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Funnyman Mason achieves Broadway celebrity

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The World According to Me! Written, created by, and starring Jackie Mason. After nearly three dues-paying decades as a practicing entertainer, funnyman Jackie Mason has achieved a new celebrity - first in Los Angeles and now on Broadway. Mr. Mason has brought his stand-up comic wares to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in an entertainment with the catchall title, ``The World According to Me!'' The world is wacky and the wares are funny.

The cheerfully chunky Mason discourses on such matters of concern (and unconcern) as politics, international affairs, sex education, Hollywood producers and celebrities, Jews and gentiles, and the weather. With huge map and elongated pointer, he deals with a species of geopolitics for which Clare Booth Luce once coined the word ``globaloney.'' Mason serves it up with a bagel. He analyzes the Hollywood pecking order in terms of its cars: Mercedes-Benzes first, Rollses (``always in the shop''), and Cadillacs (infra dig). Of weather forecasters who issue airport temperatures, he complains: ``Who lives at the airport?''

Mason mimics a train of show-biz and other types, from Ed Sullivan to Sylvester Stallone and selected political bigwigs.

Although he delivers some of his material seated in his name-inscribed director's chair - proving that a stand-up comic can work sitting down - Mason spends most of the evening energetically on the move. He choreographs himself and punctuates his jokes with bodily exclamation points.

``The World According to Me!'' is not, however, merely a case of a spotlighted comedian. The scenic embellishments feature projected backgrounds by Neil Peter Jampolis.

One thunder-and-lightning effect symbolizing the state of turmoil in the world must have cost a pretty penny. Or perhaps even a pretty nickel. Mason employs these visual aids to best comic advantage.

In cabaret tradition, he also needles a couple of front-row spectators. He announces the intermission ``so everybody can figure out what's wrong with this show.'' But he ends the evening with an affecting little epilogue.

Fortunately, apart from an occasionally attenuated sketch, there's nothing wrong with ``The World According to Me!'' This onetime rabbi from a rabbinical family has transformed himself over the years into the kind of seasoned jester who can keep an audience almost continually laughing for his approximately 90-minute show. Sharing the merriment at the Atkinson, one gets the feeling that the borsch belt has been reborn on Broadway and that Jackie Mason is its renaissance man.

Mason uses PBS's ``Masterpiece Theatre'' theme as his incidental music. It's more than an incongruously classy touch. If humor is intrinsic to a culture, ``The World According to Me!'' is a cultural event. Indisputably.


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