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Comedian Jackie Mason—Who Turns 82 Sunday—Is Still Really, Really Funny

But in an in-depth interview with Tablet Magazine, he also gets serious about Israel, anti-Semitism, and why Italians love him

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I’m proud of it because it is a reflection of the culture and the character of the Jews as a people. Jewish behavior, Jewish values, Jewish attitudes, everything about the world, the life of the Jew is encapsulated in this kind of comedy. Comedy is only an exaggeration of the truth. And it reflected the basic characteristics of the Jewish personality. So, you saw all the different elements, why and how Jews behave as they do in this country. Comedy doesn’t mean anything if there isn’t a basis of truth in it. Because you wouldn’t laugh at it if you didn’t recognize yourself or your neighbor in it. I’ll tell you a secret. It doesn’t have to be profound to be funny. It doesn’t have to be original to be funny. It’s just funny. My comedy became popular because people in general identify with it. They feel that I’m basically talking about them, and I’m reflecting on their lives; it’s a kind of a mirror of their behavior. Not only that, it’s a commentary on it, an evaluation of their behavior. Comedy has a point of view and basically, you can see what I think of it by the way I express it, by the attitudes of the comedy I find in it. That’s why it becomes a kind of social or psychological commentary. When I talk about the obsession with luxuries that some Jews have, that tells you very much about their whole personality problem: desperation for identity, for status, for position. He is involved in a contest with everybody around him to prove that he’s achieved more than the next person. And the best way he can prove he’s more successful than you is by what he buys, what he owns. And how expensive it is. That’s why Jewish people very often buy a thing for 10 times the money that everybody else thinks it’s worth. They can’t even figure out why they bought it. But because it’s expensive they’re anxious to pay for it to prove to themselves they can afford it and prove to you that they can buy it. That tells you more about a person’s personality than a hundred books. This is the way they achieve respect. If I can buy a $5,000 pocketbook, I suddenly become more successful than you through the pocketbook. What they can afford has become more important than anything else about their behavior. They have two problems. First they have to buy it. Then they have to figure out how to make sure you know it. That’s why Jewish jackets can be 10 times louder than Gentile jackets; that’s why their cars are 10 times longer.

And you came out of a very different tradition when you grew up.

I came from a religious family. I was so absorbed with religion that I didn’t think about material things. We weren’t involved with Jewish contests, with status. There was no status among the Orthodox Jews. How can you judge a person as more successful because he has a more expensive car? A fancier jacket? A bigger apartment? A nameplate on the shoes? You judge a person by how far they went scholastically, if he or she became a philosopher, a thinker, a writer, an artist, a scientist. A grand rabbi. They don’t wait to see his shorts or his shirts. Look at this new pope: how humble he is. He’s already made himself popular.

You were a big hit at the Oxford Union and in the English parliament. You have had an endowment Chair in Judaic and Hebraic Studies at Oxford University for the past 20 years. You have a radio show in England that is top-rated among intellectuals. And you are widely loved in Ireland. You say that you are even more popular in these countries than in America. Why is this the case? Can you talk about your experiences in these countries and how you feel about it?

Whenever you hear an English accent, in your mind you elevate the person to a higher level of intelligence. Because immediately you think you’re talking to Shakespeare. And you’re very honored that an Englishman respects you, because you feel he comes from a higher culture, a finer level of scholarship. He has some kind of a unique education that you can’t identify, but you somehow think it’s on a higher level than yours; you don’t know why. A guy could be a murderer but he says he kills people with an English accent and you can’t believe he killed somebody, because he sounds too cultured to do anything wrong. That’s a better mask than a mask. And ironically they don’t think of Americans as more highly educated than they are.

But they envy Americans because America is such an all-encompassing country and the center of all the popular culture in the world. The English are considered the most cultured people, but the most popular culture is the American culture. It’s ironic that while we worship the British for having Shakespeare and Dickens and what we think of as the great scholars of the world, the operas of the world, everything that represents high culture, the fact of the matter is that we’re 10 times more popular than they are. Cultured people know that they’re speaking to a limited audience. And when they see something that’s universally popular, they can’t help envying it. It’s a big thing to be a star on the stage in England. But the biggest star’s dream is to be a big star in America. In America we don’t dream of being a star in England. I never heard of an American prizefighter, an American actor, a baseball player, anybody, saying that his greatest dream is that he should captivate Leeds. No, what bothers him is that he never played Madison Square Garden.

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In The Coming Possible Dark Ages Of Muslim Domination Israel
Will Be A Light Unto The Nations.

The next war will not be like WW 11; it will be more like an
Enlarged Terrorist War.

Our future: Europe will fall to Islam and large parts of
East and North Africa. America is losing right now but we don’t know how that
will go. It is possible that a new president will make a positive difference.
If America should fall the possibility of a new Dark Ages is Real. It will
depend on the America people if they should wake up and see the danger that
will make all the difference.

