Prune Danish: Always Fresh--Never Stale | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Prune Danish: Always Fresh--Never Stale 

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Prune Danish: Always Fresh--Never Stale, at the Shubert Theatre. The oldest of old school comics, Jackie Mason's been kicking around since before the early 60s. At that point what had been a meteoric rise got stopped cold by a feud with Ed Sullivan, who accused Mason of flipping him the bird on the really big shew. Effectively blackballed outside the borscht belt, Mason scraped by doing voice-overs (most famously as the Aardvark on the animated Pink Panther series, but he also voiced the robot tailor in Sleeper), which led to more film work, slowly raising his profile again. In the late 80s he made a full-scale comeback with a string of wildly successful one-man shows on Broadway and in London.

Mason's popularity hasn't really waned since, making his Jewish/ gentile shtick likely the longest-running ethnic joke ever: though he touches on a good many political and pop-cultural topics, they're nearly always viewed through this prism. More complicated than it appears, his self-reflexive routine suggests a far wilier Andrew Dice Clay: Mason bobs and weaves a lot, and his punch lines frequently puncture the prejudices inherent in their setups. Stereotypical takes on other races--the French, Mexicans, Arabs, critics--are more problematic (Mason calls them "generalizations"), but brutal torchings of Bush, Sharon, and Starbucks almost make up for them. Even if Mason's comedy isn't really your cup of tea, watching him work a crowd is still a treat, a living piece of stand-up history.

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