Jackie Mason

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Jackie Mason
JackieMasonOct06.jpg
Mason in 2006
Birth name Yacov Moshe Maza
Born (1931-06-09) June 9, 1931 (age 85)[1]
Sheboygan, Wisconsin, United States
Medium Stand-up
Television
Film
Radio
Nationality American
Alma mater City College of New York (B.A.)
Years active 1961–present
Genres Political satire
Observational comedy
Improvisational comedy
Subject(s) American politics
International relations
Current events
Race relations
Antisemitism
Jewish culture
American culture
Spouse Jyll Rosenfeld (1991–present)

Jackie Mason (born June 9, 1931)[1][2] is an American stand-up comedian and film and television actor. He is ranked #63 on Comedy Central's 100 greatest stand-up comedians of all-time.[3]

His 1986 one-man show The World According to Me won a Special Tony Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, an Ace Award, an Emmy Award, and a Grammy nomination. Later, his 1988 special "Jackie Mason on Broadway" won another Emmy Award (for outstanding writing) and another Ace Award, and his 1992 voice-over of Rabbi Hyman Krustofski in The Simpsons episode "Like Father, Like Clown" won him a third Emmy Award.

Known for his delivery and voice, as well as his use of innuendo and pun, his often-culturally-grounded humor has been described as irreverent and sometimes politically incorrect.[4][5] A critic for Time wrote that he spoke to audiences: "with the Yiddish locutions of an immigrant who just completed a course in English. By mail."[6]

Early life[edit]

He was born Yacov Moshe Maza in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the fourth and last son (and first one born in the United States) in a family of six children in an Orthodox Jewish family.[5][7][8][9][10] His father Eli came to the United States with the rest of Mason's family from Minsk, and died in 1959.[5][7][8] He grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City, where the family moved largely so that the boys in it could pursue a yeshiva education.[5][7][8] He came from a long line of rabbis.[5][4][11][6]

As a teenager, he worked as a busboy at resorts in the Borscht Belt in New York's Catskill Mountains.[5] He recalled: "Twenty minutes, at the Pearl Lake Hotel. I broke all the dishes. They made me a lifeguard. 'But I can’t swim,' I told the owner. 'Don’t tell the guests,' he says."[7]

In 1953 Mason graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in his double major of English and Sociology from the City College of New York.[12][6] At age 18 he became a cantor, and at age 25[13] he received semikhah from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and was ordained a rabbi (as his three brothers, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had been), in Latrobe, Pennsylvania (30 miles east of Pittsburgh).[10][14][5] He then led congregations as their rabbi in Weldon, North Carolina (which had 100 Jewish families) and Beth Israel Congregation in Latrobe.[15][16] He said that in synagogue, "I started telling more and more jokes, and after a while, a lot of gentiles would come to the congregation just to hear the sermons."[10] Three years later, after his father died, he resigned from his job as a rabbi in a synagogue to become a comedian because, he says, "Somebody in the family had to make a living."[13][7]

Career[edit]

Early years[edit]

Mason almost exclusively has written his own material.[6] A sampling of his humor is his commentary on doctors: "That's a great profession, a doctor. Where else can you ask a woman to get undressed and then send the bill to her husband?"[10] And his commentary on what is important in life: "Money is not important. Love is important. Fortunately, I love money."[17]

He was a comedian at the Fieldston Hotel in Swan Lake, New York, in the summer of 1955.[18] He was let go because his act was considered too far ahead of its time. The patrons had never been exposed to a comic who seemed to be ridiculing them. A few years later, Don Rickles came along, but by then audiences had become open to this type of humor throughout the Borscht Belt. He adopted his stage name after appearing on the Barry Gray radio show.[9] He performed at New York City nightclubs (where he was earning as much as $10,000 ($76,000 in current dollar terms) a week), and then on The Steve Allen Show (his first national tv appearance; in 1962) and the Tonight Show with Steve Allen, as well as on The Perry Como Show, The Dean Martin Show, and The Gary Moore Show.[4][6] The William Morris Agency advised him in 1962 to take elocution lessons so that he could shed his heavy Jewish accent, but he refused.[9][10][17]

1968 ad for the Jackie Mason Show

Mason made several appearances as a guest on The Ed Sullivan Show during the 1960s.[5] He claimed to have been on the first episode to feature the American television debut of the Beatles, although research does not bear this fact out.[19] Mason revealed during his appearance on the BBC show Desert Island Discs that at the time he did not think much of the group, referring to them as "four kids in search of a voice who needed haircuts". In 1962 he came out with his initial LP record, entitled "I'm the Greatest Comedian in the World, Only Nobody Knows It Yet," and then in short order he came out with "I Want to Leave You with the Words of a Great Comedian."[9]

