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Jackie Mason Dies: 'Now You Get to Make Heaven Laugh'

Rabbi-turned-jokester was 93
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 25, 2021 9:00 AM CDT
Jackie Mason Dies: 'Now You Get to Make Heaven Laugh'
In this Feb. 4, 1991, file photo, Liza Minnelli chats with comic Jackie Mason during a visit backstage at the Neil Simon Theater in New York. Minnelli had dropped by to congratulate Mason on his new Broadway show, "Brand New."   (AP Photo/Michael Simon, File)

(Newser) – Jackie Mason, a rabbi-turned-comedian whose feisty brand of standup comedy led him to Catskills nightclubs, West Coast talk shows, and Broadway stages, has died. He was 93. Mason died Saturday night at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan after being hospitalized for over two weeks, the celebrity lawyer Raoul Felder told the AP. The irascible Mason was known for his sharp wit and piercing social commentary, often about being Jewish, men and women, and his own inadequacies. His typical style was amused outrage. Some of his jokes, and details of his life and work (younger generations might best know him as Rabbi Krustofski from the Simpsons):

  • "Eighty percent of married men cheat in America. The rest cheat in Europe," he once joked.
  • Another Mason line was: “Politics doesn’t make strange bedfellows, marriage does.”

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  • About himself, he once said: "I was so self-conscious, every time football players went into a huddle; I thought they were talking about me."
  • His death was mourned far and wide, from fellow comedian Gilbert Gottfried, who called him "one of the best," to Henry Winkler, who tweeted: "Now you get to make heaven laugh."
  • Mason was born Jacob Maza, the son of a rabbi. His three brothers became rabbis. So did Mason, who at one time had congregations in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Comedy eventually proved to be a more persistent calling than God.
  • "A person has to feel emotionally barren or empty or frustrated in order to become a comedian," he told the AP in 1987. "I don’t think people who feel comfortable or happy are motivated to become comedians. You’re searching for something and you’re willing to pay a high price to get that attention."
  • Mason started in show business as a social director at a resort in the Catskills. He was the guy who got everybody up to play Simon Says, quiz games or shuffleboard. He told jokes, too. After one season, he was playing clubs throughout the Catskills for better money.
  • He was banned for two years from the Ed Sullivan Show when he allegedly gave the host the finger when Sullivan signaled to him to wrap up his act during an appearance on Oct. 18, 1964.
Read much more on his life here. (Read more obituary stories.)

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