CHICAGO, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Standup comedian Ray Hanania thought his gig this week opening for Jackie Mason at Zanies comedy club was a big break.
Now it's a controversy after the club decided to replace the Arab-American with a Hispanic woman comedian at the last minute.
Hanania learned he wouldn't be on the same bill with the veteran Jewish comedian a few hours before Tuesday evening's performance. He said he was booked to play the well-known comedy club months ago, but said that management unexpectedly told him Mason felt "uncomfortable with an unknown opening act."
"Last week they called me and said 'hey, he said it was cool you're Palestinian.' It's not a problem. The fact that your humor is about being Arab-American, your wife is Jewish. They think it's okay, go ahead," said Hanania, a 49-year-old former reporter who used to cover City Hall for the Chicago Sun-Times.
The former public relations man said he believes Mason's manager just made a "very stupid decision."
"There is nothing in my humor that is political or that attacks Israel at all," he said. "I make fun of my own Arab stereotypes and I make light of the fact that my wife is Jewish."
Hanania wants an apology from Mason, a Tony and Grammy award-winning funnyman who starred as a stereotypical self-made millionaire in the movie Caddyshack II."
Members of the United Arab American League threatened to picket Zanies during a Wednesday afternoon news conference called by Mason.
"Jackie Mason was not comfortable with him," Linda Moses, manager of Zanies, said. He doesn't know Ray and he didn't think it was a good idea. He was a little concerned with having a Palestinian open for a Jewish person."
Mason said he is not anti-Arab and that he supported former Michigan Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham over a Jewish challenger.
"All I heard is that a comedian was opening for me who has no experience," said Mason. "And I heard that they changed their mind about having a guy without experience open for me."
Hanania is scheduled to perform his routine at Zanies on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.