COMEDY / Not at all bad: Gerry Sadowitz has been lying low for a while. Now he's back, quieter than ever. James Rampton breathed a sigh of relief
Sadowitz, the in-your-face Glaswegian comedian with the wild hair and the even wilder language, has always inspired strong reactions. This newspaper described him as 'the most provocative comedian since Lenny Bruce', while the Sunday Times called him 'the maddest, baddest and most dangerous man in British comedy'. On one memorable occasion, a Sadowitz joke of dubious parentage prompted a member of the audience to clamber on stage and clout him.
Having been out of the limelight for a while, he is now returning with a new show (a double act with the comic poet Logan Murray) and, he claims, a new caring, sharing image. In Bib and Bob - aka Gerry Sadowitz and Logan Murray, his former trademark, swearing, falls victim to self-censorship. Even physical violence is taboo - 'except between ourselves', Sadowitz explains over a cup of coffee in a north London cafe. The only sticky moments will come when Sadowitz tries to cadge cigarettes off the audience. 'It's a family show; it's for those families that watch video nasties and then go out and duplicate them the next day.'
Beyond that, it is extremely hard to fathom what on earth Bib and Bob is going to be about. Murray asserts that the point is 'to subvert the sketch show', before adding hastily, lest he appear too serious, 'and get as many groupies as possible'. Sadowitz, meanwhile, maintains that they are merely trying to 'lose as many props as possible, so we can claim them back on the insurance'.
For the lucky punters at the Liverpool Festival of Comedy, where Bib and Bob is playing tonight, 'we're doing something very special,' Sadowitz reveals. 'We're not turning up. We're sending two decoys instead. We don't want to do anything that could be construed as entertainment.' This is exactly the sort of defiance that has so polarised critical opinion about Sadowitz.
Pressed further, he philosophises that 'alternative comedy is a working-class art form that was overtaken by middle-class types like Ben Elton and Stephen Fry. This show is a working-class invasion of Oxbridge Revue comedy, a reversal of the trend.' 'The irony of this is,' Murray interjects, 'that I'm middle-class myself.' The whole interview proceeds like a warm-up for their stage show.
They probably come closest to the truth (admittedly, a relative concept), when they concede that the show merely consists of two muckers mucking about on stage. 'It's like you've got a best mate and you do stupid things together,' Sadowitz muses. 'We're going to mess about regardless of whether we get paid for it or not.'
The two first performed together at the 1986 Edinburgh Festival where they filled in with improvisation when booked acts didn't turn up. 'It sounds like Judy Garland,' Murray remembers, 'but it was 'let's do the show right here' stuff.' They called themselves the 'Fabulous Falling Over Brothers' and specialised in (you've guessed it) impressions of famous people falling over.
Their partnership continued on the rarely lamented BSB where 'Gerry put his eye out for charity once,' Murray recalls. 'How many Sunshine Coaches did that get?' Murray then appeared in Sadowitz's aforementioned TV show, The Pall Bearers's Revue, where they performed incompetent magic tricks.
With such a pedigree, they reflect that they could turn into the Morecambe and Wise of our generation. 'Well, we do steal all their stuff,' Sadowitz says. But as the double act depart to put the finishing touches to their cigarette-cadging routine, they seem like nothing so much as a snarling version of Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse's DJs, Smashie and Nicey. 'Will you put that we do a lot of work for charity?'
'Bib and Bob' 7.30pm tonight, the Festival Marquee, Roe Street, Liverpool (051-709 8151) tickets pounds 10- pounds 3, bar to 11.45pm
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