NEW YORK (CelebrityAccess) — Jackie Mason, a former rabbi turned comedian who successfully transitioned from the world of Catskills nightclubs to late night television, cinema, and Broadway, has died. He was 93.
According to the Associated Press, Mason died on Saturday at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan after being hospitalized for more than two weeks for an undisclosed medical condition.
Known for his sharp wit, and incisive social commentary, Mason made a successful career for himself by refining the art of ironic outrage.
Born as Yacov Moshe Hakohen Maza in Sheboygan, Wisconsin in 1928 to a family of strict orthodox Jews, Mason, like his father, became a rabbi, serving congregations of the faithful in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
However, the allure of comedy proved to be too much, and Mason soon landed a role as a social director at a resort in the Catskills, an area known colloquially as the Borscht Belt for accepting guests of the Jewish faith when many resorts in America at the time were restricted.
The gig only lasted for one season but Mason soon began performing at clubs and resorts throughout the Catskills, earning better money and developing a reputation as an entertainer throughout the region.
In 1961, Mason got a major break when he appeared on Steve Allen’s televised variety show which led to other late-night appearances on programs such as The Tonight Show, The Perry Como Show, The Dean Martin Show, and The Ed Sullivan Show.
It was on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964 that Mason sparked his first major controversy when he was alleged to have given Sullivan the ‘middle finger’ on air during a stand-up set. Mason denied doing so, and denied knowing its import at the time but Sullivan banned him from further appearances, including cancelling a six-appearance contract.
Mason later sued Sullivan for libel but most of the case was later dismissed.
In 1969, Mason made his debut on Broadway, appearing in “A Teaspoon Every Four Hours,” a comedy he wrote with Mike Mortman, but the play closed shortly after opening.
He also appeared on the silver screen, with roles in films such as “The Jerk,” “Caddyshack II” and the Mel Brooks classic “History of the World, Part I.”
In 1986, Mason returned to Broadway with a successful series of one-man shows, including The World According to Me! which ran for two years and 367 performances in its first run and 203 performances in its second run at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
Starting in 1994, Mason also appeared in Jackie Mason: Politically Incorrect, which ran for 347 performances at Broadway’s John Golden Theater. The show prompted a lawsuit from fellow comedian Bill Maher, who was hosting the show called Politically Incorrect on ABC but the suit was later dismissed.
Mason also appeared on numerous television shows, including five different television specials and the animated show along with appearances on shows such as ’30 Rock.’ He also provided the voice for the recurring character Rabbi Hyman Krustofski on the Fox animated hit
The Simpsons,” which earned him a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in 1992.
Mason repeatedly drew condemnation for his use of Yiddish racial slurs in reference to prominent public figures such as New York City mayor David Dinkins in 1991, and again in 2009 in regards to U.S. President Barack Obama, prompting audience members to walk out of the show.
He is survived by his wife, producer Jyll Rosenfeld, and a daughter, Sheba.