Jackie Mason is back doing what he does best: ribald, feisty standup comedy, laced with more than a few choice curse words. More than a year after critics panned his last Broadway show, which featured his classic bits interspersed with ill-advised musical numbers, Mason sticks to his usual schtick in his latest outing, "Freshly Squeezed," at the Helen Hayes Theatre.
In his seventh one-man show on Broadway, Mason delights his fans with the kind of piercing social commentary for which he's famous, as well as the usual bits about rich Jewish women and the differences between Jews and Gentiles.
If much of the material seems as though it's been recycled, that's because it just about has. The jokes may change with each show, but the subjects of Mason's ridicule and wrath remain largely the same -the glut of cell phones in the world, the differences between men and women, hard-to-understand foreigners, politicians.
Mason even pokes fun at himself at the beginning of the show, telling his audience not to say anything if they think they've heard a certain joke before. He swears, the material is all new. Inevitably, one heckler speaks up, but Mason seems to expect it, and gets a big laugh by putting her in her place.
Despite its flaws, Mason's brand of comedy will always be part of his charm, which explains why he is still such a top draw at age 74. He's still among the best at delivering a one-liner, and his commentary on society remains sharp and hilarious.
Consider his slam on "The Gates," Christo and Jeanne-Claude's public design project in Central Park earlier this year: "Did you think the thing missing in Central Park was orange curtains (kyeer-tuhns)? ...if you had those orange curtains in your house, you'd throw them away."
Mason also gently chides gay culture while excoriating politicians who oppose same-sex marriage. In a funny bit, he acknowledges that gays have overcome a lot in recent years and found immense pride in being gay. He notes that gays have become so proud, in fact, anytime two of them get together, a parade starts.
Mason saves his greatest faux-vitriol for feminism, though. He remarks how far women have come in the professional world, yet jokes that women still find a way to avoid paying the bill at the end of the night. He also wisecracks that women always manage to get half their spouse's assets in a divorce, even if all they did during the marriage was "sit in the house."
As always, Mason touches on politics, giving equal time to poking fun at President Bush and his former Democratic rival, Sen. John Kerry. Mason lets Bush have it for skimping on the details during the presidential election, while he lambasts Kerry for being wishy-washy. Even though the election is now several months removed, the jokes still retain their zing.
Mason is perhaps his best when he laughs at himself, ending the show with a message to those in the audience who didn't enjoy his act: "if this is the best you can afford, that's your problem."
If laughing this hard is a problem, Jackie, we're all in trouble.
As plumply dapper as ever, that strutting bantam-boxer stance undaunted, Jackie Mason is back in town, as of last night.
Although Broadway has had more than its fair share of one-person shows this season, for his special audience Jackie is the tummler of tummlers, and wherever he appears, the Catskills are alive with the sound of Mason.
After his unwise experiment a couple of seasons back with a musical revue, Mason has seen the light, and returned last night at the Helen Hayes Theater as a solo act -a show somewhat cumbersomely called "Jackie Mason: Freshly Squeezed - Just One Jew Talking."
And talking…and talking. Jackie Mason is a loudmouth, and anyone with half a sense of humor should be grateful.
As the show's title implies, his material is fresh. Lost are the old jokes his regulars had gotten to know so well - the routines on the differences between Jews and gentiles, the price of coffee at Starbucks - all gone with the wind.
But his mannerisms -those outstretched arms, the robotically articulated walk, the one-sided interplay with victims in the front row - are as constant as the Star of David.
If only the new material were as edgy as the old.
I found myself missing those wickedly apt Jew/gentile jokes, and much of the political stuff he uses now, post-presidential election, seems a trifle dog-eared.
Worse, the way he barrels after his chosen themes with ever-increasing intensity leads him dangerously close to comic overkill.
That said, as he roams the stage with a certain portentous stateliness, he can still hit moving targets: cell phones, the Atkins diet ("the only person who really stuck to it is dead"), insider trading (he's pro Martha Stewart), automatic toilets and the trials and perils of erectile dysfunction.
He's also funny - at least from a masculine viewpoint - about women and men, especially women, men and money. (When a busboy and a woman CEO go out to dinner together, guess who's expected to pick up the check?) He's even better on the subject of women eating together in a restaurant, deciding who eats which portion of what, and how are they to divvy up the bill.
This, at least, is vintage Mason. But judging from the delighted screams and laughter, if Jackie is your glass of seltzer, then it's all vintage Mason.
Jackie Mason and "Spamalot" make an odd Broadway pair facing off across 44th Street, as the veteran comic acknowledges in the introductory spiel from his new solo show, "Jackie Mason: Freshly Squeezed," which opened at the Helen Hayes Theater last night.
As he celebrates roughly two decades of appearances on Broadway, Mr. Mason jokes that the crowds clamoring for tickets at the Shubert Theater across the way are just disappointed Jackie Mason fans settling for seconds. "They're getting my overflow," he says with a shrug.
