Jackie Mason – Fearless

Wyndhams Theatre

Jackie Mason

They say it is best to quit whilst you're ahead and at 76 and after more than five decades in the business comic Jackie Mason is doing that. Well at least he's giving up his days of travelling abroad and doing eight performances a week once this farewell date is over. He still has what it takes to get an audience roaring, so it is as good a time as any to get out, and it's no accident that his last show is called Fearless.

So here he is in London giving his all for the last time. Mason enjoys being outrageous and I laughed a lot but I was also aware that others were laughing a lot more than me. I was ready to worship at the altar of this legendary ground–breaking comic but his material dipped once too often into the unbecoming and his gaze never extended beyond the front stalls so I settled for admiring his truly amazing talent with a sense of being slightly outside of where it was all at.

Raised in New York, Mason trained to be a rabbi like the four generations of his family before him and as did his three brothers, but Yacov Moshe left not long after ordination to take up a career in comedy under a new name. These things are what made him and New York, Judaism, Jews and Jewishness lie at the core of the stage persona, the material and the style of comedy of this "Ultimate Jew" (his words, not mine). But Mason was no class clown and there is still a detail and brilliance to his comedy and his observations about the differences between Jews and everyone else (there are only these two categories of people for Mason) which has everyone rolling in the aisles.

His say–it–as–it–is delivery gives an extra punch to his berating of the front row occupants who are not responding as required. "Try to stay awake" he badgers, "This is it". Pointing to some second rowers, he explains he can tell they're gentiles: their clothes don’t match. "I work alone" he bats right back to a heckler. His signature bluntness is applied to anything and everything—the pointlessness of wearing a tie, sex with prostitutes, the space programme, skiing, the Olympics and, more controversially, bombing Afghanistan and Obama not being black enough.

Once in his stride he is unstoppably funny as he tears away at pretension. Everything is fair game and the longer routines about how finicky Jews are when they buy theatre tickets, opera—"two gentiles are screaming and three hundred Jews are sleeping", and ballet—"Huh! It's for the same Jews who didn’t sleep enough at the opera", are Mason at his dismissively mocking best. When he tops even that with a cerebral spiralling argument about his therapist finding his true self, it is a master class in comic writing and delivery.

Fearless—yes. Peerless—definitely.

Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti

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