In yesterday's paper, reviewer Peter Carlson kvetched that Jackie Mason's performance at the Kennedy Center was too short. The schlemiel! He left when the lights came up--the program said there would be no intermission--and missed the second half, which was apparently just as funny as the first. The Post regrets the error and Carlson regrets having missed the rest of the show. It's so hard to get good help these days. (Published 12/01/1999)
Jackie Mason came to the Kennedy Center Concert Hall last night and all he did was complain.
He comes out, everybody cheers and claps like the Messiah has arrived, and what does he do? He complains. He walks around the stage grumbling. He complains about this, he complains about that. This is lousy, that's no good. Nothing is good enough for Jackie Mason. He complains for 50 minutes, then he sings one line of opera and leaves. You call this show biz?
Well, yes, actually. The thing is: Jackie Mason is a great complainer. He has raised the complaint to an art form. He's the Picasso of complaining, the Einstein of the kvetch, the Pavarotti of grumbling. On the other hand, he's a lousy opera singer.
Not that he cares. He doesn't like opera. "Opera is two people singing and 3,000 Jews sleeping," he says. "If they were honest, they'd take out the seats and put in beds."
The problem with opera is that it's pretentious. Mason hates pretension. His whole act is one long protest against pretension, which of course deserves it.
Take fancy restaurants, for instance, the la-dee-dah French places with the maitre d' and the romantic lighting. "In the fancy restaurants, there's no light because there's no food," he says. "The steak is under the mushroom--that's it." And for dessert they serve you mousse. You know what mousse is? "Mousse is pudding with air in it." If you don't want that, you can order sorbet. You know what sorbet is? "One fiftieth of an Italian ice for $32.50."
And don't even mention escargot. "If it wasn't called escargot, would you eat a snail?" he asks. "How come nobody eats a cockroach? A cockroach looks 10 times better than a snail. But nobody eats a cockroach because there's no French name for it."
Okay, so you don't like fancy restaurants, Jackie. So why don't you just call room service? "The biggest fraud on this Earth is room service," he says. In the hotel coffee shop, an egg costs $4 and the elevator's free. They bring the egg up in the elevator, they charge you $42.50. Meanwhile, you get a pizza delivered, it doesn't cost you any more than if you bought it in the pizza joint. How come? "Because they're stupid," he says. "If they called it room service, they could charge $42.50."
Pretension is everywhere, that's what drives Mason crazy. "People love to feel rich," he says. So they buy expensive stuff with fancy names. Like SUVs, for instance. What are SUVs? Trucks with a fancy name. "If I told the Jews in this building that they're driving a truck, do you think they'd tolerate it?"
He doesn't much like show biz either. Siegfried and Roy? "Two faigeles and a tiger." Riverdance? "Eighty-seven gentiles doing one step." The musical "Titanic"? "People died--this is an excuse for singing and dancing? People drown and they start looking for a choreographer."
And today's singers? Forget it. They can't sing. "Did you ever think you'd live in a time when you don't have to have a voice to be a singer?"
Complain, complain, complain. Gripe, gripe, gripe. All he does is complain and gripe, gripe and complain. Who wants to listen to some tiny old Jew walk around a stage complaining for 50 minutes? Nobody. And how come he only complained for 50 minutes? What, he couldn't go an hour? Or, God forbid, an hour and a half? Guy wins a Tony and an Emmy and has five one-man shows on Broadway, comes here for one lousy night and suddenly he thinks he can sneak away early? What are we, chopped liver?
The audience wanted more. That was their only complaint.
CAPTION: Jackie Mason, registering his disapproval.