is in an eloquent, enthusiastic mood; very possibly because he's discussing and demonstrating the topic closest to his heart: close-up magic. Even more surprisingly for such a scabrous comic, known primarily for his uncompromising attitude and irresistible impulse to shock, he actually seems - brace yourselves - eager to please. Despite 20 or so years of stand-up experience, this unusual approach is even making him a little agitated and uneasy on stage, nerves no doubt heightened because he is performing in front of a pack of his natural enemy, the journalist. But these are the sacrifices he is prepared to make to promote his run of shows at London's Soho Theatre in which he will be doing what he loves most. Not that he's exactly lost that famously offensive stance altogether. One trick, for example, involves four cards labelled C, U, N and T. "This is one I invented myself," he explains, redundantly. It's hardly the sort of thing you'd expect in a Paul Daniels magic box. Ah, Paul Daniels. Surely, if nothing else, a topic to raise Sadowitz's hackles. "I quite like Paul Daniels," he asserts, and you start to fear for his mental state. But then he adds gleefully: "Now he's nearly dead, and he won't work on television ever again." Sadowitz doesn't disguise his seething hatred of the successful, feeling they have achieved their exalted position by some gimmick - or, more likely, at his expense. "Poor ugly unfortunates like myself have to fall back on talent," he moans. His real bete noire, unsurprisingly, is man-of-the-moment American illusionist David Blaine - a triumph of style over content in Sadowitz's books. "This is what you, the public want," Jerry rants as he stands in front of us with the ten of diamonds on his cock, or at least a prosthetic one " I've been practising 30 years, since the age of 11, and I never anticipated that what the public wanted to see was a guy standing on a pole," he complains. "I'd like to see David Blaine stand for three minutes in the street in Easterhouse. "I'm not bitter, I just resent Blaine. He's OK as a magician, but Americans are big on the corporatisation of everything, so he's surrounded by all these top guys who advise him. All he has to do is turn up." "I fucking hate him. We're allowed to hate, aren't we?" But just when you think the old bile-filled Jerry is back, he reveals that there is at least one successful trickster he respects – Channel 4's wunderkind Derren Brownthe mind control guy. He knows Brown – "a fucking excellent magician" – from when he used to visit the International Magic Shop on London's Clerkenwell Road, the sanctuary where Sadowitz works when he's not performing. "He used to come into the shop and show me tricks," Sadowitz says. "Then would explain the method, and it would be something I already knew. But the way he did it always surprised me." In fact, it was Sadowitz who recommended Brown to a Channel 4 executive who was looking for a 'mentalist'. That said, Jerry still claims: "There's nothing Derren Brown can do that I can't. It's all neurolinguistic trickery." After watching in stunned amazement as Sadowitz demonstrates his unquestionable sleight-of-hand skills, you are tempted to agree with his own high opinion of his ability. Surprisingly, and despite those decades of practise, he only started performing magic professionally six years ago. His approach was to apply the ethos of modern stand-up to the ancient art of magic which, despite the streetwise efforts of the David Blaine corporation, has noticeably failed shed its spangly cabaret image in the way that comedy has. But Jerry doesn't needs an audience for his tricks. "If I wasn't doing the show, I would still be doing magic," he says. "I couldn't give it up. Like a smoker with their cigarettes, I have to have a pack of cards with me whenever I go out." The analogy with a hard-to-break habit is telling. For Sadowitz, magic is more of a class-A addiction than a mild nicotine craving. He became hooked when a teenager and it's dominated his adult life, often to the detriment of everything else. "I've been practising for 30 years," he dolefully admits. "It's not a happy life, but an interesting one." Asked the attraction of magic, he ponders before replying: "There is no upside. No appeal. No life. "You keep practising on your own, in front of a mirror, your own failure reflected back at you. "My greatest trick is to make my lifelong bitterness over my personal and professional failure disappear with only a fifth of vodka." It might be a joke. First published in March 2003 to promote Jerry Sadowitz's run at the Soho Theatre

Published: 13 Jul 2006

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