Jackie Mason: 'London audiences are the most spectacular'

Ahead of his return to the West End next week, Jackie Mason tells Michael Coveney about performing for the Queen and why he’ll never play golf

'Prince Charless seems a little Jewish to me' - Jackie Mason
'Prince Charles seems a little Jewish to me' – Jackie Mason

Welcome back to London. What makes you want to visit us again? Is it the audiences, the food, the weather?
It could be the weather – you get at least 11 seasons in one day in your city. But in truth the audiences and the food are fantastic… well, let's say the audiences, at any rate. In fact of all the places I have played around the world, along with New York and Frankfurt, the London audiences are the most spectacular – I really love and appreciate them. And I'm sorry, I shouldn't suggest that about the food – it's terrific, but since I'm only allowed to eat warm water, kale and steamed fish I don't have much experience of your food.

Is a London Jew as susceptible to your humour as a New York Jew?
In my opinion Jews are the same all over the world. Having said that, all human beings are essentially the same. We're all a little insecure and worry about our appearance (except possibly me and George Clooney), we all want to impress the people around us and we all think we know better than them – which in my case happens to be entirely justified.

Do you have to be Jewish, anyway, to find you funny?
I know you are going to find this hard to believe but 70% of my audience is Christian and has been for the last 25 years. You don't become an international sensation like me with just Jewish fans – just ask Her Majesty the Queen for whom I've had the privilege of performing many times and who, as far as I know, is not Jewish. Although, Charles does seem a little Jewish to me.

As a performer, do worry about running out of material?
I want to ask you a question, as a journalist are you running out of questions? Does Elton John run out of notes? Does France run out of cheese? I think you can take this as a 'no' and as I always say, "if it's in the news, it's in the show".

Is your view of the political situation in the Middle East as pessimistic as ever?
Positively, the Middle East is not just unravelling, it has unravelled and while I believe it was a mistake to go into Iraq knowing what we know now, the bulk of the mess can be laid at Barack Obama's doorstep. It is the first time in my life that I can ever remember America leading from behind. I also feel that the antagonism that my President has shown towards Israel has created an undercurrent of anti-Semitism around the world and in some cases it's not even an undercurrent, it is overt actions.

Did you ever take up golf?
Absolutely not, when I go for a walk I don't need to stop and hit a ball every three minutes. And I don't accept golfers telling me how difficult it is and what skill it takes to hit it 53 yards – I always tell them "schmuck, get a bigger ball".

What do you like to do in London, apart from perform?
I walk a minimum of two hours a day, that is part of my exercise regime, so I love to walk up and down the streets because the architecture is so fantastic. I also like to go to all the new restaurants – not to eat, just to look and think about what I might be eating if I didn't have such a healthy diet.

What is your favourite television programme, and why?
I would say The Sopranos, because I never saw a television show that ever reflected a slice of life with such unique realism and honesty. I also recognise quite a few of the characters; in fact I'm pretty sure I've seen some of them in the audience when I've performed in Vegas – not that I know them personally, of course. In fact, it's all coming back to me now – I never saw them before in my life.

Do you have heroes in show business, and which younger comedians do you admire?
I wouldn't say I exactly have heroes, but I certainly see people whose work I admire and respect. Of the younger comics – younger than me, I mean – I think Chris Rock is hilarious.

What can we look forward to at the Adelphi Theatre?
You can look forward to an evening of sheer brilliance and I say this with the highest of respect and humility… In fact now that I think about it, this show is so great I myself can't even get over it.

Jackie Mason – Ready to Rumble is at the Adelphi Theatre from 1 to 6 June 2015