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Jewish World Review Sept. 3, 2002/ 26 Elul, 5762

Raoul Felder

Jackie & Raul
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T'aint funny | Usually the by-line of this column lists Jackie Mason as co-author. However, the events of the last week that involve Jackie and journalistic integrity (which is as much an oxymoron as "easy work" or "military intelligence") suggest that Jackie should stand on the sidelines and allow me to address the firestorm.

Virtually every major newspaper and TV news show related the saga of Jackie and Ray Hanania, a Palestinian comedian, who Jackie allegedly had bounced from appearing at Zanies, a Chicago comedy club. Watching the Today Show of August 29th, Ray Hanania, the comic, presented a simple story: He was an opening act for Jackie, and upon Jackie learning that he was a Palestinian, "fired" him, thereby denying this deserving youngster an opportunity for success in show business -- one more Palestinian a victim of the Jews. The story sounds great.

However, what really happened does not fit into Mr. Hanania's neat package and, in fact, his explanation bears little resemblance to what actually occurred.

To begin with, Mr. Hanania is not some budding comic struggling for a first break in show business. Rather, according to his own biography on his Internet site, he " a professional media and communications consultant, and senior executive for national public relations and public affairs company based in Chicago." As far as being denied his one chance at performing in this particular venue, the same website indicates that "He [Mr. Hanania] has performed at numerous comedy clubs including Zanies, Chicago's premier comedy club."

Mr. Hanania claims he was fired by Jackie Mason. In fact, he was not "fired" but, rather, the Club management rescheduled his engagement to another, more desirable weekend date and he was paid for a full week. Anyone familiar with bookings at comedy clubs knows that rescheduling a comic occurs all the time.

What actually happened was that Jackie approved Mr. Hanania as an opening act. He knew Mr. Hanania was a Palestinian, and that fact was known to Jackie when he hired him. It was not a case of either Mr. Hanania having a religious conversion and becoming a Palestinian between the time he was hired and "fired", or of Jackie discovering that Mr. Hanania was a Palestinian after he was hired. Mr. Hanania being a Palestinian did not enter into his being hired. As a matter of fact, in a prior week, Jackie used a Jordanian comic to "open" for him.

After Mr. Hanania was hired and Jackie was scheduled to perform, Mr. Hanania, apparently in his other capacity as a media and communications consultant, made sure that his appearance was heralded in the media and attempted to play the Arab-Jew conflict card. People began calling Zanies in reaction to the situation.

The decision was made by Zanies to move Mr. Hanania to another date (actually a better date since it involved a weekend). Zanies' action was approved by Jackie. There is no question Jackie approved Mr. Hanania being rescheduled and he did so for good reason. The situation in the Middle East is a tragic one and Jackie simply did not feel it appropriate in the midst of all the killing and mayhem to exploit the horrors to gain for Mr. Hanania fame, nor to make it any part of a comic presentation.

The publicity that Mr. Hanania sought and obtained created a further problem for Jackie. Jackie utilizes comedy clubs to try out new material in preparation for his October Broadway show. In past years and prior Broadway shows he tried out his material at small clubs and charitable organizations ---" religious groups, etc. before coming to New York. The organizations where he performed would charge admission and keep all the proceeds. Jackie would have the benefit of the input of the group to his new material.

Recently he started trying out the new material at comedy clubs. Because of the publicity Mr. Hanania caused, there would be exposure to the media of Jackie's new material before he gets to Broadway. This might have the effect of people feeling that once they heard the material, there would be no reason to buy tickets for the Broadway show, or the media may hear jokes that will never find their way to Broadway because Jackie is dissatisfied with the audience's reaction to them.

Mr. Hanania, in addition to his media skills, does not come cloaked in innocence or lack of sophistication to the Palestinian-Jewish problem. I have specifically refrained from mentioning unfavorable information we have received concerning this gentleman, since I have no way of verifying its authenticity or accuracy.

However, enough is "on the record" to reveal Mr. Hanania's proclivities. It should be noted that Mr. Hanania wants America to lift its boycotts against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. In his words, his reasoning is, it is "... a plea to Americans to look past the politics and recognize the hardships being imposed on the people of Iraq."

Somebody should advise Mr. Hanania that we were at war once with this regime, and are about to go to war again, putting American treasure and blood on the line because Saddam Hussein is in a position and has a proclivity to effect extreme hardships on the people of America. He would be better served to be concerned about "the people of America, rather than the people of Iraq."

Viewers of the Today Show heard Mr. Hanania say at least four times in his presentation, he regretted things he said in the past -- as well he should. Jackie, when his turn came, pointed out that amongst things Mr. Hanania obviously regretted was, using words like "murderer" and "Nazis" in discussing the Prime Minister of Israel, and Israeli actions. Mr. Hanania, in an article that he has written, and which perhaps he now also regrets, accuses the Israelis of "institutional violence", and goes on to say, "If the Arab and Palestinians really want to get Israel's attention and force them to take the peace process seriously, then the Arabs and the Palestinians must begin serious preparations for a new war against Israel."

Mr. Hanania was also the subject of some interest by the FBI. In fact, he indicated "FBI agents interviewed my neighbors, my friends, some teachers, and a few relatives for more than 2 years. It upset me."

One could understand the person being upset if investigated by the FBI and, I suppose, his being "upset" on some level would be an understandable reaction. But he should also understand American "upset" when over 2,823 people were murdered in America having done nothing more sinister than going to work on a sunny September morning.

People who have observed Mr. Hanania's humor have found it lacking and decidedly unfunny. In fact, popular radio show host Mark Simone suggested that with all the talk of Palestinian bombers, if they really want to hear a Palestinian bomb, they should attend Mr. Hanania's performance. Perhaps Mr. Hanania should perform in the town of Ramallah. The citizens of Ramallah already have odd sensibilities concerning things that make them happy, as when they danced and sang in the streets after the September 11th murders. Perhaps they would be more appreciative of his talents than we are.

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© 2002, Raul Felder