Jackie Mason is a true genius. This is a man who is able to take the pain and suffering of all things Jewish and make us laugh out loud at them. It is a combination of his rapid-fire, machine gun like cadence with his delivery, and the broad topics he covers in his shows that really prove he has no equal as the best Jewish comic of all time. He is nothing short of hilarious and insightful, even if he is a little short himself. On "The World According To Me," now finally available on CD for the first timeshow that made him a huge hit on Broadway beginning in 1986. For this world class series of rants and razor sharp observations, Jackie won a Tony Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, plus Ace and Emmy Awards, plus a Grammy nomination.
Not bad for a little guy, who began life in Sheboygan, WI and then moved to lower east side of Manhattan as a boy, where Jackie honed his comedic skills and timing first as a Rabbi and later a stand up comic in the early '60s. Jackie came from a long line of Rabbi's, his father was one, his grandfather, his great-grandfather, and even his great-great-grandfather were all rabbis. Jackie said he quit working as a Rabbi and became a comic because "Someone had to make a living." Jackie has made quite a living. He first rose to fame on TV during his appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, until his performing career was prematurely truncated by an allegedly obscene hand gesture Jackie made. Now, this really took its toll on Jackie's marketability, and for nearly 20 years he toiled in the small comedy clubs and Catskills Mountains venues perfecting his craft, much of the result is heard in his World Class comedy show, "The World According To Me." Jackie opens the set saying, "This show is such a hit, if you think it stinks, then you know there's something wrong with you!" This shows Jackie's absolute defiance for convention and penchant for being politically incorrect. Jackie is a tough son of a bitch, when it comes to accepting his own Jewish heritage; he pokes fun at so many aspects of it, "Every Jew I know will tell you he almost killed somebody. They always say if he said one more word, that was it...But no one knows what that word is. A Jew can't fight, but if you put him in the army he's great, and Italian will fight with anybody, but put him in the army and ppphew! (Jackie makes a raspberry sound here and gets a laugh from every Jew and Italian in the audience.) Jackie shows us the truth in ourselves, not just amongst Jews, but all denominations.
Similar to Don Rickles, Jackie shoots his point of view about all minority groups through a cannon out to his audience and they explode with laughter, time and time again. Jackie points out that "A Jew who can't afford a Mercedes says, you expect me to drive a German car? Those Nazi bastards!" and then continues to talk about people who say they live "Just outside of Beverly Hills, Everyone in L.A. says I live right near Beverly Hills, it shoulda been part of it, they forgot to make it part of it..." Then he adds, "Everyone in Beverly Hills hands you business cards from every pocket. I have this company, and that company, I sold this company to buy that company. And then you ask, are you making a living? Not right now...the only ones making money in Beverly Hills are the printers!" Jackie brings out so many cultural stereotypes in a unique storytelling style that is full of punch lines. His years as a Rabbi serve him well.
He preaches morality and decency in all of his lacerating remarks on Jews vs. Gentiles. "A Jew's house is a museum. They just show you things they never use. A Gentile's house is like a workshop. They are always fixing things!" This is one of those Jackie-isms that just overflows with honesty. Although it's been nearly twenty years since the initial release of "The World According To Me," Jackie's observations and storytelling style are as fresh as ever. Biting without ever being profane, in the age of Howard Stern, Jackie presents an irrefutable case for the ability of many Jewish comics to make incredibly revealing and hard-hitting without reaching downward to include profanity like Lenny Bruce, who obviously was an influence on Jackie. Similar to Mort Sahl, Jackie takes on all kinds of political subjects and fits them all under his 'Jew with a view' persona. When talking about Nixon's bout with phlebitis (check spelling here,) Jackie says, "You don't screw 200 million people and end up with syphilis!" Jackie tackles the Reagan era with equal deftness, "The country is going down the toilet and he's riding horses and eating jellybeans."
In more recent years, Jackie wrote and performed many more one man shows, including 1990's "Brand New," 1994's "Politically Incorrect," 1996's "Love Thy Neighbor," 1999's "Much Ado About Everything," and most recently, 2002's "Prune Danish." Plus Jackie conquered radio with his show, "Crossing The Line" which he co-hosted with criminal attorney Rauol Felder. But it was "The World According To Me" that put Jackie back on the map and set the standard for all Jewish comics to live up to. Jackie's way of sharing the Jewish experience takes the feelings of inferiority and persecution that many American Jews and immigrant Jews collectively, experience. "A Gentile woman never leaves the kitchen. A Jewish wife is afraid of the kitchen...they make homes now without kitchens...A Jewish housewife never makes a meal without making 12 deals first. If I cook tonight, I am off tomorrow. If I cook tomorrow I am off Thursday, and Friday we go to a Chinese restaurant. You know what I hate about Chinamen? We spend our whole lives going to their restaurants and you never see a Chinamen eating in a Deli!" Now, that's funny. Because there is so much truth attached to it. This is Jackie's gift. Making us laugh out loud, not squirm. Jackie is always fair in his rants, always the poet and never the one to put anybody down with anger. It is all based on irony. "When a Gentile walks in a restaurant, he doesn't know what to do. Two hour wait, that's okay. A Jew walks in like a partner. Do you have my table ready? You expect me to sit at this table? I need to sit closer to the wall, not so far from the window. The Gentiles have eaten 4 and half meals, while the Jews are picking out furniture!"
Jackie is at his best on the bits on the Jews vs. Gentiles, this is the heart of his act. "A Gentile is always drinking. Have a drink? Have another drink? A Jew never drinks but they're always eating. That's why most Gentiles are 7 foot 2 and forty pounds and most Jews are 4 foot 9 and 300 pounds. They never stop eating! At lunch they talk about dinner, after dinner they talk about where to get coffee, and after that, where to get cake. It's 4 in the morning and a Jew says let's have sex! We already had sex? Okay, let's have cake then." That's the single most significant observation to me on this recording, Jackie's most masterful of performances, that when all is said and done, no matter what your minority background is, we can have our cake and eat it together.
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