The International Writers Magazine: American Comics
Dean Borok - an appreciation
Why is it that Oprah Winfrey has got billions of dollars, millions of adoring admirers and her own television network, while Jackie Mason can only claim a handful of Staten Island garbage collectors as his fan base and a dog house in Secaucus, New Jersey, named for him? Did you ever wonder about that?
Probably not. No decent, cultivated American or Briton would ever be caught dead openly contemplating the artistic renderings of such a coarse, uncouth swine as Mason, whose most notable literary offering is a volume of insults and invective entitled “Schmucks”, wherein he inveighs, in the basest possible terms, against all the values that refined, educated people embrace.
Whereas Oprah’s stated goal is to bring out those qualities of generosity and magnificence that she deems to be inherent in the human character, Jackie sees humanity from a rather different perspective. His act is a pregnancy test that turns blue when exposed to the grasping, greedy, porcine motivations that propulse human behavior at its basest level. Mason’s foul invective unleashes the vile petroleum deposit of animal instinct that lies buried beneath the oceanographic surface of hypocrisy until it is released into the pristine blue waters of civilized delusion to foul the surface, unleashed, like the putrid vomit gusher of the “Exorcist” girl, with surgical precision.
Nobody can stand Mason’s propensity for blowing down that house of cards of humane gentility that society has constructed with ever-so-loving care over a fault line of craven, cringing servility. Whatever base of goodwill he enjoyed among refined New Yorkers was swept away when he characterized the city’s popular (among Manhattanites, anyway) African-American former mayor, David Dinkins, as resembling “a fancy men’s room attendant”. After that, it was all downhill for ol’ Jackie.
Notwithstanding the historical fact that the Jewish presence in the New World extends back to Columbus’ voyages of discovery, where many of the ship’s officers and sailors were Spanish “marranos”, or secret Jews, and the fact that the first official Jewish community settled in New York City in 1651, predating every ethnic group here except the Dutch and the Native Americans, Mason, for purposes of comedic abbreviation, or out of ignorance, chooses to define them as a lump of imbecilic Eastern European matzo balls operating sewing machines and hoarding their money in mattresses. This has earned him no end of enmity among the descendants of these original greenhorns, who perceive themselves to be the spiritual heirs of (God help me) Edith Wharton and Jane Austin.
You can’t make this stuff up. Lenny Bruce, who came to an ignominious end for tweaking the nose of Americans’ propensity for self-delusion, used to do a bit where the old button vendor, who had put his kids through Oxford, receives a visit from them. The kids have cultivated a British accent like that of freakin Madonna, before she was given the unceremonious boot by her erstwhile Brit husband, Guy Ritchie, who now refers to her as “it”.
“Vell, how vas Enklandt?”
“Please, Pater, when are you ever going to learn the Queen’s English!”
Jackie Mason picks up this ball and runs with it. Despite complaints ethnic groups (not to mention the bottomless scorn of gentiles), Mason saves his worst shots for the Jews, and he carries on endlessly. Jews gorging themselves on ocean cruises, refusing to exercise, blaming their morbid obesity on an ethereal “metabolism” condition. It never ends, and it’s intended to provoke the same sensibilities in Jews that the Sopranos TV series provoked among Italian-Americans, where it drove them up the wall.
From Jackie Mason’s perspective, gentiles only exist as bogeymen to scare your kids. “Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of decent gentiles. Where they are, nobody knows”. He exudes malevolence with such glee that, like Don Rickles and Buddy Hackett, it makes him entertaining to watch. No wonder they hate Jackie uptown. In his world of goniffs, schnorrers and schmatte salesmen, any kind of civilized refinement is superfluous. Every word out of his mouth is dedicated to outraging gentile sensibilities. On the ballet: “She throws herself at this guy and he don’t want her. She throws herself at that guy, he don’t want her. And what’s the deal with dancing on her tiptoes? Can’t they find a taller girl?”
Naturally, it’s all in fun, but that’s not going to win him any friends among the WASP community, where you tell them a joke and they all retire to an adjoining room to complain about you. For Jackie, life is reduced to its most basic level. Niagara Falls? It’s water falling. “ ‘Look how high the water’s falling! It’s falling’. You think that’s high? Wait ‘til it starts raining. That’s even higher!” The Grand Canyon? “It’s a hole. Goyim (gentiles) come from all over the world to look at a hole! There’s nothing in the hole, it doesn’t move. What’s in the hole? Nothing. That’s why it’s a hole! The gentiles are looking, the Jews are wondering ‘What the fuck are they looking at?’”
Bill Clinton was not Jackie’s favorite president. “You know why Clinton was always running around in his shorts? People thought he was doing exercise. He was not doing exercise. He had so many broads that he had no time to put his pants on. Clinton is too crooked to be a lawyer! Everybody said he was an expert at foreign policy. You know why? Because everytime they told him ‘We’re having trouble abroad’ he said, ‘A broad? Let’s go!’”
