Jackie Mason, who went from rabbi to star of stand-up comedy, has died at the age of 93: NPR


NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 22: Jackie Mason has lunch on 6th Avenue in Manhattan on March 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bobby Bank / WireImage)

Bobby Bank / WireImage

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Bobby Bank / WireImage

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 22: Jackie Mason has lunch on 6th Avenue in Manhattan on March 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bobby Bank / WireImage)

Bobby Bank / WireImage

Stand-up comedian Jackie Mason, who followed a journey from rabbi to a borscht belt comic, died Saturday at a New York City hospital. He was 93 years old.

Mason’s longtime friend Raoul Felder confirmed the death to NPR. He said Mason was admitted to the hospital two weeks ago and suffered from various ailments, including pneumonia. There is no indication that COVID-19 was a factor in the comedian’s death.

The sometimes controversial Mason attracted national attention with his quick viewing humor, which led to TV appearances and several successful solo shows on Broadway. Mason used stories from his Orthodox Jewish background, a thick Yiddish accent, and wild gestures to entertain his audience for decades.

Mason did not know that comedy could be a career

Mason was born as Yacov Moshe Maza in Sheboygan, Wisc. a long line of rabbis. His family later moved to New York, where he originally joined the family store becoming an ordained rabbi himself.

“I didn’t know there was something like a comedian growing up,” Mason said Fresh air hosted by Terry Gross in 1987. “When I was having fun [the] table in the house, I thought I was the only person who could be funny in this whole world. “

He fell into comedies performing routines at resorts in the Catskills, New York. There he mastered the fighting style of standing, known for his great reliance on Jewish culture and expressions.

After a rocky start, his career began in the 1960s. But along the way, some bumps occurred, including a rift with Ed Sullivan, host of “The Ed Sullivan Show,” which ended in court.

“I wasn’t on the blacklist, but it really mattered badly in my career. I can’t deny it, because I was a very hot property at the time,” he told Fresh Air.

He came out of the turmoil and won Broadway recognition

Mason was able to revive his career in the 1980s with a solo show called “Jackie Mason’s The World By Me!” It opened on Broadway in December 1986 and ran for 573 performances. He received a special Tony Award in 1987 and an Emmy in 1988 after a shortened version of the show aired on HBO.

Other successful solo shows followed, including “Jackie Mason: Brand New” 1990-91. “Jackie Mason: Politically Incorrect” 1994-95; “Love Your Neighbor” 1996-97; “Lots of enthusiasm for everyone” 1999-2000. And “Jackie Mason: Freshly Squeezed” in 2005. His last show was called “Jackie Mason: The Ultimate Jew.”

Mason’s controversial humor and embrace of political incorrectness often put him in a hot spot. He allegedly used a word in Yiddish that is considered a racial stain when he spoke of a candidate for black mayor, David N. Dinkins, in 1989, according to The New York Times. Twenty years later, he drew attention by using the same word in relation to President Barack Obama during a 2009 play.

Cases of antipathy towards Arabs, especially Palestinians, have also been reported. 2002 it was reported to be Mason asked not to appear with an Arab-American comedian on stage at a Chicago club. He later issued a statement, denying that he “ever refused to perform with anyone”.

Far from the scene, Mason found success in voice acting. His repeated role as the voice of Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky, the father of Krust Clown, in the film “Simpson” garnered a second Emmy in 1992.

He is survived by his wife and manager Jyll Rosenfeld and a daughter.

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