Despite the title of his fifth Broadway show, Jackie Mason takes on anything, not everything. As he travels willy-nilly over the cultural landscape, what the standup comedian chooses to skewer in “Much Ado About Everything” is nearly as significant as what he omits.
Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky inspires the longest riff, Al Gore and George W. Bush receive a passing glance, and Bill Bradley and John McCain are not mentioned at all. The singing styles of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra are parodied, while those of Puff Daddy and Ricky Martin are still hovering under the comic’s radar. Busy with his own show, Mason must have missed “Dame Edna” down the street, but never got over the bad trip of taking in the musical “Titanic” two or three years ago. Likewise, “Riverdance” and “Siegfried & Roy” put lasting crimps in his nightlife. High points of the show include dead-on impersonations of William F. Buckley, the Inkspots, Jesse Jackson, Henry Kissinger and Ed Sullivan.
Ten percent of “Much Ado About Everything” could have been written and performed a year ago, and maybe it was: The show comes to Broadway via a London run. The other 90% seems freeze-dried in another era. Mason, who makes much of his scabrous political incorrectness, rarely delivers on that promise. Oh, he jabs at the First Lady’s penchant for changing her political stances: “If she’d taken more positions in the White House,” jokes Mason, “that marriage would be in better shape today.” Her husband is not a liar: “Only when he talks.”
According to Mason, Bill Clinton’s greatest accomplishment as president is that he allowed foreigners with AIDS to enter the country. They could come in, he says, “but no one with fruit!” Strangely, having flirted with the politically incorrect, Mason quickly departs this territory, even though the joke provoked the evening’s biggest laugh from his assembled fans.
One topic is absolutely sacred: Mr. Mason himself. He tells us that the critics and editors of the New York Times resurrected his career in the late 1980s, when he appeared in his first Broadway show, “The World According to Me.” He brags of his seventh command performance before Queen Elizabeth. And he criticizes those who consider him “obnoxious” because he is “too Jewish.” No laughs here, but lots of sincere applause.
Much of the show’s weaker first half is devoted to various con games of consumerism. They include escargot, Evian, espresso and nouvelle cuisine, for which American xenophiliacs overpay. Mason suggests that airlines call flying coach a Lamborghini, and clean up. And indeed on this subject he is an expert. What David Letterman and Jay Leno offer for free, Jackie Mason calls a Broadway show and prices at $65.