Schmucks! Our Favorite Fakes, Frauds, Lowlifes, Liars, the Armed and Dan­ger­ous, and Good Guys Gone Bad

Jack­ie Mason and Raoul Felder
  • Review
By – December 5, 2011

You know who Yaakov Moshe Maza is, but you don’t real­ize it. In the 1940’s, when Maza was a young, strug­gling come­di­an, peo­ple reg­u­lar­ly asked him how to spell his name. Is that with an e,’ or a w’? What?” he recalls being asked repeatedly. 

Mason is sim­ple. I don’t have to explain myself,” says Jack­ie Mason, whose birth name is Yaakov Moshe Maza. 

Born in She­boy­gan, Wis­con­sin on June 9, 1928 to an Ortho­dox Jew­ish fam­i­ly with a long lin­eage of rab­bis, Mason was the youngest of the Mazas’ four sons. Their father, he explains, want­ed all four boys to become rab­bis, which they did. We all became rab­bis, but I am the rene­gade,” Mason admits in a tele­phone inter­view. While his three broth­ers are strict­ly Ortho­dox,” Mason is not. I work Fri­day nights,” he says. 

Despite becom­ing a rab­bi and even serv­ing a pul­pit, Mason says he was nev­er enthralled with the pro­fes­sion. How­ev­er, he recalls that when he gave ser­mons, he used humor to rein­force his mes­sage. Peo­ple who heard my ser­mons told me I should be a come­di­an since I could always high­light a point with humor,” he says. 

Even­tu­al­ly, people’s repeat­ed urg­ings per­suad­ed Mason to seek the spot­light of the com­e­dy stage and give up his pul­pit. He became a hotel social direc­tor in the Catskills Moun­tains and start­ed per­form­ing. Says Mason, I became an imme­di­ate hit.” 

That gig quick­ly led to oth­ers in the heav­i­ly Jew­ish resort and soon, Mason was per­form­ing at The Con­cord, which he describes as the flag­ship” hotel in the Catskills. His star quick­ly rose, lead­ing to gigs on Steve Allen’s show and then Ed Sullivan’s. How­ev­er, says Mason, his career’s mete­oric rise came to a screech­ing halt after a 1969 per­for­mance on the Ed Sul­li­van Show. It seems Mason’s bit was run­ning over, so Sul­li­van ges­tured to him to wrap it up. Mason respond­ed with a hand ges­ture of his own that Sul­li­van mis­in­ter­pret­ed as crude and utter­ly unac­cept­able. Mason was ban­ished from the show and his career suf­fered immeasurably. “

After he ban­ished me, my rep­u­ta­tion took a hit. It took me twen­ty years to regain major star­dom” says Mason. 

Inter­est­ing­ly, accord­ing to Mason, Sul­li­van even­tu­al­ly watched a record­ing of the inci­dent and saw for him­self that Mason had not, in fact, made a crude ges­ture toward the host. He made up with me two years lat­er but no one seems to remem­ber that.” 

Today, Mason’s career reveals no tell-tale signs of that inci­dent. He is prepar­ing to star in his eighth one-man Broad­way show, set to open in Decem­ber, 2007. He hosts a nation­al­ly syn­di­cat­ed show, trans­mit­ted from New York City on Sun­day nights from 7 – 9 EST on www​.talkra​dionet​work​.com.

In addi­tion to his prowess as a per­former, Mason has won both Tony and Emmy Awards; he’s also a suc­cess­ful author. 

His lat­est cre­ation, the recent­ly released Schmucks! Our Favorite Fakes, Frauds, Lowlifes, Liars, the Armed and Dan­ger­ous, and Good Guys Gone Bad, which he penned with close friend, lawyer Raoul Felder, is a brave, astute, and humor­ous analy­sis of who Mason and Felder per­ceive as, well, schmucks. 

Amaz­ing­ly, I found myself agree­ing with their com­ments and opin­ions time and time again. That hap­pened so many times that it felt like Mason had actu­al­ly record­ed and tran­scribed my thoughts. 

For exam­ple, one of the most apro­pos peo­ple the writ­ers labeled as a schmuck is Al Sharp­ton, whose two page chap­ter is sub­ti­tled, Praise the lard!” 

Accord­ing to Mason, it took the long­time friends less than three months to write the book. The idea behind the book, he says, most­ly came from dis­cus­sions with Raoul on people’s behaviors.” 

Select­ing the mate­r­i­al to fea­ture in Schmucks wasn’t too dif­fi­cult, Mason says. We includ­ed who­ev­er we thought was offen­sive or stu­pid enough. It didn’t take that much research to decide. We also only picked peo­ple who are promi­nent in the news,” he says, adding, There were enough peo­ple.” Enough, in fact, that Mason and Felder are already col­lab­o­rat­ing on a sequel. 

He says he’s not con­cerned about ever run­ning out of peo­ple to include in this work de Schmucks. It wouldn’t be hard to write twelve books like this. There are plen­ty of peo­ple in the world who are doing obnox­ious things and at least 50% are politi­cians!” he says. 

Get your­self Mason’s Schmucks. You’ll laugh your tuchus off.

Tami Kamin-Mey­er is a licensed attor­ney who would rather write than fight. Her byline has appeared in a vari­ety of pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing Bet­ter Homes and Gar­dens, The Rotar­i­an, Ohio Super Lawyers, Ohio Lawyers Week­ly, Ohio Mag­a­zine, Cleve­land Jew­ish News, the Jew­ish Tele­graph­ic Agency, and www​.chabad​.edu. She is also an award-win­ning Hebrew school educator.

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