My Son the Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy! serves audiences a large helping of original humour, while dishing up poignant and inspiring moments.
“The story is about a guy … me,” says Brad Zimmerman, who wrote and stars in the play. “I am paralysed by fear of failure and lack of confidence. I go out into the world and overcome it and stay the course and eventually have this immense gratification of self-improvement. It is sometimes hard to stay the course, 99 per cent of the people I started with are no longer doing it – their priorities changed, but mine never did.”
The play is presented by the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company at the Toronto Centre for the Arts and runs from Nov. 28 to Dec. 10. It examines Zimmerman’s lengthy struggle to make it as an actor in New York and includes send-ups on his youth, his family and his misbegotten love life.
“I get so many letters thanking me,” he says proudly. “Some people are inspired. It makes them think and gives them an idea of what life really might be about. It’s about the simple things, instead of possessions and money. It’s about finding something you really love and being creative in whatever it might be. I think it challenges people and makes them reassess their own life. Despite the struggle, it is a very uplifting piece. People leave the theatre very happy. They can relate to it – and not just Jews. It is universal.”
Originally from Oradell, N.J., Zimmerman, left for New York to pursue his dream of becoming an actor and comedian. He spent 29 years “temporarily” waiting tables in the Big Apple, while chasing his dream of making it in showbiz. One day, a customer at the restaurant he was working at who was familiar with his earlier one-man shows, suggested that he would produce a show for Zimmerman.
“I had no desire to do one-man shows anymore, but I wasn’t doing anything else but some comedy, so I said I’d do it,” states Zimmerman. “So I put together a hybrid of part stand-up, because I was doing stand-up, and part theatre, because I was trained as an actor. I did three shows in 2005 and what I did know after doing the three shows was that I had to keep going. The next year, I did three more shows and then the next year, I did three more shows and none of these shows made money.
“Then, in 2008, I made a tape of the show and sent it to someone in Florida and they paid me for the first time to do it. It wasn’t until a production company bought touring rights to the show in 2013 that I really made money.”
Since then, he hasn’t looked back, spending over a year at a New York City cabaret and touring throughout the U.S. to this day. He’s currently writing a sequel to My Son the Waiter, called My Rise to the Middle. Zimmerman says he is very excited about the new show and already has a one-night booking for the sequel in Florida.
Zimmerman, who is not religious, says that there is Jewish sensibility in his material.
The title comes from the notion of the “Jewish mother,” who feels she can only be really proud if her child becomes a doctor or a lawyer. He says that this can embarrass many children. When he didn’t make a dime for 10 years, his more realistic mother suggested he go work for his father. But the funny man felt he had to fend off people who wanted to change his direction.
Eventually, his perseverance paid off: Zimmerman landed a small part in The Sopranos, playing Johnny Sack’s lawyer. On the comedy front, he became a sought after opening act for a number of headline entertainers, including Julio Iglesias and George Carlin. He toured with Joan Rivers for seven years.