He was born Yacov Moshe Maza on June 9, 1931, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. When Mason was five years old his family moved to New York City. He grew up in a family surrounded of rabbis, including his father and three of his brothers. At age 25, Mason was ordained as a rabbi. It was not until 1957, after the death of his father, that Mason began his career as a comedian. Mason first began performing on the Borscht Belt, and then went on to New York City nightclubs. His appearances, during 1960, on the Steve Allen’s “Tonight Show” furthered his career to the top nightclubs.
In 1962, Mason gained notoriety by supposedly giving Ed Sullivan “the finger” on a live telecast of Sullivan’s weekly variety show. However, Mason denied that he made the obscene gesture. Mason later retaliated against Sullivan with a libel suit in the New York State Supreme Court and won. Nevertheless, this scandal greatly hurt Mason’s career for several decades.
Mason had to work his way up again, with club appearances and television guest spots. However, by the early 1980s, Mason opened his one-man comedy show, The World According to Me in Hollywood and Beverly Hills. The show became such a huge success, that in December 1986, the show premiered on Broadway. In 1987, Mason received a Tony Award for his show.
Mason has also been known as a fervent supporter of Israel. He co-founded the organization One Jerusalem to defend against the Oslo peace agreement to divide the city into the Jewish and Palestinian capitals. Mason believes Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel.
In November 2005, Mason started a daily talk show, “The Jackie Mason Show”, which airs nightly on the CN8 network on Comcast cable television. As of July 2006, Mason is also the host of a nationally syndicated radio program.