Mason, whose death was reported by the New York Times as told by his lawyer Raoul Felder, died Saturday in a Manhattan hospital. No cause of death was given.
Mason was a Tony and Emmy winner famous for his one-man Broadway shows and for attracting a whole new generation of fans with his well-known voice of Rabbi Hyman Krustofski, or the father of Krusty the clown, in “The Simpsons”.
Once a rabbi of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and born into a family of strict Orthodox Jews from a long line of rabbis, Mason made his Catskills stand-up debut in the 1940s and 1950s, but managed to maintain his flourishing career long after the seaside resorts. closed their doors, especially in the 80s, when he won a Tony for his one-man show “The World According to Me”.
Mason was famous for his down-to-earth, Yiddish comedy in which he waved his arms and gesticulated wildly, aiming at everything from football to doctors to elevator music.
Although he made his debut before comedians like Don Rickles, it was only after an appearance on Steve Allen’s “Tonight Show” in 1962 that he made his first television appearance, later becoming a frequent guest of “The Ed Sullivan Show.” He found himself embroiled in the ‘middle finger incident’ on the Ed Sullivan show, holding out one of his own fingers to Sullivan and the audience after a speech by Lyndon Johnson preempted the show and came back when Mason was halfway through his act. Sullivan canceled Mason’s contract after being convinced that the fingers he was showing were an obscene gesture.
Some of Mason’s other film and television roles included “The Jerk” with Steve Martin, “The History of the World, Part 1” by Mel Brooks (he played Jew # 1), replacing Rodney Dangerfield in “Caddyshack II , The failed sitcom “Chicken Soup” and in a small guest appearance as himself on “30 Rock”.