One thing Jackie can’t tolerate is the French. “Where did the French get a reputation for elegance and class and style? The French happen to be the lowest sonovabitches in the world. And I say this with the highest respect. There’s nobody lower than the French. When you go to Paris, nobody treats you with more arrogance and obnoxiousness than the French. We saved them in two world wars. In two world wars! You would think that when you went there they would come out with a piece of cake, a cuppa coffee. Instead they look at you [screws up his face] with that contemptuous, obnoxious dreck attitude. Sonovabitches! When I was in Paris, I saw all those Paris-ites, and I’m telling you the truth. Sonovabitches. Everybody said we wanted their support for Iraq. Who needed their support for Iraq? They never fought a war, they can’t fight a war, every time a war came, they came running to the English, the Americans, those sonovabitches! They never won a war, they only won one war, the French Revolution, and that’s because THEY WERE FIGHTING EACH OTHER!’
“I don’t wanna talk too much about the French. They’re not worth the attention, those sonovabitches! These are the biggest cowards in the world. Didja hear the French navy is the only navy that has glass-bottom boats? You know why? So they can see their air force.
“I hope I didn’t insult anybody with anything I said”.
I personally don’t believe Jackie’s a racist. He lives in New York City, where there are a lot of Black people, and they are fair game like everybody else. But, like every other group, they are thin-skinned about what you say about them. New Yorkers are unbelievably coarse to each other but unbelievably sensitive when they are on the receiving end. Jackie complains that black hip-hop and comedy performers can use the n-word as much as they want, but when he does it, the public goes ballistic. Nevertheless, he does the same thing when slamming his own people. “This Jew”, “that Jew”, “the Jews can’t jump” etc. On a cruise, “the gentiles are running off to this island, that island, but the Jews stay on the boat because they might miss a meal. The only time the Jews go ashore is for the duty-free liquor. They spend three hundred thousand dollars for a cruise, but they go nuts when they can save eleven dollars on three bottles of liquor. And they don’t even drink!” But Jackie would go berserk if a Black comedian carried on that way about the Jews.
Jackie pokes fun at George Bush for being so mentally vacant, but he really goes to town on the Democrats, whom he regards as sexual degenerates. After exhausting the subject of Bill Clinton, he moves on to disgraced former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, who is good for a full five-minute barrage of explosive abuse and venomous disparagement, and, finally, to Spitzer’s successor David Patterson, who in addition to being a self-admitted serial sexual philanderer, has the additional comedic enticement of being visually impaired. “How did I know there were so many women?” he has Patterson saying. “I couldn’t see them so I thought it was the same girl!”
Israel is not spared. Jackie didn’t feel comfortable in a country filled with foreign Jews coming from disparate racial origins. “I thought I was in a South Bronx neighborhood filled with Puerto Ricans. And they’re tough people. That’s why they never invite American Jews to come and fight for them. They’re afraid they’ll get a bunch of physical rejects, like Woody Allen”.
The only public figure who gets off easy is, get this, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, whom Mason reveres and supports for the presidency. Never mind all of Giuliani’s obvious vulnerabilities, which any comedian could ride like a horse: the cross-dressing; his first wife deserting him to appear in “The Vagina Chronicles”; his kids hating him; his attempt to shut down the Brooklyn Museum because he didn’t approve of one of its contemporary art exhibits; the cops shooting up Black people all over the place, including one instance where they jammed a toilet plunger up the guy’s butt in Brooklyn; Giuliani’s spending $58 million to win the Republican nomination without garnering even a single delegate; his little buck-teeth Bucky Beaver face. You could build a whole act just on Giuliani, but Jackie Mason doesn’t lay a glove on him.
Which all goes to show that for all Jackie Mason’s talent for insults and buffoonery, he is an idiot and a moron, although that doesn’t make him any less entertaining as a performer. The world needs idiots. The present configuration of Seinfelds, Adam Sandlers and Steven Colberts (a Harvard man whose real name is Lipschitz, and who gave himself a name with a French inflection, no less, Colbert sounds like a gag that Jackie Mason would have thought up) – not funny! The comedy business is too full of wooden stool philosophers like Bill Cosby, who got an honorary doctorate from some university and now considers himself to be an expert at something or other, who now addresses college commencement ceremonies with a flat professor hat on his head – not funny!
The unifying element that connects all these nerds is that they are vulnerable to New York society, and afraid that people will laugh at them, a lamentable state of affairs for a comedian. So I say, right on, Jackie! Keep on being a jackass, the Last Jew Standing.
© Dean Borok Feb 2011