Is a sense of humor genetic? Sheeba Mason hopes so.
The comedian is the daughter of famed Jewish comic Jackie Mason and, though she was not close to her father, it’s evident a little bit of his schtick wore off on the quick-witted Jewish millennial.
“Anything I got from him was strictly genes — or watching him, like anyone else,” Mason told the Chronicle. “I love the way, when you do stand-up, you’re an exaggerated version of yourself. It’s me —but it’s more of me!”
Mason will soon make her Pittsburgh comedy debut.
She will be the headliner at a benefit event on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 7:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill. Tickets are $30, with all proceeds benefitting Highmark Caring Place, a Pennsylvania-based organization that aids and supports grieving children.
Gene Perone — “Buddy Flip,” for those who have seen his comedy act live — is the emcee. It’s being held in memory of his son Taylor, a Squirrel Hill Jew who died about three years ago and left behind two daughters. He was just 40 years old.
“We wanted to do something in Taylor’s name,” Perone, who now lives in Penn Hills, said. “We’re not ‘foundation people.’ But we thought maybe we could produce a show. The idea just came together — a show, Sheeba, the JCC — and it seemed serendipitous.”
Perone helped launch Sheeba Mason’s career. Mason came to New York City at age 18 as a lover of theater; after grabbing a part-time job at a comedy club, she met Perone, who took on the role of mentor.
“I took his class, and the rest is history,” she laughed.
Mason admits that she has drawn more comparisons to one famous female comedian than her namesake father.
“I’ve been told I’m like Joan Rivers — that’s what they say,” Mason said.
She’s also quick to note that she avoids politics in her act, instead relying on dishing about her life as a young Jew.
“I don’t believe in being preachy,” Mason said, “or in alienating half of the crowd.”
Mason also is humble about her origins. Her father was on the “Ed Sullivan Show” the day President John F. Kennedy was shot; because he thumbed his nose at the prospect of yielding to a presidential address, the elder Mason lost favor with some producers and retreated to Florida, where he met Sheeba Mason’s mother.
“So, really,” the younger Mason quipped, “I was born because of Lee Harvey Oswald.”
“She’s a good act; she’s a strong act,” Perone said of the younger Mason.
Perone also hopes Mason’s Pittsburgh debut draws a crowd looking for some classic Jewish humor.
“We’re hoping it all works out,” Perone told the Chronicle. “We hope we can continue this tradition next year in Taylor’s name.” PJC
Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.