Jackie Mason: Fearless

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

‘If it’s in the news, it’s in the show’ boasts the blurb for Jackie Mason’s last ever run in London. And, boy does he skewer the modern-day politicians – I wouldn’t want to be Henry Kissinger or John F Kennedy, after you hear what Mason has to say about them.

Actually, that’s a bit harsh. His impressions of bygone statesmen is possibly the funniest section of the show, and he does, indeed, have something to say on Barack Obama – but despite the sales pitch, topicality isn’t the 75-year-old’s strong suit. A couple of undercooked routines about the London Olympics being expensive and Harry Redknapp opening an account in his dog’s name is as up-to-the-minute has he gets.

His comments on Obama are, however, one of several moments when the atmosphere goes distinctly strange. He sounds like a Republican Party commercial when he bemoans Obama’s lack of experience over John McCain, and the message overwhelms the humour. But that awkwardness nothing as to when he says the President isn’t properly black, asking the uncomfortable front row: ‘Does he look black to you?’

Liberals will further squirm as he claims there’s no discrimination against black people… although an excellent payoff makes the discomfort worth it. His ‘comedy Chinaman’ impression, on the other hand, has no such redeeming features, just a scrunched-up face and a ‘ying-tong’ voice.

But just when Mason seems like a throwback to an earlier time, he’ll surprise with a routine in favour of gay marriage. He’s a real ball of contradictions, this guy – but the one constant both here, and over his entire career, is his attitude of defiant, belligerent provocation.

Actually, some of his material has been pretty constant, too. He bills this as an all-new show, but much of it isn’t. There are some jokes that might charitably be called ‘classics’ – but also some more dubious ones, such as a gag about the 1997 Broadway musical based on Titanic (I don’t think it ever made the West End) that clearly has no relevance.

He even make a joke of the fact he was recycling old material. What are you going to do about it?, he teases the audience at these farewell UK shows(which tonight included one John Mungo Grant) Not come again?

Ten years ago, I recall mentioning that plenty of his targets were way too easy and dated, with him complaining that Starbucks is too expensive, and nouvelle cuisine (do people still call it that?) was insubstantial. And blow me if he isn’t still banging the same drum, to the same beat.

It’s part of his ‘money-can’t-buy-you happiness’ shtick that the richer you get, the worse things are: is a fancy meal any better than a burger? Aren’t five-star hotels a rip-off with their overpriced minibars and their lazy Latino room service staff. Oh Jackie, you fell into that dodgy race trap again…

On his own people, however, Mason is on to a winner, as he always has been. His descriptions of unsporting Jews, always with ailments, forever fretting about tiny details, strike a real cord with the sizeable part of the audience that come from his own demographic. He adopts a staccato rhythm as he ooh and aahs through all his aches and pains, twitching stiffly around like a malfunctioning robot.

Usually, though his delivery is a low mumble of discontent, whether on the tedium of marriage or the disappointments of everyday life. punctuated by plosive, disapproving expletives. It’s a cadence that’s become so closely associated with stand-up – and Mason’s the main reason why.

And that, really, is why people come to Jackie Mason; to experience the presence of a man who is undeniably a stand-up legend. On that, he can’t really fail. Whatever the complaints about the more lacklustre elements of the show, the biting arrogance is in full force.

Review date: 27 Feb 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Wyndhams Theatre

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