‘If it’s in the news, it’s in my show’
Comedian Jackie Mason said that when he appears at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 9, he will have “many things to talk about.”
In an e-mail interview with NJJN, the former Orthodox rabbi, born Yacov Moshe Maza, said, “My motto has always been: If it’s in the news, then it’s in my show.”
NJJN: How much time do you spend working?
Mason: Working for me is not just performing. I read at least half a dozen newspapers every day, cover to cover, so I can stay current and write new material. When I’m not doing that, I’m talking with all sorts of people in my neighborhood and just observing life, which also gives me material. So if you count that as work, I work about every hour of every day except a few hours when I have to sleep.
As for performing, I do about a dozen theater shows each year and some private dates, plus I like to try out my new material in small clubs in the area. So my touring schedule keeps me busy. But to tell you the truth, that’s not really work for me — I enjoy it.
NJJN: Would you say your material is aimed primarily at Jewish audiences?
Mason: Absolutely not. In fact it was with gentiles that I first became a hit. It was gentile club owners who would book me, and in those days, the clubs didn’t have a mixed crowd. They were all gentiles, especially out west in Hollywood.
My career then really took off with Ed Sullivan and all the other goy talk show and variety show hosts that couldn’t get enough of me. I was playing to the whole country that was mostly gentile. The Jews were late on the scene. They didn’t like me because they thought I was a little “too Jewish.”
My material is aimed at people. People who want to spend a few dollars and laugh at my jokes. Race or religion doesn’t make what I say any less funny.
NJJN: How political will your performance be? How much of it will be based on the upcoming election?
Mason: Political is a tricky word. There is lampooning of the current political climate and making fun of it, which I do a lot because that’s a big story now. But if you mean political, as in I’m evangelizing for a certain candidate, then no. I hate it when celebrities will turn their show into a campaign rally.
NJJN: In 2011 you called Donald Trump a “professional liar” and “the sickest man that ever lived.” Now you are supporting him. Why this change of heart?
Mason: The most important issue to me is peace on earth and to protect America from terrorism and how to maintain a successful economy. I support Trump because regardless of what is wrong with him, I feel Hillary Clinton is a much greater threat to whatever it is that makes America great. Her programs of taxation and regulation would stifle the economy; it would create a whole new recession and a great degree of unemployment and a great economic stagnation.
NJJN: There have been anti-Semitic aspects to the Trump campaign, such as the tweet he sent that labeled Clinton the “most corrupt candidate ever” behind a six-pointed star and stacks of cash, and the subtle Nazi reference in his “America First” references. Trump has also been endorsed by people such as David Duke of the Ku Klux Klan. How do you assure fellow Jews that Trump as president would not be a serious danger to them and to other minorities in America?
Mason: I probably have fans that are unsavory. You can’t pick your fans and you can’t pick your supporters. And if you are going to hold Trump to this scrutiny of his supporters than you should also do the same for Clinton. I’ve known Trump for years, and whatever my opinion of him, I know he’s crazy about Jews and Israel. You can turn anything you want into a symbol of bigotry. And to tell you the truth, the people who are using that against Trump and saw the stacks of cash and immediately thought “Jew” are anti-Semites themselves who are perpetuating a sick stereotype. As if no one besides Jews likes cash.
NJJN: You called for the blacklisting of Hollywood performers who favor the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement aimed at Israel. Isn’t that advocating the same tactic that opponents do?
Mason: If someone stabs me in the heart, I can’t stab that person back because it’s the same tactic? What kind of stupid question is that, mister?! Everything you do has consequences. And if you want to boycott something go right ahead. It’s your right. Right now in Hollywood, Israel-bashing is en vogue. It’s sexy and it’s easy to pick on a country filled with people who have been picked on for almost the entirety of their existence. But let’s see what would happen if they were boycotted and their career or life was ruined.
NJJN: Do you have any specific message for American Jews?
Mason: Send me a few extra dollars. I made being Jewish cool. You got that?!