Louis Trachtman says:

How can anyone not love Jackie Mason? I laugh out loud just reading what he says, and tears of laughter come to my eyes, hearing him! Thanks for posting that interview!!!!

gwhepner says:


A woman says to Jackie Mason: “You look good.”

“No kidding?” he replies.

“I didn’t know I looked that good.” He would

have proved himself more wise

if he ‘d not said that, for the woman then retorted,

“I didn’t say that you looked that

good,” for any compliment that has been courted

makes fools fall on their faces flat.

Yechiel Gordon says:

Hilarious! Oh, my God, I feel so persecuted by the Palestinians, with their zero planes and their starvation diets in Gaza and their tendency to be tortured by the Israeli government! I feel so persecuted by occupying their land, oh my Gawd! Ha! Ha! Ha! Hilarious!

Oy, Mr. Ariel Sharon, I laughed until I cried when I heard you directed the Qibyah massacre and worked closely with the genocidal Rios Montt regime — now that Montt has been in the dock for genocide, Israel is almost as beloved as when we helped Apartheid era South Africa track the movements of black people all over the country.

And all those self-hating Jews, none of them named here! They hate themselves, so they criticize Israeli human rights violations! Yes! That is what an objective psychiatrist would diagnose as self-hatred! Oy, you are funny, FUNNY!

Yechiel Gordon says:

Hilarious! Oh, my God, I feel so persecuted by the Palestinians, with their zero planes and their starvation diets in Gaza and their tendency to be tortured by the Israeli government! I feel so persecuted by occupying their land, oh my Gawd! Ha! Ha! Ha! Hilarious!

Oy, Mr. Ariel Sharon, I laughed until I cried when I heard you directed the Qibyah massacre and worked closely with the genocidal Rios Montt regime — now that Montt has been in the dock for genocide, Israel is almost as beloved as when we helped Apartheid era South Africa track the movements of black people all over the country.

And all those self-hating Jews, none of them named here! They hate themselves, so they criticize Israeli human rights violations! Yes! That is what an objective psychiatrist would diagnose as self-hatred! Oy, you are funny, FUNNY!

Harry Truman says:

I am closing in 60 years old, and from the moment I saw this guy I never understood the attraction. He is part of this sub-group of American Jews who think criticism of anything Israel does is treason, criticism of any right wing Jew antisemitism, and the notion that Jews as a people are not genetically predisposed to genius heretical. His diction mocks, not honors, the fractured syntax and accent of immigrants a century ago who aspired to speak the King’s, and not pushcart, English. I’ll bet he thinks the prophet Jeremiah, and Yitzhak Rabin, were schmucks for being so down on their own people. The less we hear of Rabbi Mason, the better. He is a living monument to chilul hashem.

mbermangorvine says:

Very interesting. Mr. Mason clearly has a lot on the ball. I think his answer to the question about
anti-Israel Jews is spot on about these people’s
motivations (here’s looking at you, Liel Liebovitz) , though I do have some qualms about the last
sentence–clearly there are Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank whose experience of Jewish power has not been one of “never being bothered.”

Rich Klein says:

Jackie Mason in the interview sadly reinforces the same sick stereotypes Jews have been fighting for centuries. He’s more of a self hating Jew than someone supposedly proud of his heritage. But he’s used the “schtick” to make tons of money. Doesn’t mean it’s funny or even right. In short, he’s capitalized on anti-Semitism.

Son_of_J says:

Is it possible that Jackie Mason is more popular among non-Jews because he lets them laugh at Jews without feeling anti-semitic? His act always seemed to me as giving cover to people laughing at Jews. Even in this (unfunny) interview, Mason says vile things about the Jewish community as a whole, then criticizes OTHER Jews as self-hating.

Beatrix17 says:

In 1953 after numerous incursions by Palestinian infiltrators and the murder of a young mother and her two children, Israeli soldiers, whose nation was only 5 years old, entered the village of Qibyah where 77 civilians were killed. The Palestinians had only killed 24 Israelis.

Because of this, Israel made a vow to only fight back against military targets in the future, which is why Palestinians soldiers always hide among civilians so Israel can always be accused of killing civilians no matter how careful they try to be. If children are killed, the Palestinians insist that young male and female Israeli soldiers kill children deliberately.

The Palestinian propagandists use Israeli conscience against the Jewish people, as Gordon is trying to do here. And according to Gordon, because of
this long ago military excursion that Israel obviously regretted, Jews are not allowed to laugh any more.

Beatrix17 says:

Rios Mont became the dictatorial head of Guatemala in the 1980s as the result of a coup. He in turn was overthrown after which he served in the Guatemalan congress until recently. When he stepped down from office, he was put on trial for massacres, was found guilty 5/10/13, but this result was overturned by the Guatemalan courts 5/20/13.

