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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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As to the Oxford Union and the English parliament: Because the British envy America, they enjoy seeing an American character like me. And I represented America to them. And Jewish. A Jewish New Yorker is a colorful interesting novelty to them, because they think of it as some kind of exotica. It becomes an experience. It’s like going to the circus: You see tricks you never saw before. And this is a trick they know they can’t see in England. So, I saved them a trip to America by coming to them, and they got a kick out of it as soon as I said “Hello.” Before I went over, everyone thought I would bomb. Because they couldn’t imagine it. Since Americans have an inferiority complex toward England since they see it as the culture capital and we’re supposed to be the street corner capital. So, they all felt the British would look down on me, they wouldn’t enjoy it, they wouldn’t know what I was talking about. I felt they were full of crap because all I knew was that whenever I spoke to an Englishman, he laughed.

When you went over you were that sure it would work?

I felt positive of it, right. What were the most popular sitcoms in America? The blacks. But it took them 50 years to get on television with a black sitcom because the executives thought whites would never identify with a black family situation or black characters in their own world. They thought it was a different world from the whites and they would never understand it or enjoy it. And it was exactly the opposite. Because it was so different was the reason they liked it so much. They thought the opposite. It was a stupid supposition to start with.

Tell me about your experiences going to Israel during the Gulf War. I know you almost got killed. Why did you go? What were the soldiers’ reactions?

The Jews were all nervous and scared about what might happen because nobody was able to predict the level of danger that would be involved. All they knew was that the Arabs had scud missiles that could come down at any time and place. The Israelis had some kind of system that was supposed to intercept and block these missiles. But we didn’t know how effective they would be and what would happen to the country. There was a real fear that they could wipe out the whole state of Israel. Everybody in Israel got panicky, and a lot of people started leaving the country. When I took the plane coming in, the plane was packed with people coming out. And when I told the Israelis I was coming, they looked at me like I was a maniac. They didn’t know if I was such a great patriot or just a nutcase. The Israeli embassy initially discouraged me from going. Because they couldn’t imagine someone coming into Israel at a time like that. But I was insistent. I felt it was a moral obligation for a Jew to show support at a time like that when the fate of the state was imperiled.

When we arrived, I was surprised: I thought no one would notice my arrival during a time of war. But I was treated like a hero: Generals, admirals, colonels, representatives of the whole government, the mayor of Tel Aviv; all kinds of people in the highest echelons of the government congratulated me and said how much they appreciated my coming there at a time like that. They were obviously very surprised.

You were the only star to come over?

Yes. The moment the press conference started, a scud hit the building nearby. People got killed. They pulled us upstairs to safety. Although there was no such thing as safety; nobody knew what building would get bombed. Every night the bombs went off around 5 or 6 o’clock. Everybody would run out of the dining room and never pay a check. During the day they took me around to visit the troops and army generals. They had the situation room at the Tel Aviv Hilton with the IDF giving briefings on the scuds and the battles. I got the briefings first.

What was it like entertaining the troops?

Just like you saw Bob Hope doing it before the army camps. They laugh before you tell the jokes. They were more anxious to show their appreciation than they even cared about the jokes. So, they were applauding to let me know how happy they were to see me and how thrilled they were that I came to them.

Were you secretly afraid the Israelis might lose?

Never. It never entered my mind. Nobody in Israel was afraid of that. They were just concerned about the uncertainty, the fear of gas missiles, the scuds. Everybody was desperately worried about that. They never thought it would destroy Israel, but they didn’t know where the hell they would fall. Everybody was waiting to hear the sirens. Everybody in Israel had a gas mask. They knew you had to jump out of the way.

Ariel Sharon was the housing minister then. You went to visit him?

He was always crazy about me. We had often spoken about Israeli politics. His opinions of everything. He always confided in me; it was off-the-cuff conversations. So, we go visit him. It was in the afternoon. We had our gas masks and everything. I met with Uri Dan and Sharon and we kibbitzed. I said to my wife Jyll, “We’re probably safest here with Sharon.” So, I said to Sharon, “If there’s an attack, where do we go for safety?” Sharon said, “What do you mean, ‘where do you go?’ ” I said, “Don’t you go somewhere?” Sharon said no. Like he was saying, “If I get killed, I get killed.” It didn’t seem to bother him. There was no safety where he was. No protection of any kind. The house wasn’t a fortress, no tanks or guns. You just saw a Jew in a little building, like an accountant in a little office. He admitted to me if a missile struck, we’d be wiped out in a second. I said other people had all kinds of precautions. He said, “I don’t.” I said, “Then what the hell am I sitting here for?” If he could get killed, who’s going to save me?

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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”

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.

gwhepner@yahoo.com

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…
http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/3912.jpg

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.

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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