In fact, there's probably not a tremendous amount of overlap between audiences for the two productions. The Monty Python musical spends a whole song lamenting its supposedly slim chances on Broadway with an exclusively gentile pedigree: "You just won't succeed on Broadway if you don't have any Jews," one of its capering knights sings. Perhaps sensing a marketing opportunity near at hand, Mr. Mason has subtitled his show "Just One Jew Talking."
Maybe an alliance could be formed to the benefit of both parties. I, for one, wouldn't mind seeing Mr. Mason trading shtick with the Pythonians, got up in faux-medieval garb and schlepping a sword, muttering, "This you call a musical?" A jolt of the unexpected might improve both shows.
It might also antagonize their audiences, of course. For, despite the obvious disparities, reactions to the one Jew talking and the many knights vamping are remarkably similar. At the Helen Hayes as at the Shubert, peals of laughter rock the auditorium, almost irrespective of what's actually happening on stage. Laughter can be born of surprise or recognition. Both "Jackie Mason: Freshly Squeezed" and the little musical across the street deal almost exclusively in comfort comedy.
Mr. Mason is so solicitous of his audiences' comfort, in fact, that he has sometimes shown a reluctance to affront them with any new jokes. "Freshly Squeezed" can be seen as a departure of sorts: it's being promoted as a feast of exclusively new material.
This is not false advertising. When Mr. Mason launches into his naughty mimicry of an incomprehensible Indian man, he's impersonating a doctor, for once, and not a taxi driver. This is progress! He has also retired from action the well-worn routines about the differences between Jews and gentiles. (Dare I confess I missed them?)
But the new material doesn't quite put Mr. Mason at the cutting edge of today's comedy. He devotes a long routine to the popularity of the Atkins diet and its many brethren, a well-trodden comic path. It's already late for gags about "The Gates," too. (Mr. Mason didn't care for them, imagining the architects of Central Park expressing satisfaction with their achievement, save for a nagging quibble: "Where can we put an orange curtain?") Other subjects: how boring the Oscars are, the ludicrous prices of room service, spurious lawsuits, President Bush's unfriendly relations with the English language, John Kerry in general.
But it's Mr. Mason's style and not his material that matters. The intensity of his fans' enjoyment doesn't really correspond to the sharpness or freshness of his observations. For them, Jackie Mason is funny; he doesn't have to act funny. Mr. Mason has so cunningly manufactured and marketed his dyspeptic comic persona - the herky-jerky movements used to embellish the routines, the voice that's like a sinus infection with a bad back - that he may soon be able to refine all actual jokes out of his act, and still slay 'em. That's chutzpah.
It's also a little endearing. The tendency on Broadway, and not just across 44th Street, is to strain to land each joke as if the future fate of showbiz hinged on it. Mr. Mason, by contrast, doesn't expend much energy in his two hours on stage. He wouldn't cross the street for a punch line. (Forget a holy grail - feh!) Why should he? He gets some of his biggest laughs by complaining that he's not getting laughs.
Jackie Mason is back doing what he does best: ribald, feisty The ads for "Freshly Squeezed," Jackie Mason's latest one-man foray onto Broadway, trumpet that the comedian's material is 100 percent new. This is notable because his last outing, 2003's "Laughing Room Only," recycled offensively unfunny bits from his 2002 solo show, "Prune Danish."
With its intimations of Florida orange juice, the title "Freshly Squeezed" makes oblique reference to the older Jewish snowbirds who remain the target demographic for Mason's Borscht Belt comedy. Unlike his last few productions, in this one he rarely comes off as a condescending racist.
Which is not to say that his material here is 100 percent fresh. His reports from Curmudgeonland include the following insights: President Bush is inarticulate. Room service is overpriced. The Academy Awards are boring. Married guys are miserable. Women want to establish an emotional rapport with a man before hopping into bed.
This time out, his politics, though mildly controversial, never sink to picking on Puerto Ricans. Turns out he's in favor of gay marriage and legalized marijuana. He believes that cigarette smokers shouldn't be allowed to play dumb by suing Big Tobacco, and that most white-collar crime goes unfairly unpunished.
We still have to hear Mason make fun of Indian accents and Arabic names. Many of his riffs seem like relics of a bygone era when people still referred to movies as "pictures," and "Sex and the City" hadn't yet propagated the news that a woman can go out on the town without bringing a man along to pay for it.
There are plenty of Mason fans out there, and they may find this comparatively palatable show more satisfying than his other recent attempts. Jerking his arms like a potbellied robot, Mason even hits on some comedy that will appeal to less adoring audience members. When he tells a ridiculous story about a teaching hospital where 17 med students investigated his prostate, even the Mason-intolerant may find it difficult not to smile.