Navigate to News section

Does Jackie Mason, at 85, Still Have Jokes? You Betcha.

In a rare club show in New York, the iconic Jewish comedian has some strong moments—and a few strange ones

Alan Zeitlin
May 16, 2017
Carl Lender/Flickr
Jackie Mason in at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida, 2006.Carl Lender/Flickr
Carl Lender/Flickr
Jackie Mason in at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida, 2006.Carl Lender/Flickr

“Are you a hooker?” Jackie Mason said to a woman near the front of the audience at B.B King Blues Bar & Grill in Times Square on a recent Saturday night. The question was itself rhetorical, but it signaled another inquiry that needs to be answered most of all—one that I imagine was running across the minds of the nearly sold-out crowd: Has the 85-year-old jokester lost his mojo?

I’ve seen Mason perform many times on Broadway. His timing remains impeccable. I laughed so hard during his recent show that my face hurt. In one instance, I almost pished in my pants, though I did drink too much ginger ale before the show.

Before this performance, I drank nothing, but a woman sitting at my table sipped some alcohol and said she hoped Mason wouldn’t do any Hillary Clinton jokes. Her hopes were dashed in a segment where he said he was trying out some new material, and discussed Clinton’s reasoning for why she lost the 2016 election.

“She’s claiming it’s the FBI’s guy’s fault that she lost, it’s her sister-in-law’s fault, it was some Jew that was hiding under the table, eating,” Mason said, getting some good laughs (although I’m still unsure as to who the sister-in-law is in reference to). “It was everybody’s fault but her. She doesn’t want to know that they caught her lying every 10 minutes and that’s why she lost. Every time she said ‘hello,’ she lied.”

He added that nobody can point to a single accomplishment of Clinton. Apparently, being a senator from New York, secretary of state and winning the popular vote in the presidential election are not examples of accomplishments. There was silence when Mason went on a rant against Bill Clinton, which began with comparing him to Bill Cosby. He also strangely referred to former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly as “Bill Riley,” although it didn’t seem to be a joke. And in perhaps the most bizarre moment, an extremely large staffer walked onstage to tell Mason it was time for intermission; the same man did the same thing at the end of the show, to tell him time was up. Couldn’t someone have given him a signal?

Mason took a few shots at President Trump, too, saying he didn’t look presidential, prompting a pro-Trump heckler to mockingly yell out that Mason was a genius. This prompted the comedian to say of the patron: “He wouldn’t be here if he didn’t think I was funny.”

Mason, though at times a step slower—as could be expected—showed he still has star quality. It was impossible not to laugh when he impersonated an elderly Jewish woman during sex protesting that her husband was taking too long: “Hurry up, already, please, the stores are closing,” he said.

He also said that Jews only go to the opera for the pleasure of telling people they went there, even though they really felt asleep.

“There’s nobody more full of shit than the people who tell you that they like an opera,” Mason said. “Nobody likes an opera. Even the opera singers are nauseous from the opera. Every time you go to an opera you see the same thing. Two people are screaming and 3,000 Jews schluffed.”

He also used some self-deprecating humor, saying that after men have sex, they are out for a month, and in his case, it’s for a year.

Mason mocked the media for saying coffee could cause cancer, and then saying it wouldn’t and avoid sugar due to diabetes.

“…So you won’t drink it with sugar, you’ll drink it with Sweet ‘N Low,” he said. “Sweet ‘N Low gives you cancer. So you figure you’ll drink it with milk. Milk‘ll kill you because of cholesterol. Now you got three ways to go you didn’t even eat yet.”

I hope Mason doesn’t go and keeps performing because he can still deliver a great show. He still has energy and it’s clear he loves it. He should swap the Bill Clinton jokes with jokes about technology. I can only imagine what his text messages are like.

Alan Zeitlin is a journalist living in Manhattan.

Become a Member of Tablet

Get access to exclusive conversations, our custom app, and special perks from our favorite Jewish artists, creators, and businesses. You’ll not only join our community of editors, writers, and friends—you’ll be helping us rebuild this broken world.