Despite a “farewell show” three years ago, Suzanne Baum finds veteran comic Jackie Mason is still very much alive as she speaks to him prior to his new UK show next month.
Most people would be offended if they heard rumours of their passing, but not 83-year-old Jackie Mason. For even the man himself is somewhat surprised he is still hanging in there, exclaiming: “I thought I’d be a gonner by now!
“At my age I’m supposed to have passed away a year and a half ago already, but since I’m still here I need to keep active.”
And busy he most certainly is with rehearsals for his new READY TO RUMBLE show at the Adelphi Theatre-where he will perform six successive shows next month-in full swing.
“I decided to do this tour as I got made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Mason explains. “After all, I am still fit and healthy and so I said to myself ‘Why not?’ Europe is still in crisis and who better to lift them out of it than an old Jew.”
Talking about his age I ask him if any of his friends are still working in their eighties…
“I have friends who are still working but I have no idea if they are my age because they look so bad that I am afraid to ask how old they are,” Mason jokes. “In England one of my closest friends is Bruce Forsyth who I admire for so many things; he is not at all pompous or self-engrossed like many Americans I know.”
Sticking to his motto of “if it’s in the news, it’s in my show,” much of Mason’s new material in his show will target the recent elections, the Kardashians, President Obama and Syria, the Milliband brothers, Madonna and the Apple Watch.
And then there is of course his Jewish humour which Mason is well-known for; it comes as no surprise when I ask him who his ideal audience are!
“Gentiles, they are much easier to please, they’re not as particular or demanding and if they don’t like the show they don’t make a big deal out of it; unlike Jews who if they don’t like the show or feel I told an old joke make out like I’ve offended them personally. Half the Jews come to enjoy the show, the other half come to see what they can complain about.”
Despite the fact Jewish jokes make up a huge part of his performance, Mason is fiercely proud of his religion, visiting Israel as much as he can. For someone who at the age of 25 was ordained a rabbi (like his father, grandfather, great-grandfather and three brothers), I ask him if he ever regrets not following a rabbinical career.
“I quit being a rabbi to become a comedian as somebody in the family had to make a living,” he explained. “Anyway, every night on stage I feel like I am standing up and giving a sermon to my people so it’s quite similar.”
Making people laugh is the reason why Mason continues to “work”, although he hints that of course the extra cash is a bonus for doing something that comes so natural to him.
“Doing comedy and finding new material is very easy for me,” he points out. “I am an avid reader, I get through at least four newspapers a day and I am a TV news junkie so by the end of the day with the world in such disarray it is very easy to find humour in a dozen situations.
“And I’ll be honest; I also find the money I’m being paid very inspiring when it comes to planning a show.”
He may not want me being in the audience of his new show-I have been known to complain and be demanding (!)- but I’m sure he’s going to be dead funny and very much alive!
Jackie Mason’s ‘READY TO RUMBLE’ show will run at the Adelphi Theatre, 409-412 Strand, London WC2R 0NS from 1 to 6 June
Times: 1- 3 June at 19.45; 4-6 June at 18.30
Ticket Price £50 / £65 / £75 / £85
For more details, visit www.livenation.co.uk