Jackie Mason was one of the funniest comedians I ever heard. I was fortunate to see him a few times. He was even on QVC, selling an Orthodox Jewish wedding (he was a Rabbi). I didn’t work with him, but I heard he was quite a mensch on and off air during the remote broadcast.
He starred in 2 successful Broadway one-man shows. I was lucky enough to see him during the second one in the early 1990’s. At the time, I was dating a woman who happened to be Jewish. That’s an important element of this story.
We had front row, center seats for the show. It had been a great day in New York, shopping and then an early dinner at a great Italian restaurant. When the show began, it didn’t take long before Jackie spotted us. We were both dressed well. I wore a killer suit that I just had made. My date wore a really beautiful designer outfit. We looked good!
Jackie looked at her and said, “You look terrific, dear. Are you Jewish?” She said yes.
He looked over at me and said, “This guy looks sharp, but he definitely ain’t Jewish. We don’t have that many blondes (I hadn’t gone white yet.) You’re not a Jew, are you?” I answered no.
“This guy kind of looks like a Nazi. Honey, what’s wrong with finding a nice Jewish man. Look back at the audience. My shows are always full of them.” The crowd, myself included, laughed really hard. Back in the early 1990’s, people didn’t get offended that easily. Funny was funny back then.
For the rest of the show, he would take shots at me. “What do you do for a living?” I said I was in sales. “This is looking better. Honey (directed at my date), does he make good money?” She said yes. “Fabulous. This is looking better. Now we just have to convert the Nazi.” Again, we all roared.
For the rest of the show, he would turn his comedic chops toward me every few minutes. By the end of the show, my stomach was hurting from laughing so much. For his finale, they used strobe lights (something they couldn’t do today for fear of someone having a seizure) and he did a perfect Ed Sullivan impersonation. He had been banned from TV for years due to a misunderstood gesture on Sullivan’s show.
He received a standing ovation at the end. He walked over to the end of the stage, shook my hand and gestured for me to stand up. I was hesitant but he insisted. He said, “Please give a big hand to the best sport in New York!” My first and probably only Broadway standing ovation.
When he left the stage, his manager came to us and invited us backstage to have “coffee and a nosh with Mr. Mason.” He was delightful. He hugged me, shook my hand and said, “You’re the nicest Nazi I ever met.” We had a lot of fun for the several minutes before we said our goodbyes.
The world is a lot less funny today. Rest in Peace, Rabbi Mason. Your humor and good will lives on in our memories.