The anti-Communist Mont was an ally of America. As another ally of America, Israel helped to train Mont’s troops and so, according to Gordon, Israel is responsible for any mistakes Mont made while in office. And because she made peace with Egypt, Israel must be responsible for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Meanwhile, think of all the murderous dictators and war mongering leaders the Palestinians have aligned themselves with, think of all the massacres they’ve participated in, yet their propagandists think its okay to blame Israel for her own and her allies mistakes.

Morrissey says:

At the start of the interview, this lame-brained old schmuck vapors on about intelligence, and decency, and helping people. Then a little later, he sneers at Jews who stand with the Palestinians against the persecution of the Israeli state: “To them a Palestinian is an underdog because he doesn’t have a fancy car and a big house. But how are they the underdog if they persecute the Jews all their lives and the Jews never bother them?”

That’s not only woefully dishonest, it is the kind of abject, stupid ranting that you would have heard from the most intolerant Jew-haters in Poland in the early 1940s. That it comes from someone who pretends to be affected by that horrific legacy is the most brutal irony.

There ARE decent, humane, thoughtful Jews who DO fight for human rights in the United States and in the Occupied Territories; silly old fools like this schlemiel are not part of that honorable, liberal, humanitarian tradition.

Morrissey says:

Israeli conscience is being used against the Jewish people, is it? Congratulations on composing the funniest piece of logical reasoning since this…

Only, yours isn’t funny, it’s repellent.

Mariana Petoom says:

Jackie Mason has never been funny–merely offensive.

Robin Fox says:

Jackie has a very talented and funny daughter who is a comedian- Sheba Mason. She is his child but even with DNA proof he does not have any relationship with her. He has done nothing to support her career as a comic and as far as I know never seen her perform. I used to adore this man but his values are totally messed up. He has a beautiful child and wants nothing to do with her. I know Sheba, she is a very sweet , hardworking and funny young lady . Shame on you Jackie. I lost all my respect for you. How bout you write an article about this….

Beatrix17 says:

Israel, like all countries, has made mistakes, but she’s the best nation the Middle East has produced since WW2.

Like you, I hope the Paletinians form a nation. Unlike you, though I wish Israel could do more, I think inept Palestinian leadership if more at fault that recalcitrant Israeli leaders, some of whom have offered the Palestinians the sun, moon and stars and have been ignored by the Palestinians or have had to suffer intifadas.

I’ve benefitted from liberalism, and conservatives are going to continue to fall flat on their faces if they don’t acknowledge liberal contributions (Social Security and Medicare are not going anywhere).

The drawback to liberals is that they can’t acknowledge people’s adulthood and independence. They think everyone has to be taken care of even in the prime of life. Palestinians, like Israelis, are in their prime, and there is no
reason that Palestinians can’t form their own nation. The problem is
that the Palestinian leaders want Israel to take over half their people (the right of return)—their leaders have no confidence in their own ability to run a nation.
That’s the conservative strong point—independence.

Beatrix17 says:

You know there are Palestinian millionaires and billionaires who are friends with their Israeli counterparts and who would like peace just as the Israelis would. You know that the Palestinians have their own leadership and free
elections, which their leaders don’t want to continue. You know that
Palestinians have their own security force and have had since the Oslo accords.

You know the land the Palestinians are on belonged to Jordan and Egypt not to Palestine. You know that Jordan exiled the Palestinians to the West Bank and Gaza after Arafat tried to overthrow the Jordanian King. You know that Israel won the land in the Six Day War and is the first nation to offer this land to the Palestinians for a homeland. You know that Hamas got Gaza because Sharon removed all the Jewish settlers and gave the land to the Palestinians. I’m sure you know all this and aren’t getting your historical perspective from Arab propaganda.

Morrissey says:

The Israeli occupiers have offered their victims “the sun, moon and stars”, have they?

Maybe they would be better advised to simply obey international law and return all the land they have stolen from the Palestinians, dismantle the illegal settlements, and tear down that annexation wall.

In other words, stop being a rogue state and start obeying the law.

South Africa did it, and so will Israel—eventually.

Morrissey says:

Robin, are you by any chance….Sheba?

Scott Tennis says:

If you don’t find Jackie Mason funny you’ve been born without a funnybone and/or, more likely, you’re one of those pro-arab idiot Jews who immediately recognized themselves in Mason’s characterization of that crew.

Beatrix17 says:

Israel hasn’t stolen land, hasn’t behaved like South Africa, has broken no international laws, and as a legitimate nation established by the UN, she is less a rogue state than America ,taken from the Indians, Australia, started by convicts on land stolen from Islanders, and England, started by people who lived in caves and painted themselves blue.

