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Politics as Unusual

October 30, 2008 By:
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Pull a lever, pull our leg: In the electoral college that is comedy, Jackie Mason is in no undecided state:

He's McShuganah over McCain.

Well, maybe not McShuganah, maybe he's overwhelmed about him, well, maybe not exactly overwhelmed, maybe a little happy ...

But make no mistake: His stump speech is no ode to Obama.

The erstwhile rabbi, whose congregation segued successfully into comedy clubs and whose oft-combustible comments have cornered hypocrites from Broadway to Hollywood, has lately taken to castigate those he considers boobs on YouTube.

His post of a potshot at Sarah Silverman over her own video coaxing kids to travel to Florida to nudge their bubbas and zap their zaydes into voting for Obama is a big "Oh, No!" from Mason.

It's a tale of two citizens, each giving followers and foes the dickens: Coming in from the left, saucy Silverman brings the Big Schlep; from the right, the mordant Mason delivers the Big Schlump.

A contrast of upper scale and Catskills, Silverman-Mason is a Jewish Hatfield-McCoy for the mirth-set. Which is more adorable -- the dimpled Silverman or the Kewpie doll windup wiz that is Mason -- may be open to debate depending on their fans.

No debate here, says Mason; it's nothing personal against the 38-year-old silver bullet-shooting Silverman. "I have nothing against her, she's a bright girl. I've never met her; I'm sure she's nice."

Nice try, Jackie. Now let's hear the good stuff: "But for her to imply that grandchildren should go to Florida and convince their grandparents to vote for Obama ... that's implying that Jews are all racist, like old Jews don't know that a black person is a human being, that they're not smart enough to make up their own minds."

Nobody does dis better than Jackie: "If he were white, would they go to convince them to vote for a turkey? It's a disgusting thing to say that these old Jews who helped blacks in the ['60s], who started the NAACP, who did more things for the civil-rights movement ... that these old Jews have to be told to vote for Obama."

Family feud among fiery Jewish comics? "If my own mother called and told me what [Silverman's] saying, I would say the same thing!"

All done in that singsong voice which has been, if not sweet music, at least fortissimo fillips so familiar to Jackie acolytes.

Ageless ... Priceless

After all, at 72, the same age as McCain, no one's about to tell him this is no country for old men. Doesn't matter. "I never saw the movie."

What he saws into is hype and hypocrisy. The nice Jewish boy, born Yacov Moshe Maza in Sheboygan, Wis., goes "boing!" at political correctness gone crazy. Indeed, one of his multiple award-winning Broadway shows places "Political Incorrectness" on-stage front and center and invites phonies to phone-in their self-flagellations.

That would be a myth-take, taking on the man who savages what he perceives as society's asymmetrical tilt to the left. And Mason's latest effort, also direct from Broadway, is the ultimate in Jackie japes: "Ultimate Jew" sends heads and headlines spinning as the caustic comedian gets set to seize the Keswick Theatre stage for his seismic send-ups the evening of Nov. 15.

A one-man show with a thousand takes on idiots mistaken for idols, "Ultimate Jew" is Jew-jitsu as martial comic art.

Breaking down Wall Street? Nobody makes it tumble like this tummler. In an economy of language, he conflates worries about the economy with bull shifts and bear hugs. "Everybody tells you how they're doing, they're doing great, 'I feel great, never been better.' But the economy, 'Terrible. Terrible.' "

We are the world as worrywarts? Mason doesn't put stock in the stock market's hardship as harbinger for future doom. Take the course in Jackieconomics. "I travel all over the world: This one says he bought a new Mercedes; restaurants are packed wherever I go; everybody's going places."

Certainly Mason knows his way to Glenside; the star who once fingered Ed Sullivan among his combatants is so easy to like even when he gives the opposition a licking.

Maybe, just maybe, McCain -- whom Mason backs but concedes that "[Rudy] Giuliani would have made a stronger candidate" -- made a choice for veepee that pales with whom he really should have chosen.

But could Tina Fey do a good Jackie Mason?

"Me as vice president? I should have been chosen for president!" he kibitzes.

A kosher chicken in every pot? No, says the imaginary nominee of his promises that would give hell to the chief: "The first thing I would do is move the nation's capital to Miami Beach, and the White House to Boca Raton."

Country first ... or is that country club? "I'd then open a Jewish country club there, and you'd have all these Jews looking forward to playing that golf course."

Fore! "Why is it every Jew at 78 suddenly thinks he's an athlete and has got to play golf even though he never exercised before? And then they wear these clothes, out of style for years."

In sync with a cross section of audiences -- those who wear crosses and Stars of David -- sometimes, Mason allows, he can't understand the complaints.

And he is brilliant. Never one to be confused as a button-downed comic, he has been honored at Oxford College, among other schools where he's traded a cap and gown for a kup and geshreis.

Nu, so what doesn't he get? Get this, he complains. "This Jewish woman with a thick Jewish accent comes up to me after a show and says, 'Why do you have to talk like that, with such an accent?' Nobody talks like that.' "

If he accents the outrageous, Mason has been on the outs with phoniness for decades, rejuvenating his Jewish-style/catholic tastes comedy when he hit Broadway big some 20 years ago.

Now the star of the in-production "One Angry Man" -- a motion picture parody of "Twelve Angry Men"; after all, one ticked-off Jackie has the moxie of a dozen duking it out in a donnybrook -- contemplates the calendar and, just five days to the election, says he is just asking people not to see in black and white when it comes to politics.

Voting skin pigment is piggish, he says, and quality should quell every other consideration. Maybe white Jewish guilt should be put in a little lockbox and the key thrown away, he implies. After all, should you laugh at a comedian's jokes just because he's Jewish?

No, but, in this case, it's hard not to. It's another notch on the borscht belt for a comedian who's been hailed by the queen of England and given prime time of an audience with Israel's prime ministers.

Comedy has been this peripatetic living punchline's passport to riches and rugelah; but then, Mason has a special place in his hardy heart for Philadelphia.

"Philadelphia, tell the people there, it's the best city in the world. It's wonderful.

Sincerely yours? "And I'll continue saying that until my show is over at the Keswick."

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