Late into the eighty-eight minute one-man show, writer and performer Brad Zimmerman says his play has the wrong title. In fact, he admits, it should be entitled, “My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Mother’s Tragedy.” The joke gets a big laugh from the very appreciative audience, which it undoubtedly does at every performance. More than a one-liner, the joke highlights that this reflective history of a stand-up comedian and waiter’s life is really a combination of valentine to his mother and therapy session for himself.
The comedian is at his best as a modern-day Catskills comic, selling one-liners and short jokes with energy and deft timing. Too young to have worked the Catskills circuit, the sixty-two-year-old understands how to sell an old joke with freshness and verve that leaves the audience reminiscing about an earlier age. The jokes are interspersed with his own personal arc, a tortious journey through the dark side of the entertainment industry where jobs are scarce and waiting tables becomes a powerful reminder of the sacrifice needed even to claim bit parts.
Zimmerman’s demons may be keener than most. He struggled to get parts, as does every comic and actor, but he also struggled with paralyzing fears that stopped him for decades from moving from acting classes to theatrical work. To the thousands of restaurant customers he served, the material does not offer much of an apology. His main theme remains “It’s nearly closing, don’t you have a can of tuna fish at home?” Still, Zimmerman has worked. He opened for legendary comics George Carlin and Joan Rivers for a short time. He also appeared as in “The Sopranos” as the attorney for mobster Johnny Sack. And of course, becoming an attorney should make any Jewish mother proud, even if it was only on TV.
His conversations with his mother and father frame his life and highlight the true tragedy referenced in the title. This clever comic is working to prove a point more than to entertain an audience. Like great Matzah Ball Soup, Zimmerman’s great joke delivery are the Matzah Balls, and every good waiter knows to be sure the bowl isn’t just filled with thin broth. Fortunately, his humor floats to the top, leaving the audience fully satisfied.
My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy runs through March 25, 2018 at the Norma & William Horvitz Auditorium at the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale. Phone: 888-448-7469. http://mysonthewaiter.com/
Showtimes: Thurs. 2:00 pm & 7:30 pm; Friday 7:30 pm; Sat. 2:00 pm & 7:30 pm; Sun. 2:00 pm