Jackie Mason: Freshly Squeezed

Note: This review is from 2004

Review by Steve Bennett

It’s not the best of starts for any show: a 45-minute delay caused by technical problems. And the audience are even less gruntled when we learn it’s because the lighting guy just plain forgot about the matinee.

"What’s so technical about sitting and home and forgetting the show?" Jackie Mason jokes. "And for an audience of Jews, too. Any later and someone would start suing."

Yep, Mason can make an ethnic joke out of anything, it’s what he’s famous for.

Of course, the whole tradition of Jewish comedy is to mock themselves, whether it’s the clingy mother, the spoiled princess or the hypochondria. It’s how modern stand-up got started - which means old-time Jewish comics have a contemporary feel that those who rely on stock mother-in-law-style gags can never hope to capture.

Much of Mason’s observations are lot more general than he pretends. It may be couched in terms of "Jews do this" – but you could change it for a more generic ‘people’ and it would just as well.

It’s not just Jews who get in the neck. Tonight he has bash at the Chinese and the Japanese – although he uses them both interchangeably, unable to distinguish between them as if they were the same people. Some of it’s jaw-droppingly offensive, as he wheels out slitty-eye jokes or mocks the accent with exaggerated gestures. He truly is the Prince Philip of comedy.

Mason revels in the controversy, of course, delighting at causing offence. The way he flips casual insults at the audience is a joy – accusing them of being wither ugly, stupid, a Nazi or – worst of all – a homosexual.

The way it’s delivered suggests its not meant with any hate, just the laziness of stereotyping. Yet much of his material suggests more liberal sensibilities than you might expect from the image – "every tycoon should be shot in the street’ he says, and elsewhere calls for a national health service for Americans. Michael Moore, look out.

But enough of the stance, what of the show? And the answer is pretty disappointing.

The pace is painfully slow, he repeats himself and he waffles on before realising he’s forgotten to do any jokes. When things get really bad he launches into a Hebrew song.

Maybe it’s his age, but there’s no focus and no timing. He announces an interval, then does a ten minute routine and then some before it actually arrives.

He does wheel out some old favourites, despite the programme’s audacious claim that this is an all-new-material show – and these are a lot more reliable, thankfully. The routines about the etiquette of trying to avoid paying restaurants bills is as funny today as it was three years ago in London, but it’s the exception rather than the rule.

If I was the lighting guy, I’d have stayed at home, too.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
July 2004

Review date: 1 Jan 2004
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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