"Middle finger" incident (1964)[edit]

On October 18, 1964, in an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Mason allegedly gave host Ed Sullivan the finger on air. Footage of the incident shows Mason in the middle of doing his stand-up comedy act and then looking toward Sullivan, who had placed himself directly behind the camera, commenting that Sullivan was signaling him.[6][10] Sullivan was reportedly letting Mason know (by holding up two fingers) that he had only two minutes left, and to cut his act short, as the program was about to cut away due to having been partly pre-empted by an impromptu speech by President Lyndon B. Johnson that the show carried.[7][6]

Mason -- clearly distracted -- began working his own fingers into his act to make fun of the situation, and pointed toward Sullivan with an index finger, a thumb, but not (as Sullivan mistakenly believed) his middle finger.[6] Sullivan was clearly infuriated by this, and banned Mason from future appearances on the show, canceling Mason's $45,000 ($344,000 in current dollar terms), six-appearance contract.[6][10] Mason denied knowingly giving Sullivan the middle finger; he later said that he had never even heard of the middle finger gesture at that time.[7] To clear his name, Mason filed a libel suit at the New York Supreme Court, which he won.[20][4] He was banned from the show for a period of time, Sullivan asserted Mason was unpredictable and could not be trusted, and because of Sullivan's influence he was branded as unreliable, volatile, and obscene, and failed to get meaningful tv work for the next two decades.[4][7][8][6]

Mason was given a single comeback appearance on Sullivan's TV program two years later, and Sullivan publicly apologized to him, but the damage was done.[6] At that time, Mason opened his monologue by saying, "It is a great thrill ... and a fantastic opportunity to see me in person again." Mason never appeared on the show again. Mason later said: "It took 20 years to overcome what happened in one minute."[6]

1965-1985[edit]

In 1969, Mason made his Broadway theater debut in the comedy play A Teaspoon Every Four Hours, which he wrote with Mike Mortman. It held the Broadway record of 97 previews and closed after its official opening performance (a preview record only succeeded by Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark with its 182 previews prior to opening). He acted in the movies The Jerk (1979) and History of the World, Part I (1981).[21]

1986-present[edit]

In 1986, Mason made a triumphant return to Broadway in the two-year run of The World According to Me which ran for 367 performances in its first run and 203 performances in its second run at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, his first of several one-man theatrical shows.[7][22] It was well received both by critics and the public; even Frank Rich, the generally harsh reviewer of The New York Times, wrote: "So sue me ... Mason was very, very funny."[9] It won a Special Tony Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, an Ace Award, an Emmy Award, and a Grammy nomination.[23][24] His special "Jackie Mason on Broadway" won an Emmy Award for outstanding writing and an Ace Award.[23][24]

He then acted in the sports comedy movie Caddyshack II (1988).[21]

In 1990 and 1991, he again was on Broadway, this time with his successful two-act show "Brand New," which ran for 216 performances at the Neil Simon Theatre.[9][22] Critic Clive Barnes of The New York Post praised the "brilliant" comic and his "totally new from top to tuchis" humor.[22] Critic Mel Gussow of The New York Times remarked on the "exact meeting" between performance and material in which Mason engaged in a comic attack on everyone, including himself, cutting them all down to size.[22]

In 1992, Mason won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for his voice-over of Rabbi Hyman Krustofski in The Simpsons episode "Like Father, Like Clown",[25] making him the first guest star to win an Emmy for his role. Mason has also appeared in The Simpsons episodes "Today I Am a Clown," "Once Upon a Time in Springfield," "The Ten-Per-Cent Solution," "At Long Last Leave," and "Clown in the Dumps;" the latter episode focuses upon Rabbi Krustofski's death and its effects on his son, Krusty the Clown.

One of his Broadway shows, his two-act Politically Incorrect (1994–95) which ran for 347 performances at Broadway's John Golden Theater, was performed during the same period that Bill Maher's late-night, half-hour political TV talk show Politically Incorrect was on the air.[4][22] Maher brought a lawsuit against Mason's production, which was dismissed as frivolous. Mason was able to use this show title, and it is one of his most successful road productions. Between these shows, Mason played the lead in a short-lived television interfaith sitcom called Chicken Soup alongside Lynn Redgrave.[6]

Mason also put on the Broadway one-man shows Love thy Neighbor (1996–97) which ran for 225 performances at the Booth Theatre (critic Lawrence Van Gelder of The New York Times described Mason's routines as "roaringly funny"), Much Ado About Everything (1999–2000) which ran for 183 performances at the John Golden Theatre (critic Van Gelder of The New York Times described Mason as "convulsing audiences"), Prune Danish (2002), Jackie Mason: Freshly Squeezed (2005), and The Ultimate Jew (2008).[22][6]

In a 2005 poll to find the Comedian's Comedian, Mason was voted among the top-50 comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.[24] He was also ranked #63 in "Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time".[26] He holds the record for the longest-running one-man show in the history of both Broadway and London's West End.

