Mason was born Jacob Maza, son of a rabbi. His three brothers became rabbis. Mason too, who once had congregations in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Comedy eventually turned out to be a more persistent calling than God.
“A person has to feel emotionally sterile, empty, or frustrated to become a comedian,” he told The Associated Press in 1987. “I don’t think people who feel comfortable or happy are motivated. to become actors. You are looking for something and you are willing to pay a high price to get that attention.
Mason started out in show business as a social manager at a Catskills resort. He was the one who got everyone to play Simon Says, quiz games or shuffleboard. He also told jokes. After one season, he was playing in Catskills clubs for better money.
“No one else knew me, but in the mountains, I was successful,” recalls Mason.
In 1961, the pint-sized comic had a big hiatus, an appearance on Steve Allen’s weekly television variety show. His success took him to “The Ed Sullivan Show” and other programs.
He was banned for two years from the show “Sullivan” when he allegedly gave the host when Sullivan motioned him to complete his act in an appearance on October 18, 1964.
Mason’s number even took him to Broadway, where he put on several one-man shows, including “Freshly Squeezed” in 2005, “Love Thy Neighbor” in 1996 and “Le monde according to me” in 1988, for which he received a special award. Tony Award.
“I feel like Ronald Reagan tonight,” Mason joked on Tony’s night. “He was an actor all his life, knew nothing about politics and became President of the United States. I’m an ex-rabbi who didn’t know anything about acting and I get a Tony Award.
Mason said he was an observer who observed people and learned. From these observations, he said he understood his jokes and then tried them out with friends. “I prefer to make a fool of myself in front of two people for just a thousand people who have paid for a ticket,” he told the AP.
His humor could range from computers and designer coffee to Sen. John Kerry, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Donald Trump. He was able to express the anger of the average Joe, making the indignities of life funny and maybe just a little more bearable.
“I very rarely write anything. I just think about life a lot and try to put it in phrases that will make people joke, ”he said. “I never make a joke that has a point that I don’t believe in. For me the message and the joke are the same.”
On television, Mason was a reliable presence, typically with an appearance on shows such as “30 Rock” or “The Simpsons” or as a reliable guest on late night chat shows. He performed before Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and his show “Fearless” performed in London’s West End in 2012.
It portrayed a Jewish ex-pajama seller in love with an Irish Catholic widow played by Lynn Redgrave in a series called “Chicken Soup” in 1989 but it didn’t last. During the murder trial of OJ Simpson, the Scottish service of the British Broadcasting Corp. hired Mason as a weekly commentator. He was in “Caddyshack II”, a notorious flop.
Mason’s humor sometimes went too far, such as when he sparked controversy in New York City as he campaigned for GOP mayoral candidate Rudolph Giuliani against Democrat David Dinkins, who was black. Mason had to apologize after declaring, among other things, that Jews would vote for Dinkins out of guilt.
Felder, his longtime friend, told the AP that Mason had a Talmudic outlook on life: “Whatever you say to him, he will start an argument with you.”
He is survived by his wife, producer Jyll Rosenfeld, and one daughter, Sheba.