If you can believe it, I've just called up Jackie Mason. Pinch me.
"I can't stand performers who think they're doing the newspaperman a favor. The newspaperman is doing you a favor by giving you free advertising," he rambles already. "If you have half a brain, you know that you're selling tickets because the newspaperman has the heart to write an article on you. So people should thank God, instead of complaining, these son-of-a-bitches."
Well, I wouldn't exactly call this a newspaper. But, um, yeah! What he said!
Mason is the eternally annoyed and annoying owner of That Voice, sort of a whiney, coffee-grind-and-nicotine gargle usually found under 10 doughnuts in a Brooklyn diner. Now that his pertinence has passed (he once pissed off Ed Sullivan!) he's taken his place as the Jewish Andy Rooney, crafting stand-up for the blue-hair/blue-diaper circuit, and stirring up slow-news-day controversy for those who still remember his name. But I think I like him -- I've had blue hair, and I sometimes pee my pants, after all. Except he won't let me talk. He's coming to town this weekend, though, which means muted hilarity will be available to you and yours.
What's getting your goat these days, grandpa?
"It's all new stuff. All about Bush and Iraq, with all the new situations and problems in Israel," he situates, then problems. "I keep up with the news by reading six newspapers a day, and keep in touch with every situation, and write jokes all day long to make sure that I don't do yesterday's news. Like those old Jews who keep talking about the second world war 60 years later."
Is it harder to make Bush funny than, say, Hitler?
"No, I think it's easier," he grinds on. "Unconsciously, people are looking for ways to escape, ways to change the subject in their heads, with the wars, the threats of wars, Al Qaeda, murder and destruction all around the world, and the other countries across the stream having people under the table, kidnapped, murdered. I make fun of the whole airport-security system."
That's funny! Oh, wait, he's not being funny yet.
"You don't have to do six jokes to get a laugh. You talk about now, as pathetic and very unfortunate the sides are to it, there's still inconsistencies and preposterous things that you can laugh at too!"
Ha, ha, ha. Don't get me started.
"This whole funny thing about Iraq and North Korea," he sets up the joke, "the administration trying to find a way to prove that Iraq is the real menace, not Korea. Why is Iraq the real menace? Because they might develop a hydrogen bomb. But the other one has the bomb, so once you have the bomb you're not a real menace."
Ho, ho, ho! That's a doozy!
"It's like, if a guy is attacking your wife all day, it's no problem." He scares me. "But if there's a guy looking, or thinking, or he's lost somewhere, these guys are the problem. Heh, heh, heh."
And do people laugh. Because while you may not hear it, I'm laughin'.
"People are laughing like hell at this, because the truth is that it's hilarious, because you're not laughing at somebody being killed or somebody that's just passed away. Like "Titanic! Titanic" to me was the dumbest thing in the world: a musical about 3,000 people drowning. Do you know how sick and sadistic you have to be to even think of music at a time like that?"
"If somebody said to you, 'I know a guy who just drowned,' would you say, 'No kidding, I've got a song for you.'
"Imagine if somebody said, 'Hey my uncle died.'" He starts to sing. "They killed my uncle, da da da da da."
Beyond less-than-clever rants about the dead and dying, Mason is notorious for cautiously self-deprecating laundry-list jibes about blacks, Jews, gentiles, Mexicans, Middle Easterners, and gays.
"I almost never see anybody offended by anything I say," he almost nevers. "I almost never get a telegram, a telegraph, a letter, a complaint about something offensive that I said. If people were offended, then you would hear from them."
Perhaps they dismiss you as a crotchety old man in diapers. Just a thought.
"They still identify you with something you said 30 or 35 years ago on Ed Sullivan."
Who? Anyway, somewhat superfluously, The New York Times stroked Mason's ego (or belly) recently with a metaphorical summation of his cultural importance, or something: "The wellsprings of Mr. Mason's comedy come from the bile ducts and the spleen, as he harpoons belly laughs in a storm of sociological seas."
Somebody's been reading "Moby Dick." Not just renting the porno version.
"I like the way they intellectualize a joke," he rents porn. "As far as I know I'm just making fun of what's happening, and they look for the underlying significance. They rationalize the momentous meanings."
Nice alliteration, signifying nothing.
"What's his name, uh, Woody Allen once said, 'I never knew how profound I am until I read it in the paper.'"
Perhaps you shouldn't read this.