Jackie Mason

Jackie Mason

Mason in 2006
Birth name Yacov Moshe Maza
Born (1931-06-09) June 9, 1931[1]
Sheboygan, Wisconsin, United States
Medium Stand-up
Nationality American
Alma mater City College of New York (B.A.)
Years active 1961–present
Genres Political satire
Observational comedy
Improvisational comedy
Subject(s) American politics
International relations
Current events
Race relations
Jewish culture
American culture
Spouse Jyll Rosenfeld (1991–present)

Jackie Mason (born June 9, 1931)[1][2] is an American stand-up comedian and film and television actor. He is ranked #63 on Comedy Central's 100 greatest stand-up comedians of all-time.[3]

Known for his delivery and voice, as well as his use of innuendo and pun, his often-culturally-grounded humor has been described as irreverent and sometimes politically incorrect.[4][5]

Early life

Born Yacov Moshe Maza in Sheboygan, Wisconsin to an Orthodox Jewish family, he grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City.[6] He came from a long line of rabbis.[7][8][9] As a teenager, he worked as a busboy at resorts in the Borscht Belt in New York's Catskill Mountains.[10]

Mason graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the City College of New York. At age 25 in 1958, he received semikhah from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and was ordained a rabbi (as his three brothers, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had been), in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.[11][12] Three years later, he resigned from his job in a synagogue to become a comedian because, he says, "Somebody in the family had to make a living."[13]


Mason was a comedian at the Fieldston Hotel in Swan Lake, New York, in the summer of 1955. He was let go because his act was considered too far ahead of its time. The patrons had never been exposed to a comic who seemed to be ridiculing them. A few years later, Don Rickles came along, but by then audiences had become open to this type of humor throughout the Borscht Belt. He performed at New York City Clubs, and then on the Tonight Show with Steve Allen.[14]

Mason made several appearances as a guest on The Ed Sullivan Show during the 1960s.[15] He claimed to have been on the first episode to feature the American television debut of the Beatles, although research does not bear this fact out.[16] Mason revealed during his appearance on the BBC show Desert Island Discs that at the time he did not think much of the group, referring to them as "four kids in search of a voice who needed haircuts".

In 1969, Mason made his Broadway theater debut in the comedy play A Teaspoon Every Four Hours, which he wrote with Mike Mortman. It held the Broadway record of 97 previews and closed after its official opening performance (a preview record only succeeded by Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark with its 182 previews prior to opening). In 1986, Mason made a triumphant return to Broadway in The World According to Me, his first of several one-man theatrical shows, and was well received both by critics and the public. One of these shows, Politically Incorrect at Broadway's John Golden Theater ran into trademark problems because it was performed at the same time that Bill Maher's TV show Politically Incorrect was on the air.[17] Maher brought a lawsuit against Mason's production, which was dismissed as frivolous. Mason was able to use this show title, and it is one of his most successful road productions. Between these shows, Mason played the lead in a short-lived television sitcom called Chicken Soup alongside Lynn Redgrave.

In 1992, Mason won an Emmy Award for his voice-over of Rabbi Hyman Krustofski in The Simpsons episode "Like Father, Like Clown",[18] making him the first guest star to win an Emmy for his role. Mason has also appeared in The Simpsons episodes "Today I Am a Clown," "Once Upon a Time in Springfield," "The Ten-Per-Cent Solution," "At Long Last Leave," and "Clown in the Dumps;" the latter episode focuses upon Rabbi Krustofski's death and its effects on his son, Krusty the Clown.

In a 2005 poll to find the Comedian's Comedian, Mason was voted among the top-50 comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders. He was also ranked #63 in Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time.[19] He holds the record for the longest-running one-man show in the history of both Broadway and London's West End.

His full-length motion picture One Angry Man was released in 2010 throughout the US and Canada. Mason's latest film Jackie Goldberg: Private Dick was a direct-to-DVD release, released by FilmWorks Entertainment.

Personal life

On August 14, 1991, Mason married Jyll Rosenfeld.[20] Mason was a Democrat but is now a registered Republican.[21]

Sheba Mason

Sheba Mason is the daughter of Jackie Mason. She is also a comedian.[22][23][24][25]


1968 ad for the Jackie Mason Show

"Middle finger" incident

On October 18, 1964, in an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Mason allegedly gave host Ed Sullivan the finger on air. Footage of the incident shows Mason doing his stand-up comedy act and then looking toward Sullivan, commenting that Sullivan was signaling him. Sullivan was reportedly letting Mason know (by pointing two fingers) that he had only a couple minutes left, and to cut his act short, as the program was about to cut away to show a speech by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Mason began working his own fingers in his act to make fun of the situation and pointed toward Sullivan with his middle finger slightly separated. Sullivan was clearly angered by this and banned Mason from the show. Mason denied knowingly giving Sullivan the middle finger; he later claimed that he had never even heard of the middle finger gesture at that time. He was banned from the show for a period of time.[26] To clear his name, Mason filed a libel suit at the New York Supreme Court, which he won.[27][28]

Mason made a comeback appearance on the TV program two years later, and Sullivan publicly apologized to him. At that time, Mason opened his monologue by saying, "It is a great thrill ... and a fantastic opportunity to see me in person again." Mason would never appear on the show again.

