Jackie Mason, a mensch among men

Jackie Mason. <em>Picture: Carl Lender</em>
Jackie Mason. Picture: Carl Lender
Mazel tov! If we take the meaning as “Congratulations” rather than its other traditional translation “Good luck” it is certainly in order for Jackie Mason, currently on his last ever UK appearances ahead of his 76th birthday in June.

Mason’s Jewishness as forms the core of his act the way being black informs Chris Rock’s routine.

Whereas other Jewish comedians like Woody Allen or Jerry Seinfeld deliver everyman stand-up which is an extension of their personality, Mason is riffing on his Jewishness from the off.

As an ordained Rabbi, most of the material is about the difference between Jewish men and their relationships with women (wives and mothers), their relationships with money, with clothes, with their doctors, their relationships with people who aren’t Jewish … at one point, he launches into a Hebrew cantillation, pauses and turns to the audience “Everybody!”

Mason differentiates between “Jews and Gentiles” the way Middle East correspondents differentiate between Jews and Palestinians and within seconds, he’s insulting the Gentiles in the front row. Seconds later, he takes out the Jews. It’s very much equal opportunities abuse.

“I did a show in Israel,” he reflects, “and it went fantastically. Did exactly the same show a month later in Egypt. Not the same reaction.”

Some of the material is as old as he is, but it’s forgivable because it’s relentless.

His rapid-fire execution takes in a variety of targets from Harry Redknapp’s tax arrangements, Winston Churchill’s accent, the ancestry of Barack Obama (there is some uncomfortable shuffling in the seats around this section), Ed Miliband and a scathing condemnation of all things “trendy” from menus to iPhones to Twitter to neckties.

In an age where a stray tweet leads to global outraging trending on a global scale, and Glaswegian football fans who shout vile sectarian abuse take umbrage at imagined slights, Jackie Mason lives up to the title of his show – Fearless.

Aside from an interval, he doesn’t let up for two hours. He is someone who is not afraid to wade into the choppy waters of religious politics. With the recent passing of the great Frank Carson, we shall not see his like again. In terms of stand-up, Jackie Mason is a mensch.