Stand-Up Comedian Jackie Mason Dies At 93
Stand-up comedian Jackie Mason died in a hospital in New York City on July 24 at 93.
Mason’s friend Raoul Felder confirmed his death. He explained that Mason had been admitted to the hospital two weeks ago and suffered from several illnesses, including inflammation of the lungs.
Mason was well-known for his sharp-witted humor, his stories from his Orthodox, Jewish background, his Yiddish accent and his gestures. He made numerous television appearances and many successful one-man Broadway shows.
Mason was born with the name Yacov Moshe Mazain Sheboygan, Wisconsin. At some point, his family moved to New York City, where he became an ordained rabbi as well, like his father.
“I didn’t know there was such a thing as comedians when I was growing up,” Mason revealed during an interview with Fresh Air host Terry Gross in 1987. “When I was funny around [the] table in the house, I thought I was the only person who knew how to be funny in this whole world.”
He dedicated time to comedy and performed routines at summer resorts in upstate New York. Here, he mastered the borscht-belt style of standup comedy, which is known for its use of Jewish culture and expressions.
His career started to take off officially in the 1960s. He faced a few hardships throughout the years, including an altercation with Ed Sullivan, host of The Ed Sullivan Show, which resulted in a lawsuit.
“I was not being blacklisted, but it really put a bad damper in my career. I can’t deny that, because I was a very hot piece of property at that time,” he explained on Fresh Air.
Mason was able to get back on his feet during the 1980s with a one-man show called Jackie Mason’s The World According to Me! The show opened up on Broadway towards the end of 1986; he performed this show a total of 573 times. He won a special Tony Award in 1987, as well as an Emmy in 1988 after a shorter version of the show aired on HBO.
He performed in several successful one-man shows, including Jackie Mason: Brand New (1990-1991), Jackie Mason: Politically Incorrect (1994-1995), Love Thy Neighbor (1996-1997), Much Ado About Everything (1999-2000) and Jackie Mason: Freshly Squeezed (2005). His final show was titled Jackie Mason: The Ultimate Jew.
Mason’s humor was known to be controversial. He used a Yiddish word that was considered to be a racial slur when he spoke about black mayoral candidate David Dinkins in 1989. In 2009, he used the same word when he spoke about former President Barack Obama.
In 2002, Mason reportedly said that he did not want to appear with an Arab-American comedian on stage at a Chicago club. He later denied that he “ever refused to perform with anyone.”
In addition to comedy, Mason was a voice actor. He was the voice of Rabby Hyman Krustofsky, the father of Krusty the Clown on The Simpsons, for which he won his second Emmy in 1992.