Jackie Mason hopes you like his solo show Fearless but he couldn’t care less if you don’t: he’s not coming back.
Yes folks, this is your last chance to see one of the master craftsmen comics of the age: this blast of an antidote to show business is so strong it acquires its own ironic, deflationary razzamatazz.
There’s a careless constellation of lights on the stage and a show business anthem on the soundtrack, “New York, New York.” That puts you in the mood.
But for what? A very old Jew with an unreliable hairpiece who ambles on and sticks a finger at a man in the front row and says, “Yes, you, I’m talking to you. Are you listening? Are you even alive?”
As with Ken Dodd, his only peer at this level, most of Mason’s material is achingly familiar, though the new stuff – the Harry Redknapp schtick, for instance, about making a gift of his money to a dog – is mostly well up to scratch.
But whereas Dodd works on energy, Mason functions on a complete lack of it. It’s endemic to his style, and his mindset. He ambles slower than a funeral cortѐge and can barely raise his eye-line beyond the middle stalls: yet they’re in fits at the back of the house.
Gentiles get excited over anything. Niagara Falls? It’s just water. The Grand Canyon? It’s a hole. What’s to marvel at? How stupid can you be? Talking of which, you can’t insult an Irishman, apparently, because he’s too drunk to understand it.
Ed Miliband’s a 12-year old Jew who’s against – what? – everything; or, rather, nothing, because David Cameron, though charming, isn’t for anything. He winds these insults through deceptively complex paragraphs of highly wrought and subtly inflected prose. The show’s a feast of language, for a start.
And Barack Obama is a wonderful speaker, but what is he doing? Nothing. He’s not even black. He’s a Jew with a tan. The political incorrectness is staggering, but Mason’s a licensed fool, he can say anything, that’s the privilege of a clown, always has been.
You think the show’s going nowhere then you look back on riffs that accumulate like avalanches on a velvet slope. Opera is a bedroom for rich Jews. The Olympics are providing a whole new city for people who’ve never seen a street before. The bombing of Afghanistan created nothing but caves: for people who already live in them.
Jackie Mason is the master of the slow burn and the jagged edge: Jack Benny without the sleek style and Lenny Bruce without the drugs. He’s a rumpled, obnoxious, cantankerous old has-been and he’s absolutely the bees’ knees, the top banana.
He ends with a series of wicked vocal impersonations – Winston Churchill, JFK, Henry Kissinger and Alfred Hitchcock – that combine accurate inflections with horrendously rude, Neanderthal blah. He strips all speech merchants of their dignity while descending even lower himself. That’s why he’s so funny, and so unusual.