His full-length courtroom dramedy motion picture One Angry Man was released in 2010 throughout the US and Canada. Mason's latest film Jackie Goldberg: Private Dick was a direct-to-DVD release, released by FilmWorks Entertainment.

Political views[edit]

Mason was a Democrat, but is now a registered Republican.[27][6]

Mason was an admirer of Rabbi Meir Kahane.[28] He openly endorsed Kahane's plan to pay Israeli Arabs unwilling to accept Israeli sovereignty, to emigrate. He also served as the honored speaker at a fundraising event for a yeshiva founded by Kahane.[29]

In January 2001, Mason co-founded the organization One Jerusalem in response to the Oslo peace agreement. Its stated cause is "Maintaining a united Jerusalem as the un-divided capital of Israel."[30]

Mason, in 2003, counseled Israeli leaders to consider the total expulsion of Palestinians from Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip.[31] Mason and Raoul Felder wrote, "We have paralyzed ourselves by our sickening fear of World Opinion, which is why we find it impossible to face one simple fact: We will never win this war unless we immediately threaten to drive every Arab out of Israel if the killing doesn't stop."[31] They added: "We are brain-dead if we accept the idea that we have to guess which Arab is our next killer. We are not obligated to victimize ourselves by letting the Arabs play Russian roulette with Jewish lives. Israelis are constantly asked the same obnoxious question: 'How can you throw the Arabs out? where would they go?' The answer is, if they don't care whom they kill, why are we obligated to care where they go?"[31]

Personal life[edit]

On August 14, 1991, Mason married his 37-year-old manager Jyll Rosenfeld.[32][33]

Sheba Mason, born in 1985, is the daughter of Jackie Mason.[34] She is also a comedian.[35][36][37][38]

Controversy[edit]

In 1991, Mason was criticized by African-American organizations such as the NAACP when he called New York City mayor David Dinkins "a fancy schvartze with a moustache."[39] He later apologized.[6]

On August 28, 2006, Mason filed a lawsuit against the group Jews for Jesus for using his likeness in a pamphlet.[40] His image was used next to the tag line "Jackie Mason...a Jew for Jesus!?" Mason said in court papers filed in New York:

Mason asserted that the group was using his image and fame to gain attention and converts. The group responded to the suit by saying, "Shame on him for getting so upset about this."[40] The lawsuit was settled in 2006, with Jews for Jesus apologizing.[41]

On March 30, 2012, Mason was in an altercation with a friend at the time, Kaoru Suzuki-McMullen. Mason claimed that, while making her exit from his apartment (where Mason and his wife Jyll Rosenfeld live) on West 57th Street in New York, Suzuki-McMullen attacked him. When the police arrived, Suzuki-McMullen claimed that she was attacked by Mason, but was arrested, with the police declining to arrest Mason.[42] On May 12, 2012, all charges were dropped against Suzuki-McMullen when both sides agreed to drop the matter.[43]

Works[edit]

Selected TV, film and radio roles[edit]

Television specials[edit]

  • Jackie Mason's The World According to Me! (1988)
  • An Audience with Jackie Mason (1990)
  • Jackie Mason on Campus (1992)
  • Jackie Mason at the London Palladium (1996)
  • Jackie Mason: A Night at the Opera (2002)

Discography[edit]

  • I'm the Greatest Comedian in the World, Only Nobody Knows it Yet! (1962)
  • I Want to Leave You with the Words of a Great Comedian (1963)
  • The World According to Me! (1987)
  • Brand New (1991)
  • Politically Incorrect (1994)
  • In Israel
  • Live at the London Palladium (1997)
  • All New! Much Ado About Everything (2003)
  • Prune Danish (2002)
  • The Unholy Tour
  • Freshly Squeezed (DVD) (2005)
  • The Ultimate Jew (2008)

One-man shows[edit]

  • Jackie Mason's the World According to Me! (1986–1988)
  • Jackie Mason: Brand New (1990–1991)
  • Jackie Mason: Politically Incorrect (1994–1995)
  • Love Thy Neighbor (1996–1997)
  • Much Ado About Everything (1999–2000)
  • Jackie Mason: Prune Danish (2002–2003)
  • Jackie Mason: Freshly Squeezed (2005–2006)
  • Jackie Mason: The Ultimate Jew (2008)
  • Jackie Mason: Fearless (2012)

Writings[edit]

  • Jackie Mason and Raoul Lionel Felder. Schmucks!: Our Favorite Fakes, Frauds, Lowlifes, Liars, the Armed and the Dangerous, and Good Guys Gone Bad. New York: Collins, 2007. ISBN 978-0061126123

