IT is the tale of two Glasgow comics on the fringe. They are both aged

27 and between them no love is lost: Craig Ferguson, formerly Bing

Hitler, and Gerry Sadowitz, always Gerry Sadowitz.

Last night the Craig Ferguson Hour went out coast-to-coast on MTV,

America's biggest cable network. Tonight in Edinburgh he will take over

the 3500-seat Playhouse, one of the biggest theatres in Britain, and is

staying in the Caledonian Hotel. Yet, four years ago, the boy from up

the Maryhill Road, was sleeping rough in Waverley Station, appearing

before ''half a dozen people and a dug'' at the Cafe Royal.

Sadowitz, who suffered financial damage at the hands of Hitler (Bing)

through an allegation of ripped-off material, printed two years ago in

the fringe brochure, is South-Side Jewish -- ''not so far south as

Newton Mearns or Giffnock where the rich Jewish people live'' -- claims

still to be one of life's losers. As an alternative, his name is better

known throughout Britain and he can't understand why someone with so

much fame should have so little money. His festival venue is the more

modest school hall of George Heriot's, with a one-nighter in the Queen's

Hall to follow.

Holding a media conference in a suite at the George Hotel yesterday,

Ferguson likened Sadowitz to ''a dead tortoise,'' and, as though to

emphasise that the two are not the best of friends, he added: ''No, we

don't particularly like each other.'' Sadowitz, the previous day, had

nominated as a meeting place the City Art Centre Cafe at 1pm. And he was

certainly a loser there. Every seat taken. We moved to a quieter spot.

He has been described as the comic whose bad taste starts where

others' stops. He made jokes about the London Underground disaster on

the week of it happening.

Obnoxious and foulmouthed he has been called. ''Our image could be

damaged by this sick comic,'' said the Lord Provost of Dundee, to which

Sadowitz replied: ''What image?'' He has also been described by the

Melody Maker as ''the funniest man in Britain.'' While Sadowitz suffers,

Ferguson makes 'em laugh and travels first class by widening his

horizons, finding a world beyond the Tron, biting the bullet and going

for it, making subtle changes to the material he uses.

He has been twice at the Melbourne Comedy Festival and the similar

event at Montreal, which was where he was spotted by MTV.

Ferguson admires the speed with which the American TV people operate,

having him doing an hour-long show the week after speaking to him. Had

it been the BBC, they would have ''taken a year to discuss a pilot

show.'' If the programme he has done is a success, he will have the

option on a series and there is also a Granada series in the pipeline


''They didn't tell me how to do my show to suit the Americans, just

let me get on with it,'' he said. ''I was warned not to joke about

certain subjects, like Salman Rushdie, for safety reasons. When you are

playing to several million people you can be sure that one of them will

be out there polishing his rifle.''

Sadowitz the man is the exact opposite of Sadowitz the comic. He is

quietly spoken, doesn't swear, shows great concern for everyone, except,

perhaps, Ferguson. Yes, definitely not for Ferguson. His on-stage

swearing, he says, is the pent-up frustration and anger coming out. No

subject is taboo.

''The limitation of alternative comedy -- non-sexism and non-racism --

suddenly became sacred cows for me. Comedy should not be limited, but

open to everything, as long as it's funny.''

The tube disaster jokes were necessary to ''make points'' in the only

way he could make them -- ''I was very angry about it because London

Transport blamed it on a cigarette, whereas they had been warned a year

earlier that their safety standards were not up to scratch. I said I

thought it ironic that the escalator that took passengers to their death

was actually working.''

He incorporates magic in his act and is one of the most gifted

close-up card-trick practitioners in the country. He produced a deck of

cards -- ''I carry these with me everywhere, substitute worry beads'' --

and demonstrated a few cheating techniques. Doesn't play cards on same

basis that a bookmaker should not bet, a publican should not drink.

Born in America, his parents divorced when he was three and he was

brought up by his mother in Glasgow. Got into comedy through busking and

pub work. Determined to continue to live in Glasgow, he would catch a

bus to London once a fortnight to appear at the Comedy Store. Genuinely

hurt and saddened that Glasgow has not given him the recognition he has

received elsewhere, he now lives with his mother in Finchley Road.

By further irony, he booked the Edinburgh Playhouse last festival and

failed to fill it rather spectacularly. Now there are signs of the

sadness lifting. His current show -- titled Lose Your Comic Virginity!

-- is almost sold out. After Edinburgh it goes on a 25-date tour.

Sadowitz will not be seeing how Ferguson does at the Playhouse

tonight, nor will Ferguson be in the Sadowitz audience. At these

milestone moments in their careers their shows are both on at the same