Use of the term "schvartze"

In 1991, Mason was criticized by African-American organizations such as the NAACP when he called New York mayor David Dinkins "a fancy schvartze with a moustache."[29] He later apologized.

Statements on Palestinians

Mason, in 2003, counseled Israeli leaders to consider the total expulsion of Palestinians from Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip.[30] Mason and Raoul Felder wrote, "We have paralyzed ourselves by our sickening fear of World Opinion, which is why we find it impossible to face one simple fact: We will never win this war unless we immediately threaten to drive every Arab out of Israel if the killing doesn't stop."[30] They added:

We are brain-dead if we accept the idea that we have to guess which Arab is our next killer. We are not obligated to victimize ourselves by letting the Arabs play Russian roulette with Jewish lives. Israelis are constantly asked the same obnoxious question: 'How can you throw the Arabs out? where would they go?' The answer is, if they don't care whom they kill, why are we obligated to care where they go?[30]

Suzuki-McMullen altercation

On March 30, 2012, Mason was in an altercation with a friend at the time, Kaoru Suzuki-McMullen. Mason claimed that, while making her exit from his apartment (where Mason and his wife Jyll Rosenfeld live) on West 57th street in New York, Suzuki-McMullen attacked him. When the police arrived, Suzuki-McMullen claimed that she was attacked by Mason, but was arrested, with the police declining to arrest Mason.[31] On May 12, 2012, all charges were dropped against Suzuki-McMullen when both sides agreed to drop the matter.[32]

Rabbi Meir Kahane

Mason is a known admirer of Rabbi Meir Kahane.[33] He openly endorsed Kahane's plan to pay Israeli Arabs unwilling to accept Israeli sovereignty, to emigrate. He also served as the honored speaker at a fundraising event for a yeshiva founded by Kahane.[34]

Jews for Jesus lawsuit

On August 28, 2006, Mason filed a lawsuit against the group Jews for Jesus for using his likeness in a pamphlet.[35] His image was used next to the tag line "Jackie Mason...a Jew for Jesus!?" Mason said in court papers filed in New York:

While I have the utmost respect for people who practice the Christian faith, the fact is, as everyone knows, I am as Jewish as a Matzah ball or kosher salami.

Mason has claimed that the group was using his image and fame to gain attention and converts. The group responded to the suit by saying, "Shame on him for getting so upset about this."[35] The lawsuit was settled in 2006, with Jews for Jesus apologizing.[36]

One Jerusalem

In January 2001, Mason co-founded the organization One Jerusalem in response to the Oslo peace agreement. Its stated cause is "Maintaining a united Jerusalem as the un-divided capital of Israel."[37]


Selected TV, film and radio roles

Television specials


One-man shows


Video blogging

Mason has appeared in over 200 self-written video blog entries on YouTube, in which he gives his opinions on current events and politics. He has also experimented with podcasting, and in February 2012 appeared on the cult British podcast Answer Me This!, to promote his West End stand-up show, Fearless.


  1. 1 2 "Jackie Mason". Comedy-Quotes.com. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  2. Jackie Mason at the Internet Broadway Database
  3. "Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time". Comedy Central Presents. 17 April 2004. Comedy Central. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  4. Chris Bergeron (2008-09-20). "Frankie Valli, Jackie Mason to perform in Worcester". Daily News Transcript. Retrieved 2008-10-04.
  5. Jackie Mason The Official Site: All About... Retrieved 2014-07-14
  6. Ed Sullivan Show episode guide
  7. Basile, Nancy. (2006) The Simpsons Awards, About.com, Accessed 29 August 2006.
  8. Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time at the Internet Movie Database
  9. Jyll Rosenfeld at the Internet Movie Database
  10. n/a, n/a. "Jackie Mason at NNDB". NNDB. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  11. Schudel, Matt (October 29, 1989). "Jackie`s Little Girl Comic Jackie Mason Looks Like A Harmless Little Man, But His Jilted South Florida Lover Has Another Story To Tell: She`s The Mother Of His Love Child". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
  12. Whetsell, Tripp (April 27, 2012). "Getting In on Jackie's Act". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 2, 2015.(subscription required)
  13. Prendergast, Daniel (April 1, 2012). "Jackie Mason's many loves". New York Post. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
  14. Beckerman, Gal (January 5, 2011). "Oy! Jackie Mason Has Family Drama". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
  15. Biography for Ed Sullivan at the Internet Movie Database
  16. Chadwick, Alan (June 13, 2006). "Metrolife: Jackie Mason". Metro. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
  17. 1 2 3 Mason, Jackie and Raoul Felder. "Time to Threaten Arabs with Mass Eviction." The Jewish Press. January 29, 2003.
  18. Schram, Jamie (March 30, 2012). "Jackie Mason's gal pal arrested after home brawl". New York Post. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
  19. Italiano, Laura (May 14, 2012). "Jackie Mason, gal pal drop assault charges". New York Post. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
  20. Friedman, Robert I. (November 8, 1987). "Kahane's Money Tree". Washington Post.
  21. "Geopolitically Incorrect". New York Magazine. November 27, 1995.
  22. 1 2 "Oy! Jackie Mason sues Jews for Jesus." MSNBC. August 25, 2006.
  23. Anemona Hartcollis (2006-12-06). "To Settle Suit, Jews for Jesus Apologizes to Jackie Mason". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-04.
  24. "About Us." One Jerusalem.

External links

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