Monday, July 26, 2021

Quips and Quotations (Borsht Belt Resurrection Edition)

 

1964

1986

  It took twenty years to overcome what happened in one minute

--Jackie Mason 1931-2021

(Mason's descent into right-wing politics in recent years has turned me off to him quite a bit, but, that said, I really couldn't pass this one up. I have a great affection for Borsht Belt comedy--it's really what Mel Brooks is all about--and that Mason, the one-time Ed Sullivan Show pariah, was able to make a Broadway hit out of it during an era when it was increasingly being seen as a passé form of humor is nothing short of miraculous--Kirk)



  



(In case you're wondering why I'm not showing a clip of the notorious moment when Jackie Mason allegedly gave TV host Ed Sullivan the finger--which the comedian denied--the reason is simple: I can't find it. In fact, I can't even find a STILL photograph of him doing that. Mason certainly managed to put his past behind him--Kirk)

17 comments:

  1. Hi, Kirk!

    Thanks for remembering comedian Jackie Mason. I remember him well from those appearances on Ed Sullivan and other shows. I knew of the finger incident, but don't recall it specifically.

    You like Mel Brooks and Borsht Belt comedy a lot more than I do, but that's irrelevant here and now. It is indeed unfortunate that Mason, once a Democrat, wound up a supporter of Trump.

    One of my faves, Gilbert Gottfried, called Mason "one of the best." (Wiki source) << Actor Henry Winkler tweeted that Mason put on "truly one of the funniest shows I have ever seen .. ever .. thank you Jackie and now you get to make heaven laugh." >> (Wiki source)

    Thanks again for saluting Jackie Mason, a great talent and important figure in a vanishing style of stand-up comedy.

    Have a super week, good buddy Kirk!

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    1. Shady, listening to Mason's monologue on apartments, I was struck how much it resembled the more "observational" type of stand-up that came into being in the 1970s and still kind of dominates the field today. Jerry Seinfeld could have made most of those same points that Mason did in his monologue and it wouldn't have seemed out of character for him. Except there'd be no Yiddish accent (Seinfeld may be Jewish, but he's considerably more assimilated than Mason.)

      As for the finger incident, in case anyone doesn't know, outside the range of the TV cameras Ed Sullivan had held up two fingers indicating Mason had two more minutes to go before a commercial break or whatever. Mason then began to comically mimic Sullivan (which must have puzzled home viewers) waving HIS fingers around, and seemed to wave the middle finger in Sullivan's direction. More about this in my response to Debra.

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  2. Quite interesting that you can't find a still of Mason and the finger. Sullivan sounded like and looked like Reagan too much for me to like him, both blue jaws.

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    1. Reagan? Andrew, Sullivan always reminds me of Nixon:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYoTJhZuFlI

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  3. I'm not sure a photo of that moment exists. If one did, Mason would not have been able to deny it all those years.

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    1. Debra, back in the 1980s when Mason was riding high with his Broadway show, some TV magazine show did a story on him, and showed the giving-the-finger clip in regular time, and then again in slow-motion, with a circle superimposed around Mason's hand. This supposedly exonerated Mason, but to my weak eyes the whole thing was still a bit too ambiguous to judge one way or the other. I believe in the presumption of innocence and giving people the benefit (and the shadow) of a doubt, but it is odd that on the all-seeing, all-knowing Internet I can find John F Kennedy's autopsy, an aerial view of the National Security Agency, instructions on how to build an atom bomb, secret White House recordings of Lyndon Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover discussing possible homosexual infiltration of the federal government, and an explanation of how David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear, but not a single picture of Jackie Mason flipping the bird to Ed.

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  4. I’m so glad you mentioned his politics. I had always enjoyed his comedy and was very disappointed to read what he had to say in later years. Still, he had been a funny man.

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  5. Forgot to mention. I read that those who watched the film after the fact said Ed Sullivan was completely wrong about Mason giving him the finger. Still, given what Mason said in his later years, I would have given HIM the finger.

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    1. Mitchell, Borsht Belt comedy was in a sense outsider's art, and when it was political at all, it tended to skew toward the left. I mentioned Mel Brooks. What is Blazing Saddles after all but a giddy celebration of diversity and multiculturalism in the guise of a Wild West parody?

      What Mason eventually did is take something that originally skewed toward the Left and re-skewed it to the Right. It happens, especially in comedy. In a different context, Dennis Miller took Lenny Bruce-type standup, which was VERY left-leaning, and made that conservative. Then there's rock music. Ted Nugent LOOKS like a hippie, but his views would have made Country Joe bury himself head first in the Woodstock mud. As Linda Ellerbee once said, and so it goes.

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  6. Although I don't remember much about Mason from the years past, he had some good lines. I may pick a few out of the video for Saturday jokes.

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    1. Mike, when you do those jokes for your blog, don't forget the Yiddish accent.

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  7. I realize that people have many political concerns, and this sometimes results in conflicts over certain candidates, but supporting a monster like Trump is definitely going over the line for me, and in fact detracts from my enjoyment of even Mason's old performances. That being said, I appreciate the clip that you found about the apartment, as I like personal discussions about housing issues--they often reveal the real flavor of their era.
    --Jim

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    1. Jim, much of what Mason said about apartments, and no longer just luxury apartments, holds true today. But one thing that doesn't is the stuff about incinerators. Apartment building incinerators have been banned in many places, including New York City, where Mason lived. My own apartment here in the southwest suburbs of Cleveland has an incinerator chute, but it's plastered shut, a remnant of a less ecologically-concerned past.

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  8. I remember watching some of his stuff when I was yonger and he was funny. His fame reached Scotland! RIP Jackie.

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    1. Ananka, it looks like Mason's brand of ethnic humor was more universal than maybe even he expected.

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  9. Didn't know about him flipping the bird to Sullivan. Must've been fun AF.

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  10. He may have had fun, Alexander, but I think it led to some canceled bookings

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