Jackie Mason, 93, Dies; Turned Kvetching Into Comedy Gold

Mr. Mason’s career was off and running. He became a regular on the top television variety shows, recorded two albums for the Verve label ...


Mr. Mason’s career was off and running. He became a regular on the top television variety shows, recorded two albums for the Verve label (“I Am the Greatest Comedian in the World Only Nobody Knows It Yet” and “I Want to Leave You With the Words of a Great Comedian”) and wrote a book, “My Son the Candidate.”

After dozens of appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” Mr. Mason encountered disaster on Oct. 18, 1964. A speech by President Lyndon B. Johnson pre-empted the program, which resumed as Mr. Mason was halfway through his act. Onstage but out of camera range, Sullivan indicated with two fingers, then one, how many minutes Mr. Mason had left, distracting the audience. Mr. Mason, annoyed, responded by holding up his own fingers to the audience, saying, “Here’s a finger for you, and a finger for you, and a finger for you.”

Sullivan, convinced that one of those fingers was an obscene gesture, canceled Mr. Mason’s six-show contract and refused to pay him for the performance. Mr. Mason sued, and won.

The two later reconciled, but the damage was done. Club owners and booking agents now regarded him, he said, as “crude and unpredictable.”

“People started to think I was some kind of sick maniac,” Mr. Mason told Look. “It took 20 years to overcome what happened in that one minute.”

Mr. Mason’s career went into a slump, punctuated by bizarre instances of bad luck. In Las Vegas in 1966, after he made a few ill-considered remarks about Frank Sinatra’s recent marriage to the much younger Mia Farrow (“Frank soaks his dentures and Mia brushes her braces,” one joke went), an unidentified gunman fired a .22 pistol into his hotel room.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Jackie Mason, 93, Dies; Turned Kvetching Into Comedy Gold
Jackie Mason, 93, Dies; Turned Kvetching Into Comedy Gold
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