I first meet Jerry Sadowitz at a preview of the show he is trying to persuade Channel 5 to commission, working title: Gobshite. I, like the rest of the audience, am expected to take my turn on stage and either ask Jerry a question, present him with an object of interest or tell him a joke. If he finds me to his liking he lets me stay, if he can't be bothered he presses a buzzer and I must leave the stage or incur the wrath of Jerry's bodyguard, Chris, who resembles EastEnder's Grant Mitchell.

Just as the assembled students, nightclub promoters desperate-for-a-plug, mishapes, misfits and Channel 5 executives finish their complimentary bottles of Becks and chocolate muffins and start to go through to the theatre, Jerry appears and quickly does the rounds "Hi, Ah'm Jerry Sadowitz," he says. "Ah might be nasty to you, but ah don't mean it, don't take it personally and try not to get nervous." The funny thing is, Jerry looks more nervous than anyone.

The show goes to plan, nerves suddenly gone, Jerry finds ample opportunity to insult his guests and turn anything they say to him into a rant about women, gays, ethnic or religious minorites. At one point a man enraged at Jerry's comment that he is "boring" refuses to leave the stage and quick as a flash finds himself in the clutches of Chris. As the burly bouncer drags him to the edge of the stage he somehow manages to wriggle away and in a moment of pure slapstick, falls flat on his face, and bumps very slowly, very painfully down the stairs. A set-up? Perhaps, but it's very amusing and seems to produce the desired effect; later in the week I learn that the comedian has been given the go-ahead for a 13-week series to be entitled The People vs Jerry Sadowitz.

Next time we meet is in the bright, white reception at LWT. It's two weeks before the show goes out and this is the first interview of many for Jerry. I spot him perched on the edge of a sofa across the room, scruffy jeans, faded grey t-shirt, old suit jacket and a carrier bag on his knee. Tufts of frizzy black hair stick out around his head and a ponytail tied back painfully with an elastic band snakes round his neck. He looks exhausted. His gaze falls in middle distance and the bags under his deep-set brown eyes form oddly perfect half moon shapes. "Jerry?" I guess. "Yup," he replies. "Jerry Sadowitz, sad by name, sad by nature."

It quickly becomes obvious that the depression Jerry is renowned for has not been lightened too much by his imminent comeback. He's been down the TV road before (The Pall Bearer's Revue, his debut show came out in 1989) and describes that first experience as "a total flop, a complete failure". Despite the fact that he himself relentlessly told journalists on the eve of the show that it was "shite, don't bother watching it", Sadowitz now blames Alan Yentob for the show's failure. "He didn't give tapes to the press to review, he must feel like a stupid prat now," he spits.

Vitriol aside for a moment, Jerry admits that he is "glad to be doing something new" and likes the opportunity to separate the heroes from the zeroes that the show will afford him. "This show is good because most people in this country are treated importantly without proper vetting. Before people open their mouths and we take them seriously we should vet them, check out their backgrounds and if they're not smart, intelligent or talented enough they should be incinerated," he says.

Aside from his desire to incinerate people, there's another major motivating factor behind Jerry's comeback - money. The salad days of the mid-Eighties, when he was filling the 2000-seat Dominion Theatre and pulling off national sell-out tours, came to an end after The Pall Bearer's Revue flopped. Jerry began to sink into longer and more debilitating depressions and his appearances on the standup circuit waned. At the 1991 Montreal Comedy Festival, an incensed member of the audience leapt onto stage and beat him unconscious. Tired of the circuit he retreated back into magic, the one thing he talks fondly of. "Magic is my first love and my last love," he says. Unfortunately his dreams of touring his magic show round Britain were shattered because of the nature of his tricks.

"My magic show is filled with close-up feats and it's designed for a small audience. Promoters don't want to know unless you can fill the Royal Albert Hall," he complains. Consequenty, 1991 was not fun for Jerry Sadowitz. Broke and fed up, Jerry took a pounds 3-an-hour job in a London magic shop, moved in with his mum to a small council flat and set up a magic magazine - The Crimp - which he still sporadically produces to the delight of its 70 subscribers. 1992 saw a brief return to form when he scored credibility points with teenagers by appearing in The Shamen's "Ebeneezer Goode" video. Jigging around to the song's controversial chorus, a top-hatted, wild- eyed Jerry looked like he might be back. Strangely, that was the last anyone saw of him till the first instalment of his show last Tuesday. Somewhat better than the disappointing Morwenna Banks' Sketch Show it followed, whether or not The People vs Jerry Sadowitz is a formula for success remains to be seen...

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