Video blogging[edit]

Mason has appeared in over 200 self-written video blog entries on YouTube, in which he gives his opinions on current events and politics. He has also experimented with podcasting, and in February 2012 appeared on the cult British podcast Answer Me This!, to promote his West End stand-up show, Fearless.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Jackie Mason". Comedy-Quotes.com. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Jackie Mason at the Internet Broadway Database
  3. ^ "Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time". Comedy Central Presents. 17 April 2004. Comedy Central. Retrieved 21 September 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Zeke Jarvis, Make 'em Laugh! American Humorists of the 20th and 21st Centuries
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Norman H. Finkelstein, Jewish Comedy Stars: Classic to Cutting Edge
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Eli Lederhendler, Gabriel N. Finder. A Club of Their Own: Jewish Humorists and the Contemporary World
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ken Gross. "Too Much of a Ham to Remain a Rabbi, Broadway's Jackie Mason Is Now the Toast of the Town", People
  8. ^ a b c d · Page 359, The Los Angeles Times, August 13, 1978
  9. ^ a b c d e f Jackie Mason - Biography, Billboard
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "A Really Big Broadway Show" , The Chicago Tribune
  11. ^ "A Mason by any Other Name," Jewish Book World
  12. ^ Joseph Dorinson, Kvetching and Shpritzing: Jewish Humor in American Popular Culture
  13. ^ a b "Jackie Mason The Official Site: All About..." Retrieved 2014-07-14
  14. ^ Chris Bergeron (2008-09-20). "Frankie Valli, Jackie Mason to perform in Worcester". Daily News Transcript. Retrieved 2008-10-04. 
  15. ^ Murry Frymer. "Jackie Mason Finally Reaches Stardom", Deseret News
  16. ^ The Jewish Chronicle - End of an era Soon all that will remain will be Beth Israel s history legacy
  17. ^ a b Lawrence J. Epstein. The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America
  18. ^ Howard Theatre welcomes legendary comedian | Articles | fairfaxtimes.com
  19. ^ Ed Sullivan Show episode guide
  20. ^ Biography for Ed Sullivan at the Internet Movie Database
  21. ^ a b Joseph A. Comm, Legendary Locals of Latrobe
  22. ^ a b c d e f Dan Dietz, The Complete Book of 1990s Broadway Musicals
  23. ^ a b Comic Genius: Portraits of Funny People
  24. ^ a b c Jackie Mason's One-Man Show, 'No Holds Barred', To Play Los Angeles' Wadsworth Theatre
  25. ^ Basile, Nancy. (2006) The Simpsons Awards, About.com, Accessed 29 August 2006.
  26. ^ Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time at the Internet Movie Database
  27. ^ "Jackie Mason at NNDB". NNDB. Retrieved July 22, 2013. 
  28. ^ Friedman, Robert I. (November 8, 1987). "Kahane's Money Tree". Washington Post. 
  29. ^ "Geopolitically Incorrect". New York Magazine. November 27, 1995. 
  30. ^ "About Us." One Jerusalem.
  31. ^ a b c Mason, Jackie and Raoul Felder. "Time to Threaten Arabs with Mass Eviction." The Jewish Press. January 29, 2003.
  32. ^ Jyll Rosenfeld at the Internet Movie Database
  33. ^ Comedian Jackie Mason Ends Bachelor Days At 57 , Orlando Sentinel
  34. ^ Oy! Jackie Mason Has Family Drama, The Forward
  35. ^ Schudel, Matt (October 29, 1989). "Jackie`s Little Girl Comic Jackie Mason Looks Like A Harmless Little Man, But His Jilted South Florida Lover Has Another Story To Tell: She`s The Mother Of His Love Child". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  36. ^ Whetsell, Tripp (April 27, 2012). "Getting In on Jackie's Act". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 2, 2015. (subscription required)
  37. ^ Prendergast, Daniel (April 1, 2012). "Jackie Mason's many loves". New York Post. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  38. ^ Beckerman, Gal (January 5, 2011). "Oy! Jackie Mason Has Family Drama". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  39. ^ Chadwick, Alan (June 13, 2006). "Metrolife: Jackie Mason". Metro. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  40. ^ a b "Oy! Jackie Mason sues Jews for Jesus." MSNBC. August 25, 2006.
  41. ^ Anemona Hartcollis (2006-12-06). "To Settle Suit, Jews for Jesus Apologizes to Jackie Mason". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-04. 
  42. ^ Schram, Jamie (March 30, 2012). "Jackie Mason's gal pal arrested after home brawl". New York Post. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  43. ^ Italiano, Laura (May 14, 2012). "Jackie Mason, gal pal drop assault charges". New York Post. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 

External links[edit]