Borscht Belt standup comedian Jackie Mason died last month, but he metaphorically returns from the dead in Barry Avrich’s movie, Jackie Mason: The Ultimate Jew, which is being screened online by the Toronto Jewish Film Foundation.
Released in 2008, the film portrays the inimitable Mason in his final one-man show on Broadway. Speaking in a heavy Yiddish American accent, Mason, then 76, was at his prime, skewering everything and everyone in sight. To him, nothing is sacred, and his fans know what to expect. “One Jew, I do the same thing all the time,” he says.
Wading into the field of Christian-Jewish relations, he says facetiously, “There are a lot of decent gentiles. Where they are I don’t know.”
Looking provocatively at someone in the audience, he says, “There are a lot of homosexuals here. You’re not the only one.” He closes with a rebuke: “I resent anyone who picks on homosexuals.”
Recalling President Bill Clinton’s White House affair with his assistant Monica Lewinsky, Mason observes sardonically, “A Jewish girl is not interested in oral sex. An oral surgeon, maybe.”
Addressing Clinton’s wife, Hillary, Mason wonders why she tolerated his affairs. After all, you’re the First Lady, he says. But as far as Clinton is concerned, Hillary is not and was not the first lady to be seduced by him.
Skating on thin ice, the politically incorrect Mason likens Barack Obama, Clinton’s African-American successor, to “a Jew with a tan.” To Mason, Obama is not really black because his mother was white. So how did Obama decide that only the black part counted?
Mason, a rabbi-turned-comedian, praises Rudy Guiliani, the former mayor of New York City. Describing him as a man of principle, he says he should have been president. Loud boos are heard in the audience, momentarily unsettling Mason before he goes on the attack.
Turning to Israel, Mason claims that Israelis don’t want American Jewish volunteers in the Israeli army because they all resemble filmmaker Woody Allen, who often portrays schlemiels in his movies.
In a jab at the Palestinians, he says, “They offered me a job in Palestine, plus funeral expenses.”
Satirizing expensive French restaurants that serve up “status” food, he moves on to Japanese fare. “How come no one ate raw fish before it became sushi?” And then he adds that sushi was invented by Jews who figured they could open a restaurant without a kitchen.
In his mind, a Jewish businessman who loses money is a schmuck. But a Jewish gambler who loses a fortune is a “high roller.”
Poking fun at love and matrimony, he rates marriage as “a great thing” for only a bride and her mother. He then quotes a Jewish wife who’s submitting to sex from her husband: “Why are you on top of me? We did this thing a year ago.”
Jewish wives are typically mood killers in bed, he says. As a man is aroused, a woman pours cold water on his carnal desires by asking, “Do you know who died?”
In a riff on antisemitism, he remembers when big American corporations refused to hire Jews. “We didn’t care,” he states nonchalantly. “We owned the companies.”
He finishes on a personal note. “I hope I didn’t offend you by being too Jewish.” Assuming the worst, he says, “The last antisemites left in America are Jews.”
Or so he says.