Review: Israel 60 Gala Show

By Alex Kasriel, May 16, 2008

Wembley Arena, London

The organisers sold the event using Jackie Mason’s name as a draw, but in reality the audience Israel 60 Gala Show got a lot more excited about a lesser known performer on the night.

Sarit Hadad is Israel’s biggest pop star and even counts Madonna as a fan — but she is hardly known in the UK. So it came as a surprise that the young Zionists in the 7,500 -strong crowd last Thursday night went bonkers over her — singing along to the lyrics, waving their Israeli flags, and doing the conga in the aisles as she sung her brand of Middle Eastern-infused pop. The sense of solidarity in the audience was overwhelming.

When the 29-year-old singer-songwriter showed off her fast finger work on the darbuka (a Middle Eastern drum), it proved how versatile the former Eurovision Song Contest entrant is.

Jackie Mason was in his usual un-PC mode at
Wembley Arena. Some audience walked out

In comparison, the king of kosher comedy Jackie Mason went down like a lead gefilte fish. His jokes about Indian doctors, gay interior designers and “schwarzer” US presidential candidates felt dated and unfunny and caused some members of the audience to walk out. His impression of Henry Kissinger and an admittedly rather funny gag about Moshe Dayan proved how long he has been using this material.

The former rabbi got a few laughs as he delivered his punchlines which invariably included the words “putz” or “shmuck” or “yenta”, but mostly out of a kind of nostalgia.

His observation that Barack Obama had not done anything particularly noteworthy apart from being black — and even then he is only half-black as his mother is black but his father is white — verged on the offensive. No less questionable was his line: “If you ordered a black couch and something the colour of Barack Obama turned up, you wouldn’t be happy.”

His gags about Israelis not looking like they are related to the less than athletic Jews of the diaspora were well observed and relevant to the event. “In Israel they are tough Jews,” he said. “I know because when I saw them I thought they were Puerto Ricans.”

At certain points during his impressions, he descended into a series of splutters and spits, which were supposed to be funny but were actually an obvious cover for a lack of dexterity.

There was a sense that while British Jews hold Mason close to their hearts as the most demonstrably Jewish comic in the world and quite clearly pro-Israel with it, his performance here showed it is high time for him to give up the Borscht Belt act and hand over to the new generation of Jewish comedians.

Last updated: 11:04am, May 20 2008