When producers of the 2016 Toronto Jewish Comedy Festival reached out to North American standup comics to join the lineup, Sheba Mason was at the top of the list.
“She’s the daughter of a comedy legend. I lived in New York and did some standup, and I’ve seen her perform before and she’s great,” said Ronen Geisler, one of the show’s producers and performers.
“It’s a Jewish comedy festival, so I guess he thought, ‘Who is one of the Jewier comics I know?’” said 30-year-old Mason, the daughter of Jackie Mason. “I am the daughter of the ultimate Jew. It’s my pedigree, so for a Jewish comedy festival – I’m there.”
On Aug. 14, a lineup of North American Jewish comedic talent will perform at Toronto’s Regent Theatre as part of the 2016 Toronto Jewish Comedy Festival: Jews on the Roof.
Mason, who will be performing in Toronto for the first time later this month, said although her style of comedy is different from her father’s, “I do get a lot of gigs based on that… When they can’t afford Jackie Mason, they get me.”
While Mason has been doing standup comedy since she was 19, she found herself on stage as early as two years old as a “stage prop” in her mother’s play that was originally written in 1983 about her 10-year love affair with Jackie Mason.
The play was re-written over the years to include the circumstances surrounding Sheba Mason’s birth, which led to a three-year paternity suit to prove that Jackie Mason was her father.
The show, 702 Punchlines and Pregnant: The Jackie Mason Musical, which still runs off-Broadway in New York, was rewritten by Mason and her mom, Ginger Reiter, with Mason playing the role of her pregnant mother.
Despite the success of the show, Mason said she enjoys the solitude that comes with standup comedy.
“I really like being alone on stage, versus being in a play where you are so dependent on others, you know? I really love the aloneness,” said Mason, who described herself a “throw-back” comic influenced by Joan Rivers, “with a modern twist.”
In her standup, she explores everyday topics such as dating, as well as politics.
“I’m a political person. I care about politics. I’m not just a whore,” she said with a laugh.
Geisler said he’s looking forward to the show, which he believes is the first of its kind in Toronto.
“We’re focusing on promoting Jewish comedians across Canada and the States. I think it’s something that’s good to bring to the community,” he said.
Headlining the show is Jon Steinberg, a veteran Canadian comedian who draws material from his “unique and twisted view of the world,” while Simon Rakoff, a Just for Laughs alum, will host.
The featured comics include Adrienne Fish, who was named Toronto’s best female standup for 2015 by Now Magazine; Robby Hoffman, a relative newcomer described as a “tiny red-headed ex-chassidic lesbian Jew with a Yiddish drawl”; South African-born and raised Ariel Kagan, who recently launched his career in North America; and Michael Khardas, who is Israeli-born and Toronto-based.
On Aug. 10, a competition of amateur comics, called the Not-so-Kosher Comedy Competition, will be held at Club 120 in Toronto to determine who will be awarded an opportunity to perform at the Aug. 14 event.
“We had 12 amateur comedians post videos of their standup online,” Geisler explained.
“People voted, and the top four comedians get to perform that night, and judges from the community will decide a winner. The winner will perform at the Jews on the Roof event later that week.”
For more on the festival, visit facebook.com/jewishcomedyfestival.