My Secret Life: Jackie Mason, 75, comedian


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The Independent Culture

My parents were... fantastic. My father was a rabbi, my mother was a typical Jewish mother who fussed over her children and thought they could do no wrong.

The household I grew up in... was filled with love, warmth, and tenderness. It was also very small – we had one toilet for eight people.

When I was a child I wanted to be... a boxer, which I became. I had 18 fights and quit with the 19th, because it was the first time I saw blood. Someone else's is bad enough, but to see your own – forget it.

If I could change one thing about myself... I wouldn't change anything – I would like to be whatever I am, just 42 years younger.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at... ballet dancing, which, let's face it, I was born to do. But me and white hosiery – not a match made in heaven.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... rodeo competition. Or sumo wrestling. Neither were made for Jewish people. Although, now I think about it, together they would make one terrific event for London 2012: Sumo Rodeo.

At night I dream of... waking up 10lbs thinner (except if I happen to be in my new Olympic event).

What I see when I look in the mirror...Cary Grant, Clark Gable, George Clooney and a touch of Marilyn Monroe.

It's not fashionable but I like... the idea of travelling by horse and carriage. I noticed your Queen seems to do this a lot, so if it's good enough for Her Majesty...

I drive... Despite what I just said, I never use mass transit – I have had the same driver for 20 years.

My house is... my sanctuary and my comfort zone. It is magnificently furnished – if you like newspapers and tapes all over the floor for decoration.

My favourite work of art... is by Fernando Botero, because his paintings prove that you can eat like a horse and still be an artistic masterpiece.

A book that changed me... The Talmud. When I read it, I fully understood the lives chosen by my father, grandfather, great-grandfather and their forefathers.

My greatest regret... That I don't have more hair.

My secret crush... Shirley Temple. Now, I mean, not when she was a girl.

My real-life villain... Anyone who makes more money and who is thinner and younger than me. Also, Mr Ahmadinejad.

The person who really makes me laugh... Most politicians; I think they are all a big joke.

The last time I cried... Paying my taxes.

My five-year plan... is to figure out a way to avoid paying taxes.

My life in six words... Truth, honesty, humanity, compassion, love, cash.


Jackie Mason was born in Wisconsin, in 1936, and grew up in New York. He was ordained a rabbi at 25 but quit in order to become a stand-up. He achieved success in the Sixties thanks to regular appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show – but was banned after allegedly giving its host 'the finger' on-air. He went on to have a series of successful solo shows in the Eighties and Nineties. His 'farewell' show, Fearless, is at Wyndham's Theatre, London WC2, from 13 February to 17 March