ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
Jackie Mason:Freshly Squeezed --Just One Jew Talking!
By Elyse Sommer
It's been twenty years since the acid-tongued, droll gnome with the Goliath-sized ego began delivering his pronouncements on everything from cellphones and diets to sex to Broadway audiences. The Freshly Squeezed subtitle of his seventh show represents his promise that your $81 won't buy your two hours of mostly recycled material. An additional subtitle on the Playbill's cover , Just One Jew Talking is another promise, this one to stick to his an one-man shows rather than attempt something different as he did on his roundly panned last show, Laughing Room Only.
But freshly squeezed as Mason's latest anthropological riff may be, it's squeezed from the same old comedic genes. The jokes and topics are basically new, but the package is familiar: Mason's robotic facial and body movementss, the staccato speech rhythm, the insults aimed at those sitting in the front row. Everything adds up to a decidedly been there, heard that flavor.
The Indian taxi drive jokes of old, are now at the expense of Indian doctors. Mason's starts his observations on our current customs and obsessions with an amusing discussion of cellphones. His talk about gates is not about Bill but the saffron colored ones recently installed in Central Park, an art enterprise that struck Mason as a silly idea since " the trick is not to see curtains but to see the park."
The audience made up of an unusually large number of people who looked as if they'd never seen a carb they couldn't devour, thoroughly enjoyed a long riff on the Atkins diet (from which "no one ever died except Atkins") and other no and low carb regimes. Sex and it's many variations, an always favorite topic, led from an almost passionate espousal of same-sex relationships ("I don't care if a guy's in love with a horse -- unless it's my horse") to Mormon marriages. Mason expresses admiration for any man who can persuade twelve women to live with him and concludes that such an arrangement adds up to "a group of women who like to make love every two weeks -- they are Jewish women!" Misogynistic reference to women generally and middle-class Jewish women in particular are a Mason-ic trademark and this show is no exception.
Unfortunately, Mason has eased up on politics which is too bad since he was often sharpest when putting down and imitating presidents and mayors. Freshly Squeezed has nary a juicy tidbit about Mayor Bloomberg. Given that Broadway is just the final stop in a tour that included Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Columbus, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Los Angeles, it was apparently just too much bother to customize the material for each city.
As there are no references to local political figures, neither is much attention paid to people in the national or international headlines. In the second act Mason does finally get around to George W. Bush whom he describes as "one of the greatest presidents but nobody knows about it -- because he can't explain it. " He also takes on the president who might have been (Kerry) and his wife and there are a few random jokes about the billions in Arafat's personal possession at the time he departed from the world ("did he need all that money for clothes?") and the elusive Osama bin Laden. On the whole, however, the political commentary is the equivalent of a few sound bites, especially when weighed against the exhaustive attention to bathroom humor.
As you can see from the links below, CurtainUp has covered half of Mason's Broadway visits. When I saw The World According to Me in 1986, before this publication's existence, I was struck by how diversified the audience was. As the political sketches have moved more and more to te back burner, so if the matinee I attended is an indication, the folks coming to see him seem to be mostly his core audience: older Jews for whom he represents the last of the Borsht Belt style standup comic. This may account for the cantorial exit that marks the end of both the first and second acts.
There's still something uniquely funny about the raised eyebrows, funny walk and accent of this keenly observant ex-rabbi. But to this Mason watcher this return to the Great White Way somehow feels more reconstituted than freshly squeezed.
Jackie Mason's Laughing Room Only
Much Ado About Everything
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.