Jackie Mason passes away at 93 after an unparalleled career as a borscht belt comic whose standup career took him from the Catskills to Broadway

  • The former rabbi was born to immigrants from Belarus, growing up on Manhattan’s famed Lower East Side in the 1930s
  • Mason got his start as a comic in the resorts of the Catskills in the 1950s, deciding to leave rabbinical pursuits behind after the death of his father in 1959
  • His career took off for the first time in the early 1960s, landing him on top TV shows like The Ed Sullivan Show
  • After a massive misunderstanding between Sullivan and Mason in 1964, his career hit a major slump
  • It would take many years for Jackie to return to the top of his game, but by the mid-1980s he was on Broadway, with a show that would win him both a Tony and later an Emmy Award
  • Many of his comedic shows reached the Broadway stage, with the last being The Ultimate Jew in 2008 

Jackie Mason, whose style of comedy was unmistakably and uniquely his own, has died at the age of 93.

The borscht belt comedian passed away at a Manhattan, New York City hospital, as confirmed by his longtime friend, lawyer Raoul Felder, to the New York Times.

In the tradition of Don Rickles and Rodney Dangerfield, Mason’s biting and acerbic brand of comedy was also undeniably Jewish, helping him to establish himself as a cultural touchstone for those that would follow, including Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld.

RIP: Jackie Mason, whose style of comedy was unmistakably and uniquely his own, has died at the age of 93; seen here in 2005

Mason was born in 1928 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, as Yacov Moshe Maza to immigrant parents from Belarus.

In the early 1930s, Jackie’s family moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which at the time was a thriving neighborhood for Jewish transplants from Europe. 

The comedian’s father, along with practically every other male relative to come before him, had been ordained as a rabbi, and Jackie was destined to follow in their footsteps. 

Seen here recording his album I Want To Leave You With The Words Of A Great Comedian in 1963: Mason’s acerbic brand of comedy was undeniably Jewish, helping to establish him as a cultural touchstone

A grand tradition: Mason was a forbearer of the brand of self-effacing Jewish comedy which later inspired other comic legends like Jerry Seinfeld; the pair seen here in 2008

And sure enough, despite his personal preferences, Mason ended up completing his rabbinical studies at Yeshiva University further uptown in New York, and was then ordained as a rabbi himself – mostly to please his father.

After leading various synagogue congregations to the best of his abilities, he started working summers at resorts in the Catskills, which were favored by Jews from the city (and served as inspiration for the setting of the 1987 film Dirty Dancing).

As he began to get his feel for writing comic sets and being on stage, Jackie found his footing and decided to pursue a standup career in full force once his father passed away in 1959.

A comedy great and a comedy greater: Larry David and Mason seen here in 2008 at Mason’s last Broadway one-man show, The Ultimate Jew

As he began to get his feel for writing comic sets and being on stage: Jackie found his footing and decided to pursue a standup career in full force in 1959; seen here on TV in 1978

Under his new moniker Jackie Mason, he tried as best he could to branch out from the Catskills to the nightclub scene in both Miami and New York, which proved to be a struggle at first. 

But after a fateful performance at a Los Angeles, California club in 1960, the comic appeared twice on variety revue The Steve Allen Show, which in turn led to bookings at high-profile NYC nightspots the Copacabana and the Blue Angel. 

From there, he went from triumph to triumph, recording two comedy albums and writing a book, also wracking up appearances on top TV variety shows including the legendary Ed Sullivan Show. 

With James Earl Jones in 1987: Jackie hit his stride in 1986, bringing his first of many one-man comic shows The World According to Me! to the Broadway stage

Then, after a terrible misunderstanding in 1964 between Sullivan and Mason involving a perceived obscene middle finger gesture, Jackie’s career hit a major slump.

It would take him many years to find his momentum once again, with his comeback punctuated by well-received performances in 1979’s Steve Martin film The Jerk, and Mel Brooks’s History of the World: Part I two years later.

Finally, in 1986, Jackie hit his stride once again, bringing his first of many one-man comic shows The World According to Me!, to the Broadway stage.

Film appearances: Jackie’s comeback was punctuated by well-received performances in films like 1979’s Steve Martin film The Jerk, and 1988’s Caddyshack II with Chevy Chase (pictured)

The hit show ran for two years, and earned him a special Tony Award in 1987, followed by an Emmy for writing when HBO aired a version of the show.

From there, the legendary comedian put close to a dozen other one-man shows on Broadway, with the last being The Ultimate Jew in 2008.

He also clinched a second Primetime Emmy Award, for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance, for playing Rabbi Krustofsky in an early episode of The Simpsons in 1992

Mason is survived by his wife of 30 years – and onetime manager – Jyll Rosenfeld, along with a daughter, Sheba Mason, from a previous relationship.

Seen here in 2016: The legendary comedian put close to a dozen one-man shows on Broadway, with the last being The Ultimate Jew in 2008

With another legend: Jackie was considered a top comic, hobnobbing with other greats like Joan Rivers; the pair seen here in 2011

Mason is survived by his wife of 30 years – and onetime manager – Jyll Rosenfeld; the longtime couple seen here in 2017

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