You really need to lay off the propaganda.

Beatrix17 says:

BTW, as has been said so many times, Israel only wants to keep two large settlements contiguous to Israel and has offered the Pals an equal amount of Israeli land, and the wall was built to stop Palestinians from blowing up buses, discos, and pizza parlors.

Beatrix17 says:

If you were only this clever about parsing Palestinian propaganda.

judahdan says:

Drink some more Kool-aid.

meirmoses says:

Yeah right. Why?

meirmoses says:

He’s a comedian, not a philosopher. He’s spot on about many things and he recognises that Jews find such levels of transparency intimidating.

meirmoses says:

Hilarious. You clearly haven’t even read the interview because clearly he doesn’t think these things in the slightest.

meirmoses says:

But Israel has a higher Muslim population by % than Europe! So how does that work?

Beatrix17 says:

Remember, when Israel helped Mont, an American ally, she didn’t know how he was going to turn out. Neither did we in America. How much can you blame Israel because some of the West’s allies turn out bad?

Mariana Petoom says:

I thought I explained why. His humor was offensive and gross. We don’t all dance to the same fiddler, so you may enjoy him and I found him absolutely not funny.

In a message dated 6/10/2013 8:54:40 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

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Sheryl Burpee Dluginski says:

Thanks for this thought provoking interview David and Jackie. Judging from these comments Jackie Mason stirs up strong emotions in people. I hadn’t thought about it much before now, but my father, a gentile, was a big fan of Jackie Mason. He was also an anti-semite. And he took great pride in taking our family for long weekends away at Catskills resorts, especially the Concord, because it was the most expensive one. He said it was where all the rich Jews stayed and he wanted to show them that gentiles could afford it too! Hmmm…Ironic…and very interesting.

for a few short years, Mason’s humor was refreshing. He then degenerated into some pretty crude material and resorted constantly to his own brand of racism.

he’s an idea whose time has long passed with a following that is slowly making its way out to Welwood Cemetery on Long Island

41953 says:

The clip on Jewish husbands was sooooo dated. Assuming those sterotypes once existed, they don’t exist now.
if you wanted to show that Jackie Mason is funny, you made the wrong choice.

Yechiel Gordon says:

Ha! Ha! Ha! You are almost as funny as Jackie Mason himself!

Yechiel Gordon says:

Yes, Israel never looks into the records of the dictators they arm! They were– SHOCKED — to find that Somoza used Galil assault rifles to shoot people! Shocked to find that Idi
Amin used the weapons they had sold, they are still shocked that the illegal occupation of Palestine is illegal! Ha! Ha!

Rios Montt did not kill on purpose! It was a mistake — ha! when Israel provided weaponry to the gentle Suharto, they were surprised he made the mistake of killing 250,000 people.

Jackie Mason should hire you as a writer. Achh, what an imagination you have, my boy!!!!!

Yechiel Gordon says:

Yes, this is why Israel accidentally kills civilians on a regular basis, as for example the 1400 or so people they killed during the Cast Lead slaughter. I can see why you are laughing so hard, now.

Yechiel Gordon says:

Jeremiah and Rabin were essentially opposites — Jeremiah an opponent of state worship and Rabin a mass murderer and war criminal.

Beatrix17 says:

There was nothing accidental about it. Israel was attacked and fought back. As a result, Hamas is trying to stop further rocket attacks by its crazies.

Beatrix17 says:

I don’t blame your mother for you.

Morrissey says:

“Israel was attacked and fought back.” That is the precise opposite of the truth.

You are either a fool or a malicious liar. Probably both.

Morrissey says:

You have failed to mount a coherent response. Of course, there is nothing you can say to justify Israel’s murderous actions, but you don’t even try. You have the intellectual heft of, …oh, Jackie Mason.

judahdan says:

You have failed to notice that you are completely brainwashed.

Beatrix17 says:

Hamas admits to attacking Israel, but says it’s not their leadership that’s doing it, but rouge elements within their society.

Stop with the insults. They can’t replace facts, and all you seem to know is propaganda. Especially calling women names makes you seem like a spineless coward.

Beatrix17 says:

I’m a girl.
The occupation of the West Bank and Gaza only became an occupation because Israel offered this land they won from Jordan to the Palestinians. It has never belonged to the Palestinians and won’t belong to them until they sit down and negotiate a peace treaty with the “occupiers.”
No one said Mont was a good guy only that the West, who backed him, didn’t know at first that he’d be bad.
And you keep copying Morrisey’s ideas and vice versa.


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Comedian Jackie Mason—Who Turns 82 Sunday—Is Still Really, Really Funny

But in an in-depth interview with Tablet Magazine, he also gets serious about Israel, anti-Semitism, and why Italians love him