Jackie Mason, Legendary Comedian and Rabbi Turned Contentious Dies at 93

Jackie Mason • Borscht Belt: In long career of Jackie Mason, he dealt with controversial issues with glee and passion

Jackie Mason, Legendary Comedian and Rabbi Turned Contentious Dies at 93
Jackie Mason

Jacqueline Mason, legendary comedian and former rabbi who was born into a family of rabbis, has died. He was 93 years of age. Raoul Felder, Mason’s lawyer and lifelong friend, informed The Hollywood Reporter that Mason died Saturday at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Michael Mason, who died in his sleep, had difficulties breathing.

It sold every seat at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre for more than a year. Mason was granted a special Tony Award for his work. As a result, he was nominated for both an Emmy and a Grammy.

Mason also featured in Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part I (1979) and Rodger Dangerfield’s Caddyshack II (1988) on the big screen (1981).

While filming The Stoolie (1971), Mason fired director John G. Avildsen during production and replaced him with another director.

For eight episodes of The Simpsons, he voiced Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky (he won his second career Emmy for one such turn in 1992).

For Breitbart News, Mason has done a series of video commentary that routinely mock Hollywood.

Der chubby 5-foot-7 comic pursued contentious subjects with delight throughout his career, and his fervour often got him into trouble.

The host of The Ed Sullivan Show accused Mason of making an obscene gesture towards him during a stand-up performance on Oct. 18, 1964. (a foreign-policy address by President Johnson had cut into the program). A furious NBC executive then kicked him off the show.

Jackie Mason, Legendary Comedian and Rabbi Turned Contentious Dies at 93
During a visit backstage at the Neil Simon Theater in New York on Feb. 4, 1991, Liza Minnelli speaks with comedian Jackie Mason. To congratulate Mason on his new Broadway musical, “Brand New,” Minnelli had been by Mason’s office. Image: AP

Mason told Vanity Fair in 1997: “The gesture was in his thoughts.” As a Broadway street man, Sullivan was accustomed to using four-letter obscenities and filthy gestures. I was both a yeshiva student and a rabbi when I started my career. From nasty gestures, I had no idea.”

As a result, Mason filed a lawsuit against Sullivan for defamation and slander. Mason regretted, though, that his reputation had been damaged by his crudeness and unpredictability.

For at least 10 to 15 years, his career was ruined. If you had an image of a dirty person in those days, you would be wiped off the map. As a dirty person, you become a sensation today.”

During a 1969 performance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Mason was embroiled in a dispute with CBS regarding the removal of part of his stuff from the show. Sein argument was that he was “tainted” by the edits, which included his criticism of President Nixon and the U.S. war in Vietnam.

On ABC in 1989, the bushy-haired Mason played a Jewish pyjamas salesman who falls in love with an Irish Catholic social worker (Lynn Redgrave).

Both series were created by Tom Werner and Marc Carsey), but Chicken Soup was terminated after 12 episodes.

When Rudolph Giuliani ran for mayor of New York, Mason had made incendiary statements regarding Jews and Blacks. Saturday Night Live’s Rick Moranis then made light of the whole event.

A rabbi like his father and grandfather, Jacob Moshe Maza was born June 9, 1928, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where his father had gone when he realised that New York City had an excess of rabbis.

After moving back to the Lower East Side, Jacob and his brothers became rabbis. City College of New York awarded him a bachelor of arts degree in the meantime.

Mason delivered jokes to his congregations at synagogues in Pennsylvania and North Carolina as he swerved toward his actual calling, comedy. It dawned on him that he was instructing people to pray to God, but praising blondes in the process.

After a year of trying to figure out what to do with his profession, Mason was hired as the social director at a ski resort in the Catskills. According to Newsweek, he was tasked with getting 95-year-old Jews to play baseball with him. As of 1959, he was working as a full-time comic.

Bill Dana and Jan Murray noticed Mason as he was performing stand-up in a Los Angeles nightclub. Mason became a famous guest on shows presented by Garry Moore, Perry Como and Jack Paar when Steve Allen heard about him.

Mason headlined as much as 50 weeks a year at the Aladdin in Las Vegas in the 1960s. As well as performing at the top of the bill in Miami Beach and Atlantic City, he was popular in the Catskills, earning $2,000 per performance, and appeared on The Dean Martin Show several times throughout the years.

“A Teaspoon Every Four Hours” is about a Jewish accountant who falls acquainted with a black lady after his wife dies. This play’s opening was repeatedly postponed, it was performed more than 100 times in previews, and then it was closed after only one official showing.

A semi-homosexual aura of haughty social refinement was preserved by the reviewers, who spoke their own language and lived in an ivory tower of theatre with all the pretentious bullshit it’s meant to symbolize.

This performance originated as a stand-up act at the Las Palmas Theatre in Hollywood in 1986. Mason took it to the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills before it soared to Broadway.

A reviewer for The New York Times stated, “The big audience goes crazy for this man because, in addition to his talent and his honesty, he provides theatregoers something they’re not used to finding on Broadway: truth.”

As a solo performer, Mason appeared in Jackie Mason: Politically Incorrect and Much Ado About Everything in the 1990s. As is typical for him, he finished his address with a passionate defence of the right to free expression.

Jared Mason wrote his memoirs in 1988. He married his wife Jyll Rosenfeld in 1991. As a co-writer, she worked on Stiffs, a 1985 comedy in which Mason played a funeral director.

Michael Mason’s daughter, Sheba, is also left to mourn. She was the product of Mason’s former relationship with Ginger Reiter.

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