AISLE SAY Philadelphia

Jackie Mason:

The Merriam Theatre, 250 South Broad Street (Avenue of the Arts), Philadelphia, PA

Reviewed by Claudia Perry

To say that Jackie Mason's one-man show, "Prune Danish" is a bare bones production would be putting it mildly. There is no band, no taped entrance and exit music, nor an announcer to introduce the star. In fact, there is no live or taped voice kindly asking you to turn off your cell phone. What you do have is a bare stage backed by a fully lit black curtain (it looks like two pieces of felt pinned together), with a couple of moths flying around onto which Jackie Mason (with no introduction) saunters on and says hello. It is a casual, almost abrupt entrance. And because there is no person reminding you to "kindly turn off your cell phones and beepers", for the first fifteen minutes of Mr. Mason's show, cell phones were going off incessantly. But the crowd was there to see Jackie Mason and that's what they got -- with one fifteen minute intermission which he seemed loathe to even take.

Receiving a 2003 Tony-Award Nomination for Special Theatrical Event for "Prune Danish", Jackie Mason's previous one-man Broadway shows include "The World According To Me", "Brand New", "Politically Incorrect", "Love Thy Neighbor" and "Much Ado About Everything". He also holds the record for the longest Broadway run for any one-man show -- 12 years and still counting.

In 1980 I saw Jackie Mason as the main act at the Nevele Country Club in the Catskills. I laughed until I cried. In fact I could hardly catch my breath. His humor was, as it is now, predominantly ethnic and politically incorrect. And though he mentions the Italians, the Puerto Ricans, African Americans and the French, his material centers on poking fun at the Jewish experience. Though most of his act is new, there are a few bits that linger from that old routine. And the highlight then, as now, is his uncanny impersonation of Ed Sullivan. He also mimics Sharon and Perez and some of his best bits are his skewering the government on how they are dealing with terrorism

Jackie Mason's style is to never stop talking. He talks and he talks and he talks. He keeps battering you with the same idea until the accrued value somehow makes you erupt into laughter. He also sings a lot and mumbles incessantly in Yiddish. So for those of us who don't speak the lingo -- we miss these folksy asides. Be advised that though Mr. Mason claims to have a "clean" show, and that he doesn't do "dirty" humor, his act is surprisingly sprinkled with the "f" word. Though I didn't personally find this show as hysterical as his performance back in 1980, he's still a funny guy who'll make you laugh for an hour and a half. But beware that the majority of the crowd he attracts is decidedly geriatric and moving in and out of the theatre can be incredibly vexing.

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