If any show is perfectly named, it's My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy, written and performed by Brad Zimmerman.
One person didn't think so.
Brad's mother. Her suggested title? My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Mother's Tragedy, but all is forgiven now that Brad is finally "making a living!"
His one-man show about his life as a New York acting hopeful, who supported his dream for 30 years by working as a waiter, is part stand-up and part theater. What makes it special? Brad is a very funny guy in a classic Alan King/Mal Z Lawrence tradition. His basically self-deprecating wit doesn't spare the flaws of others. Every word he utters and each gesture he makes is honed to either make you LOL or tug at your heart.
Brad originally moved to New York City 40 years ago to study acting but ended up in restaurants kitchens -- and not at Michelin-starred fine dining hotspots either. He preferred working in feed 'em fast dining room where he could answer a customer's questions about the wine list with "We have two kinds. White and Red."
Finally, in 1996, a class in stand-up comedy bolstered his confidence, and demonstrated that he could make people laugh. Brad's comedy debut was hardly auspicious - the 6 pm Saturday open-mike Poole Party at Don't Tell Mama, a cabaret club on W. 46th Street -- but Brad persevered and refined, polished and sharpened his observations, gradually working his way up to an invitation from Caroline's Comedy Club to bring 10-two-drink-buying-spectators and do 10 minutes of standup where, thanks to the club's equipment failure, Brad's set lasted considerably longer and was taped.
"Someone gave a copy of that tape to Freddie Roman." Freddie, the creator and star of Catskills on Broadway had been Dean of the Friars Club for as long as Brad had been a waiter. "And the momentum began. I was even invited to perform at a Smothers Brothers Roast, before I was even a Friar!"
Then, the late Mickey Freeman, another Borsht Belt headliner, saw Brad perform at the Friars Club and was completely wowed by Brad's material and delivery. Mickey considered Brad a unique, original comic voice. Mickey loved promoting new talent and brought Brad with him to the Joey Reynolds' Radio Show's Jewish Hour, broadcast live at 1 am nationally every Saturday morning on WOR.
Was Joey's Jewish Hour a spiritual program? No way! It was aired at a time when observant Jews weren't permitted to turn on the radio. Joey's Jewish Hour was adored by ethnic, agnostic and selectively observant Jews, atheists and faithful listeners of all faiths. Joey's Jewish Hour was an hour of mayhem, improvised by the competitive, disruptive, dysfunctional Friday night regulars, willing to kill for 15 seconds of airtime.
Mickey was the octogenarian microphone-grabbing old joke databank zayda. I was the bossy, manipulative Mama. Brad immediately became our favorite guest. Every time he appeared he brought along new material. We heard My Son the Waiter grow line by line on Joey's show and at Brad's growing number of standup performances.
How did Brad's mother take his impeding solvency? When her friends told her about their sons selling IT companies for hundreds of millions of dollars, she could finally report to them, "This Christmas, if all goes well, Brad plans to buy a bookcase."
Joey lost him when Brad climbed another rung on the comedy ladder, and started opening for superstars like George Carlin from 2006 to Carlin's death in 2008. Carlin's evaluation of Brad's comedy? "F**kin great!" Next Brad opened for Joan Rivers for seven years. She introduced him as "the best act in his price range," but kidding aside, also listed him as one of her three greatest opening acts. The other two? Billy Crystal and Garry Shandling, hardly a shabby trio.
As for Brad's acting career, he was one of the two Jews on The Sopranoswho was permitted to live. His mother must have been pleased to see him playing a lawyer. All right, so he represented a mob boss who copped a plea. It's America! Doesn't everybody deserves legal representation?
Brad quickly admits, "I was never a one-person show kind of performer, but my act just evolved into a form where I told the story of my life and my family." Like most funny guys, Brad's a keen observer of life, both his own and the people around him. He's a sculptor whose medium is language. He re-carves ideas until they're expressed perfectly. But best of all, he's VERY, VERY FUNNY!!! I've seen this show in various stages of development, and even the material I'm familiar with still always makes me laugh.
You'll find a short clip of Brad in action at www.mysonthewaiter.com which is being performed at the Triad Theater at 158 W. 72nd St. in Manhattan until December 31st, 2014.