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Jackie Mason

Biography

Yacov Moshe Maza -- Jackie Mason -- was raised in Manhattan surrounded by rabbis; his father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather all were rabbis, as were his three brothers. At age 25, Jackie was also ordained a rabbi, but left after three years because, as he quips, "Somebody had to make a living." Mason headed to upstate New York and began trying out his material on tourists who came to vacation in the Catskill area. Predominately a place where wealthy Jewish families came to vacation, the area was dubbed the "Borscht Belt," and it was here that Mason first started incorporating aspects of his religion into his routine. In 1959, Mason decided to try his luck on the West Coast, and the television offers started rolling in. His appearance on The Steve Allen Show led to more small screen opportunities, including one infamous 1962 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in which a hand gesture was misinterpreted, resulting in Mason's ban from the show. The incident cast a shadow on his career for the better part of a decade, but Mason never lost popularity among the Hollywood elite and was always a favorite at celebrity roasts and television programs such as The Merv Griffin Show. The 1970s were a relatively quiet time for Mason, who spent some of that time writing his one-man show, The World According To Me. The show opened in Los Angeles in 1984, and re-established Mason as one of the preeminent political satirists of the day. In December, 1986, Mason started what would be a two-and-a-half year run on Broadway, with The World according To Me eventually winning a Tony Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, an Emmy Award and a Grammy nomination. The 1990s saw Mason with a string of Broadway shows, including 1990's Jackie Mason: Brand New, 1994's Jackie Mason: Politically Incorrect, 1996's Love Thy Neighbor, 1999's Much Ado About Everything and 2002's Prune Danish. In between all of this, the comedian found time to appear in movies such as Caddy Shack II, and host the nationally syndicated talk show and the weekly PBS series, Crossing the Line.
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