Comedy: Jerry Sadowitz's `Card Tricks and Close-up Magic' is at the Etcetera Theatre, London, NW1 (0171-482 4857) until 30 March

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Many have tried, but few have ever lived up to Jerry Sadowitz's reputation as "the most dangerous man in comedy". His trademark was beyond-the-knuckle humour that offended as much as it amused. He would think nothing of cracking jokes that taste forgot. It made for uncomfortable, yet riveting viewing.

Having been sadly absent from the stand-up circuit for some years, he now returns with "Card Tricks and Close-up Magic", a show which puts centre- stage his wondrous magic skills. "Magic is a phenomenal art form," Sadowitz enthuses. "There is great discipline, science and creativity to it. In a small theatre with tiered seats, genuine close-up magic is something that isn't just the stuff that Paul Daniels and co have been trotting out for years." He has little time for grandiose magicians. "They've helped to make magic irritating to the public," Sadowitz reckons. "People don't like being fooled. Magicians should come clean and get rid of the patter. When magicians get over-dramatic like David Copperfield, that's just insulting the audience." His show is much more pared-down. "I like to take a back

seat and cut out the waffle. I want the tricks to speak for themselves. There's a lot of ghosts in my show - magicians from the past saying to me, `Don't make a mistake, that's my trick'."

Stand-up generally takes a back-seat in this show, although Sadowitz admits that "It does seep out occasionally. The comedy side of my brain wants to say something while the magic side is saying, `This is not the time or the place'. I try to resist out of respect for the tricks, but I'm not succeeding totally." Faint-hearted audiences should be warned that Sadowitz has not ruled out a full-time stand-up comeback. "I put everything on the line for my comedy," he asserts. "If I was going to do it again now, it would be a lot more offensive because I've had five years in abeyance. I've suppressed a lot. I'd be much more wilful with my targets just for the devilment of it."


The ever reliable Mark Steel seeks a few more of his appealingly idiosyncratic solutions to the problems of quotidien life and comes up with unorthodox results, such as "pessimists should be persecuted by law.""The Mark Steel Solution" is at Manchester Dance House (0161-237 9753) tonight and Leeds City Varieties (0113-243 0808) tomorrow