THEATRE managers say the show will go on – in the face of calls to cancel a sold-out performance by comedian Joan Rivers over her inflammatory comments about Palestinians in Gaza.

The Cliffs Pavilion, Westcliff, received 21 emails and a petition, calling for the 81-year-old American’s October 9 appearance to be scrapped.

The calls came after she said Gazans bombed by the Israeli Defence Force “deserved to be dead”.

Since her controversial remarks, more than 26,000 have signed a petition calling for her UK tour to be cancelled.

However Southend Theatres, which runs the Cliffs, said it had no plans to turn her away.

Theatre director Ellen McPhillips said: “We are respectful of people’s views on this matter, but it is not a theatre’s place to censor artists.

“It should be noted the inflammatory comments made by the artist were not, and are not, part of the stage show. Theatres must also take into account their legal and contractual obligations.”

She said there would be no refunds if theatregoers felt they no longer wanted to see the show.

Rivers, who is no stranger to controversy, has said she believed the Gazans started the conflict with Israel, adding “at least those who were killed were the ones with very low IQs”, suggesting victims failed to respond to Israeli warnings. The comic later said her comments had been taken out of context.

Della Carr, 77, chairman of Southend and Westcliff Reform Synagogue, said her community was horrified at the Gaza situation, but added: “She has an acerbic wit, which has got her into trouble more than once, but I feel if the theatre did cancel the show, it would be pandering to something which shouldn’t be pandered to – anti-Semitism.”

Julian Ware-Lane, Labour councillor for Milton ward, which includes the Cliffs, said he was concerned by Rivers’ comments, but did not feel the show should be censored.

He said: “I don’t particularly like making light of the suffering in Gaza, but I chose not to sign the petition.

“I generally don’t like censorship. I would suggest those offended by what Joan Rivers said just don’t go.”

However, campaigner Norman Traub, 85, treasurer of Southend Stop the War Coalition said the comic had forfeited her right to perform.

He said: “I read her remarks and thought they were absolutely disgusting because they were blaming innocent people, with no involvement in the attacks on Israelis, for their own deaths. I find it sad someone can be so callous about people dying. To talk about people in that way is just beyond the pale.”


  • In April, she joked three women held captive for ten years in a basement in Cleveland, Ohio, had more space than her daughter’s guest room and “got to live rent-free”, comments condemned as “a new low” for her
  • Last month she jokingly suggest President Obama was gay and his wife Michelle was a transexual
  • The Jewish comedian is not averse to making jokes about the Holocaust, though she insists it is her way of reminding people about the horrors of Nazism
  • She has made several references to singer Adele’s weight. On the day it the British singer gave birth, she tweeted: “Congratulations to Adele on the birth of her 68lb 8oz bouncing baby boy.”