Some sad news this weekend, with it announced via THR last night that beloved comedian Jackie Mason has passed away peacefully in his sleep at 93. He had been in the hospital for a few weeks for various issues. Although he had a long career on both stage and screen, most readers will probably know him for his Emmy-winning, recurring role voicing Krusty the Clown’s rabbi father on The Simpsons. As Mason himself had been a rabbi before changing careers and becoming a stand-up comic, the casting was ironic. He had been known for cracking wise during his services, and his reputation was so strong that non-Jewish people started coming to the church to check him out. As he once said in an interview (excerpted by THR), “I realized that I was telling people to worship God while I was worshipping blondes.”
His career was not without controversy, with him once being banned from The Ed Sullivan Show after the host became convinced Mason was flipping him off during a performance. Mason sued him for libel and slander and was later invited back on the show. After that, he became a staple of The Dean Martin Show before moving into Broadway and films.
On the silver screen, he’s probably best remembered for playing Steve Martin’s gas station boss in Carl Reiner’s The Jerk, although he also had a memorable bit in Mel Brooks’s History of the World, Part 1. He also starred in CADDYSHACK II, taking over for Rodney Dangerfield after he dropped out of the sequel at the eleventh hour, but, well, the less said about that movie, the better (although as a kid, I thought it was hilarious).
It’s always sad to see these old-timers go, but at 93, Mason certainly had a great run and left a fantastic body of work behind him. Rest in peace.