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Kultur presents
Jackie Mason: The World According to Me! (1989)

"You know what's gonna happen when this show is over? The Gentiles are gonna say, 'He was funny.' The Jews are gonna say, 'Too Jewish.'"
- Jackie Mason

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: September 25, 2003

Stars: Jackie Mason
Director: Dwight Hemion

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 00h:59m:33s
Release Date: June 10, 2003
UPC: 032031309692
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+CB- D-

DVD Review

Did you hear the one about the Borscht Belt comedian down on his luck who found improbable and enormous success on Broadway? No focus group would ever come up with Jackie Mason, who frequently seems as if he's an exhibit from an ancient comedy museum—an old-style ethnic comedian trafficking in cultural stereotypes, a former rabbi, no less, who must have slain them in the Catskills a generation ago. And in the late 1980s, during what may have been the apex of overzealous political correctness, Mason's brand of comedy was just the thing to puncture the pretensions of those telling us what we should or could (or shouldn't or couldn't) say or think. Mason opened on Broadway in 1988, and this DVD is a slightly truncated live recording of his Tony-winning show, a little later in its run.

Yes, these are the oldest, hoariest ethnic stereotypes—Poles are stupid, Gentiles drink, Jews are cheap, Puerto Ricans are criminals. But Mason delivers them without the venom of, say, Don Rickles; I don't want to defend stereotypes, goodness knows, but they do come from somewhere, and Mason loves to exploit those germs of truth in what, in another's hands, could be little more than crude and offensive reductionism. Typical Mason, on how Jewish wives don't or can't cook: "When a Jewish woman says, 'I do,' it's the last thing she does." Or: "I go to Puerto Rico every year, just to visit my hubcaps." Or: "My best friend is a guy who's half Jewish, half Italian. If he can't get it wholesale, he steals it." If you're very prickly about this stuff, you may well be offended, but the cutaway shots to the audience show them having a marvelous time, emitting peals of the joyous laughter of recognition.

The ethnic bits have actually worn the best with the years; some of Mason's material is topical, and some of it was dated even fifteen years ago—jokes about Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Gary Hart, and Gorbachev, for instance, or the U.S. invasion of Grenada. Ronald Reagan is a frequent target, and though I profess to no political affinity for the Gipper, the jokes about him being forgetful have lost much of their sting, now that his Alzheimer's diagnosis is a matter of public record. Mason's cadence is as classically Jewish as it can be, but he's a surprisingly good mimic—his Kissinger and his Ted Kennedy are sharp, and he even gets in more than a couple of digs at his bete noire, Ed Sullivan. (Viewers under 30 may need Monarch Notes for much of this.)

Enterprising television producers tried to transfer Mason's shtick to the small screen with no success on Chicken Soup, and Mason has never had the film success to compete with his one-man shows. He's done a few other Broadway shows since, and later this year there is the promise of the first Jackie Mason musical. The former rabbi found his best, most appreciative audience and greatest professional success on the Great White Way. Who knew?

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Mason's original Broadway gig seems to have been shot on video, and hence the resolution is poor and the picture quality is muddied. It doesn't seem as if any further damage was done in the transfer to DVD, but this just doesn't look very good, and compares poorly even with contemporary television footage.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Mason has been well miked, and the jokes can all be made out pretty clearly; whether or not you laugh at them is up to you. There's a bit of hissing and buzzing, the sorts of things you'd expect with any live event.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The eleven chapter stops are divided up into Acts 1, 2, and 3; no other extras.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

If you're keenly sensitive to even a hint of ethnic humor, you'll want to steer clear of Jackie Mason. For the rest of us, though, Mason's Broadway set is a reminder that you shouldn't take life so seriously, already.


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