What does Jackie Mason have to say these days? Plenty. The 85-year-old comic, who solidified his tell-it-like-it-is reputation decades ago when he may or may not have made a rude gesture to TV variety host Ed Sullivan, is at ease offering his opinions.
Whether it is supporting Donald Trump, blasting President Barack Obama for what he sees as poor treatment of Israel or calling for celebrities who boycott Israel to be boycotted by Hollywood, Mason doesn’t shirk from offering “The World According to Me,” as he called his Tony-winning 1980s one-man stage show.
Mason will bring what a British reviewer called his “scouring satire, merciless self-deprecation and good old-fashioned charm” to Washington on Oct. 22, when he performs at the Howard Theatre.
In a phone interview from New York, Mason spoke about what the audience can expect.
What is the show that you’ll be bringing here?
The show I’ll be bringing there is about the current situations, whatever is happening in the world. Because I don’t do old jokes like other old comedians. The trick to being successful is to always be fresh and new and as unpredictable as possible.
Are we living in funny times?
Times are always funny, you can always find humor in whatever’s going on anywhere in the world. I wouldn’t say you have to have funny times to be funny because people find humor in situations taking place all around them all the time.
At the moment, what are you finding funny?
What I’m finding funny today is everything about the [presidential] campaign because I like to talk about what’s uppermost in people’s minds. When you sit down at the dinner table you’re talking about the hottest story in the news. And that’s what I talk about in the show. I imitate what people are talking about at the dinner table. I say to myself, if they met you right now, what’s the first question they’d ask you, and that’s what I talk about in the show.
So the first question now would be about the presidential campaign.
Right. All kinds of jokes about Trump. It’s a limitless fount of humor. It’s impossible to mention Trump without thinking of a thousand jokes. Because everything he says is ridiculous or hilarious or so unique or unexpected that you never know what it’s going to be. That’s why he still draws such big turnouts.
So just to play both sides, where’s the humor in Hillary Clinton?
There’s all kinds of humor about Hillary Clinton. Here is a person that could never get any job anywhere in the world unless she was running for president. The president is the only job she could get. She has a history of so many ridiculous things — things she was almost indicted for, she was about to be indicted for, she was almost in jail, she was running from jail, she just got away from jail and she’s still a free woman. And now if she runs someplace for a job do you think they would hire her? She wouldn’t be qualified for any other job, but if she wants to run for president, it’s no problem. They list all her crimes and she becomes the hottest candidate in the country. Can you imagine being so popular and all you’ve done all your life is criminal things?
It’s quite an accomplishment.
Running from jail all your life and you wind up running for president. You would think she’s be running from the police but instead she’s running for president.
Let me ask you about your craft and your timing, and how you developed it over decades.
I never studied why or how. There’s no methodology to my approach. I do it instinctively. There’s no great premeditation, there’s no great study in the way I do my jokes.
Has your delivery or your approach changed over your career?
I don’t know if it changed. I basically talked about whatever I considered a hot subject. And I never stopped to think about how I stand or how I deliver or my sense of timing or how to position myself on stage, I never thought about that. When you tell a story at the dinner table, you don’t stop to think how you’re doing it, you do it instinctively. It’s the same way with my comedy. I never tried to become an artist. I just try to entertain people.
These days do you work because you love to?
I certainly have enough money. I don’t think after all these years that I haven’t got enough money for a sandwich. Or for my rent. I have enough money to go for a walk. And to buy a piece of cake. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble surviving if I didn’t work. But I’m like most people who work at something they enjoy. They never want to stop. A plumber gets old enough, he wants to quit because working on a toilet is boring. But working in front of an audience is an ego trip. So you never want to stop as long as you can still talk.
Jackie Mason will perform at The Howard Theatre, Oct. 22 at 3 p.m.; 620 T St. NW, Washington; tickets $49.50 – $100; 202-803-2899 or thehowardtheatre.com.