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October 09, 1987 - Image 74

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-10-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Continued from preceding page

— a gesture Mason denies
making — the comedian has
soared from cult figure to na-
tional sensation.
Success hasn't sapped any
of Mason's considerable
energy. He prances around
the stage, his hands chopping
at the air like a 55-year-old
Karate Kid punctuating his
points with punch lines.
That singsong delivery is a
music of mischief, a sweet sar-
casm that takes the measure
of human folly and with a
fillip of flipancy, flips it upside
down.
But life was not always a
running gag for Mason, who
left the rabbinate to pursue
his muse. It was a decision
that meant breaking a long
line of Orthodox rabbis — one
of his ancestors had been
chief rabbi of Minsk.
"When I rebelled, it was as
if I had decided to become a
Nazi," Mason recalls.
Mason was ordained 30
years ago. He quips that he
decided to leave the shul
because "someone in the
family had to make a living."
But beneath Mason's kib-
bitzing is a compassionate
man. When he rebelled
agairist tradition, it was a
quiet revolution. Mason's
father never knew his son had
decided to change career and
lifestyle.
"It meant lying to my
father," says Mason. "He was
concerned that I still be
religious, and I would tell him
I was. I felt — and feel — corn-
passion is sometimes more
important than the truth. I
feel sometimes lying is the
more decent thing to do!'
Mason's brothers and three
rebbitzen sisters were "able to
face up to the truth right
away. They accepted and were
able to understand. But my
father — he was very severe
in his Orthodoxy. What I was
doing was like a criminal
act."
Mason's sentence was a life
of laughter and applause —
but only after his father died.
"I'm sure that if my father
were alive today, I wouldn't be
a comedian. Why? Out of con-
sideration and respect for
him.
"He was right in his beliefs.
What I wanted to do violated
his principles; I didn't want to
do that to him. In this world,
you're as good as your word!'
The word on Broadway is
that Mason can write his own
ticket now; audiences
sometimes wish they could do
the same. For those who have
trouble getting into the
theater — there have been
weeks when World has played
to more than 100 percent
capacity — there is a Warner
Brothers album of the show,

In his career comeback, Jackie Mason has earned a Tony Award.

some 90 minutes of madcap
Mason. The album, like the
hot hip show, is selling out.
Ironically, "selling out" are
words that remain anathema
to Mason. "I've always made
a good living," Mason says,
"without changing what I
do!"
But the Ed Sullivan inci-
dent seemed to take the
steam out of a rising career.
(The two reconciled later,
with Mason appearing again
on Sullivan's show.) There
followed resort appearances
and films (The Jerk, History
of the World, Part I) but never
attention like Mason is get-
ting now Jackie Mason has
toughed it out.
In fact, he'll tell you, he
may be the only tough Jew he
knows. "Jews were never
fighters," he says. "Ever see
four black people walk on the
street and say, 'Watch out!
There's a Jew over there'?
Sure, they don't want to walk
into a Jewish neighborhood
because they're afraid of be-
ing killed by an accountant!'
Certainly there are some
tough Jews — all in Israel.
"And they look like Puerto
Ricans," Mason jokes.
"People are changing their
concept of Jackie Mason
because I'm hot on Broad-
way," he says. "If I had
thought of this concept of a
one-man show 20 years ago,
I'm sure I would have been
some hit!'
Broadway, after all, is a
stunning showcase for a com-
edian who has earned a
Borsht Belt in belly laughs.
From the clubs to the Great
White Way, "It's like taking
a picture in the kitchen and
putting it in a museum!'
But Mason is no museum
piece — the laughter would
shatter the art work. "I hate
Chinese," exclaims Mason.

"They never eat in a Jewish
restaurant. I never saw one
Chinaman who says to me,
`I'm looking for a nice piece of
gefilte fish! "
Mason will be shooting two
movies: The Detective, with
Mason as an inspector, and
Love for Sale, starring Mason
as an accountant who serves
as a pimp for five Queens
housewives turned hookers.
"A true story," he swears.
Mason the movie star? Just
don't talk to the comedian
about his going Hollywood.
Beverly Hills? Feh, he says.
"In Beverly Hills, they're
always talking millions,
billions. Then the check
comes for a dollar and a
quarter, and everybody runs.
"Everyone says they live in
Beverly Hills — 'Beverly
Hills, sure I live right there,
well, maybe just outside it, a
little to the right, a few
seconds away.' Then you ask
how far away they live?
`Maybe 90 miles! "
The lunacy of L.A. is miles
away now — Mason's show
tried out there before coming
to Broadway. He doesn't miss
the mishugas; New York of-
fers its own brand of zaniness,
he says.
In the 1960s, Mason, con-
cerned that the city would
trash itself and float away on
the Hudson on its own gar-
bage barge of immorality, con-
sidered running for mayor.
His plans were scuttled by
the calendar — Mason realiz-
ed he would have to campaign
during July and August.
"Who stays in New York in
the summer?" he complains.
"It's too hot."
Of course he is in New York
now — his success fanned by
the fans who greet him on the
street, wait at the stage door
and yell out "We love you!"
from the rafters.

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