Jackie Mason - photo by Michael Sherer
Jackie Mason has been on the comedy scene for sixty years, and is considered a living legend by many. He’s also had his share of controversy for his choice of material with such topics as politics, prostitution and race relations, as well as a major run in with Ed Sullivan when on his show in 1964. Sullivan had erroneously thought that Mason had given him the middle finger on air while performing, although Mason had in fact not. That’s a whole other story, though I’ll say that while the fallout was a disaster and derailed Mason’s career for two decades, it does provide a good antidote for Mason to tell during his show, as well as doing his famous impersonation of the wooden like Sullivan.
At 85, Mason (born Yacov Moshe Maza) has slowed down but he still has the goods and natural timing that a real comedian must have. And to his credit Mason has almost always written all of his own material. That also includes American politics and culture in general, observational commentary, international relations, antisemitism and Jewish culture. Mason is as Jewish centric as they come, (he refers to himself as “The Ultimate Jew”) and with his strong Yiddish based accent and highly distinct, staccato manner of speaking, he sounds like no one else. A critic for Time once wrote that he spoke to audiences “with the Yiddish locutions of an immigrant who just completed a course in English. By mail.”
Those audiences have been world wide for so many years. Mason noted that he’s done more Command Performances for the Queen of England than any other American comedian, and that he was soon on his way to London to do so again. Mason said he wanted to try some new material for his London trip for us on this night. He clutched some rolled up sheets of notes in his hand to refer to.
One of Mason’s old standby topics that’s most humorous is his commentary on status in general and specific status symbols. He’s had an ongoing issue with Starbuck’s, for example, saying that he finds their coffee tasting burnt, and why should it be as expensive as it is to get that in a cardboard cup? Mason says that millions flock to the ubiquitous Starbuck’s because it makes them feel more important, as Starbuck’s is seen as the hip place to go. He further made his point regarding status by noting that a $300,000 Lamborghini car is about the most uncomfortable place for one to sit, being very small and low to the ground with no leg room, yet it’s viewed as a quintessential status symbol. He then scrunched up his face and body hilariously and joked that when someone goes by in a $12,000 Chevy while very comfortable and they wave at you in your astronomically priced Lamborghini, you can’t even wave back because you’re too contorted and squashed into its seat.
In the political realm, Mason had commentary re Hillary Clinton, asserting that the reason she lost the presidential election is because she lied “every ten minutes,” and constantly changed her position on many issues. He joked that when he asks someone to name one meaningful accomplishment that Clinton has made, they can only thrust their arms up and down and grunt wordlessly, unable to cite one. (Although the public’s ignorance re what people in power accomplish is on them.) The funniest part of this was Mason physically imitating the exercise in futility. Mason also noted that when people say that Clinton has the experience of being around her husband while he was president and this prepares her, Mason responds by saying “if an airline pilot quits, does anyone say ‘where’s his wife’?”
There was also humorous but risque dialog about hookers and their customers, with Mason showing that even in his mid 80’s, virtually nothing is off the table to joke about. I’ll leave you to hear this part of his act for yourself, along with loads of other bits that make Jackie Mason one of last living comics, writers and minds that harken back to the Cold War era 1950’s still making audiences grab a napkin to dry their eyes from laughing so hard. And with laughter doing a body and soul much good, Mason is a very sound investment.