mason book 88 298.
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By Jackie Mason and Raoul Felder
224 pages; $25.95
'Throw the word schmuck at a person, and it is an irretrievable dagger flung. It doesn't kill but it wounds - condemning the victim to the hell of trivialization" - from the introduction to Schmucks, this collection of 60 short screeds about the foibles of liberals (and others) by comedian Jackie Mason and celebrity lawyer Raoul Felder.
This book is indicative of the tenor of American political discourse, or should I say "dis-coarse."
There is no gray in this world. It a simplistic place of us and them, black and white. As for subtlety, one doesn't expect that from Mason, a brilliant performer who has taken stereotypes of Jews and non-Jews to new heights over the years.
But over the years the one-note nature of his routines and his emergence as a "political" commentator has led to a tendentiousness that hampers his comedic strivings.
The harshest critiques in the book, those deserving the eponymous "schmuck" designation (a less negative epithet than "putz"), are directed, among others, at Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barbra Streisand, al-Qaida, Yasser Arafat, Saudi Arabia, suicide bombers and Pablo Picasso.
There are also rants familiar to Mason fans about Starbucks and sushi, TV weathermen, and Walter O'Malley for moving the Dodgers out of Brooklyn.
Mercifully, Mason and Felder's shallow observations and annoyances are brief, and sometimes even funny. This collection is a glaring example of anti-political correctness on the right wing of the American political spectrum, and while it pokes fun at the real "enemies" of Israel and the Jews, it exhibits a narrow-minded shrillness that passes for profundity.
Don't be a schmuck: pass this one up.
The writer, a rabbi, is the co-editor of The Big Book of Jewish Humor, now in its 25th anniversary edition.