Mason was known as a “Borscht Belt” comic.
Lawyer Raoul Felder, a friend of the Rabbi-turned-funnyman, confirmed the news to The New York Times. Mason died at an undisclosed hospital on Saturday.
Mason was well known as a “Borscht Belt” comic, due to his early performances in the Catskills (think The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel). The comedian’s career took him around the world, and he even performed in front of Queen Elizabeth II in 1989 and 1991.
He found the funny in the ordinary (like listening in to a neighboring conversation about ketchup pouring techniques), but in an interview during his 2012 farewell tour of the UK, he told the BBC he couldn’t explain how things were funny.
“What makes something funny is something I can’t explain to you, because I have no idea why something is funny,” he said.
His humor also focused on Jewish themes, and sometimes veered into political incorrectness.
Mason was a regular on television in the 1960s, performing comedy sets on The Tonight Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Garry Moore Show, The Hollywood Palace, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and The Mike Douglas Show. He also appeared as a regular on Hollywood Squares and took part in Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts of Angie Dickinson and Ted Knight.
The comedian had several TV and video comedy specials, including Jackie Mason: The World According to Me (which won him an Emmy in 1988), Jackie Mason in Israel, Jackie Mason at the London Palladium, and Jackie Mason: The Ultimate Jew, which was a documentary.
There were many notable acting roles for the funnyman, including playing Harry Hartounian in 1979’s The Jerk, starring Steve Martin, and Jack Hartounian (yep, same last name) in 1988’s Caddyshack II, alongside Dyan Cannon, and Chevy Chase.
Mason voiced Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky, Krusty the Clown’s dad in The Simpsons. He won an Emmy for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for that role in 1992. 30 Rock brought him on to play himself in “The Collection” episode of the NBC comedy in 2007.
Asked if media portrayals of himself were accurate or an act, Mason told the BBC the media got it right.
“None of it is an act. It’s all exactly me,” he said. “I’m blunt, I’m frank, and honest about myself and about my reason for being here, and the pleasure I get out of it. It’s all exactly what I feel. I have no pretensions about anything when I talk about myself.”
Mason was born in 1936, and originally became a Rabbi when he was 25, but left three years later.
A registered Republican, he was known for speaking out for then-candidate Donald Trump in 2015, calling him a “bombastic powerhouse” and a “colorful, dynamic character,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Mason is survived by his wife and manager, Jyll Rosenfeld (whom he married in 1991), and his daughter, comedian Sheba Mason (whose mother is Ginger Reiter).
A host of celebrities mourned Mason’s passing on Twitter.