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Everything Bold Is New Again: An Interview with Jackie Mason

America's greatest living comedian refuses to predict the future -- predicting the present is risky enough.

By 4.18.07

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"Legend" has to be one of the most cliched words in the English language, but it's difficult to get around it when you're talking about Jackie Mason. This master of brilliant verbal irreverence is primarily known as a stand-up comic who has entertained sold-out venues for over forty years. He is also known as a writer who has produced numerous pieces for TAS over the years with Raoul Felder, the New York attorney who is likewise co-author of their wicked new book, Schmucks!: Our Favorite Fakes, Frauds, Lowlifes, Liars, the Armed and Dangerous, and Good Guys Gone Bad. Jackie and I recently chatted about Schmucks!, schmucks, and politics.

BC: For those unfamiliar with the term, what specifically makes one a schmuck?

JACKIE MASON: Oh well, there's no specific criteria because people make fools out of themselves in all sorts of ways. No particular qualifications or particular criteria are necessary. A schmuck is a general term of disrespect. It's a term of contempt and derision. It applies to a lot of people. In the book, we call contemptuous characters schmucks.

BC: Did you find one schmuck to be more egregious than the rest?

JACKIE MASON: There's so many out there that I can't single one out but if I had to pick it would be the New York Times rather than a particular person. The Times distorts and defrauds the news and then claims to be impartial. They never give an even-handed version of the news -- that's the last thing they'd ever do. The New York Times claims that they publish all the news that's fit to print but what they really do is print all the news that supports their agenda. What they are is the power base of the left. They do an unbelievable amount of damage because every day television and radio stations along with the rest of media take their lead on the way the news should be presented along with what actually is the news.

BC: I see that you included Mel Gibson and Barry Bonds as members of the schmuckerazzi, so should we regard this as being a fairly bipartisan book?

JACKIE MASON: Bipartisan? No, actually it really isn't. We do pick on more Democrats than we do Republicans because there are more Democratic schmucks than there are Republican ones. Of course, there are plenty of people on the right who meet the definition of the term such as [former Congressman] Randy Cunningham. He's a perfect example of someone we have great contempt for. The main problem with the Democrats is their utter negativity. They're made up of schumucks and hypocrites. They also have higher levels of immorality. We see that now with the war.

BC: What changes would you like to see politically for America? What does the future have in store for us? Will Hillary Clinton be the next President of the United States?

JACKIE MASON: I can't predict the future and I don't have respect for people who try to. Predictions are preposterous. What usually happens is that people tell you that what they'd like to see happen instead of what they really think will happen. There are so many variations and possibilities that there's no way to ever really know for certain. I've been watching politics for 35 or 40 years and you just never know. You can have one person win the Iowa caucus and then the whole picture changes ten minutes later. The same thing can happen again after New Hampshire. I have no idea what's going to happen with our country in the future.

You mention Hillary Clinton and she's a perfect example of this. Ten years ago if you would have told me that Mrs. Clinton would be the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, I'd have never believed you. Her only qualifications for office are that she's Mr. Clinton's partner. And what does that mean? The two of them stand for dishonesty and corruption. Remember Bill Clinton's pardon of the Hasidic Jews in that New York community? She got 99 percent of their vote [in the 2000 election] when they normally vote 99 percent Republican. Why the change in allegiance? Like there was no deal for their votes. The Clintons represent the highest level of corruption, but no one has the courage to mention it. Instead they talk about Rudy Giuliani. Over a lifetime of excellent service, there's never been a hint of corruption in his behavior but everybody investigates him. Hillary Clinton's life has been filled with corruption but nobody cares. The last thing we need is another Clinton to be our President. Believe me, one lowlife was enough. We don't need the lowlife's partner. When John Dillinger got put out of business did we go try to find his partner? I could have imagined the mafia imitating something like that but never the American people. Yet, again, I was wrong. Respectable and decent people are putting her up for the nomination. Even the Republican Party doesn't have the legs to challenge her.

BC: Do you think there any other legitimate options out there for conservatives today besides the Republican Party?

JACKIE MASON: No, I don't. There are no other options. For me, it's a practical question and the possibility of an independent winning is a long shot at best. Truthfully, with the Republicans, I don't see that much wrong with them. Yes, I'm more conservative than President Bush and the average Republican politician but I'm not going to reject them. I don't like all the spending bills but that's only one element in terms of leadership. Only the Republican Party cares about the issues that concern me. Comparing what the Democrats offer to what the Republicans offer is like comparing the money I have in my pocket to what Bill Gates has in his. All the Democrats do is bicker. They're not concerned about the war or the fate of the United States of America. They're desperate characters.

BC: Why do so many Jews favor the Democratic Party? Why do they instinctively gravitate towards the left?

JACKIE MASON: Because they have a guilty conscience, that's why. That's the reason. The moment they're born they're taught to feel guilt. They are told that they should spend their lives helping others and when they make a lot of money it really bothers them. So, as a way to decrease their guilt, they try to help the underdog. They think, "Why should I be rich when so many suffer?" They feel better once they run to the party that claims to defend the underdog, the Democrats. Older Jews think of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and see themselves as siding with the working class and the poor, so they continue to vote the way they do. As a class, Jews give three times as much money to charity as anybody else, but they feel guilty about their wealth anyway. They simply can't accept the idea of ever being Republicans. They still believe the rhetoric of FDR even though he's long gone. No matter what happens in their life they maintain this sickness. Yes, that's right, it's a sickness. That's exactly what it is. They are living in the past and they can't get over it.

BC: You wrote Schmucks! with coauthor Raoul Felder and you've also written countless articles for TAS with him in the past. What's the nature of your collaboration? How long have you been working together?

JACKIE MASON: Oh, I'd say we've been working together for about ten years now. Well, how we write varies, I guess. Sometimes he writes and I edit or sometimes we write it side by side if we're at a table together. It depends on how we run into each other. We always make the other guy a partner with whatever we're thinking about. It works out because we almost never have a difference of opinion on practically anything.

BC: I had no idea that you were the favorite comedian of England's royal family. How did that come about?

JACKIE MASON: I really don't how it happened. I just went there and I was a hit. That's the end of it. I got invited to do the Royal Command Performance, and you know the Queen and the whole royal family attend it. On television it's a three-hour entertainment special and I've found that my humor goes over big in London. I like to think that I'm a psychologist but just I can't figure that one out. I regularly sell out more in England than I do in America.

BC: What's the secret of your appeal with younger audiences? I saw you in Detroit back in 2004 and I recall the crowd being fairly mixed age-wise.

JACKIE MASON: Why wouldn't it be? You seem to think I'm 80 or something. Hey, the key is that I'm always relevant. Some of these comedians have nothing to say. They don't have any ideas so it's "F" this and "F" that. They give you a whole series of swear words and it's really just a way for them to get themselves out of trouble when they can't come up with anything. They're irrelevant and ridiculous.

People come to my shows and know that they're going to hear about what's going on in the world -- what's happening at the moment. My material is as new as anything on the dinner table. What difference does it make if I'm 70 or if I'm 20? The audience knows they aren't getting any old stories from me. What difference does a person's age make? I started in the business when I was 22. Besides, it's not as if I'm not going on eHarmony to look for a bride or anything.

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About the Author

Bernard Chapin is a writer and psychologist living in Chicago and the author of Escape from Gangsta Island. He is currently at work on a book concerning women.