September 23, 2018

Serving Up Laughs in ‘My Son the Waiter’

It may be subtitled “A Jewish Tragedy,” but Brad Zimmerman’s one-man show “My Son the Waiter” elicits a lot more laughter than tears. The actor and stand-up comic mines his showbiz struggles, pet peeves and his relationship with his Jewish mother for hilarity in the hybrid stand-up-meets-theater performance, which runs through June 10 at The Colony Theatre in Burbank.

In the 80-minute show, Zimmerman riffs on, among other things, his New Jersey childhood, reality TV and his love life, while acting out both sides of many conversations with his mother — the butt of many of his jokes. His 88-year-old mother, Barbara Zimmerman, has seen the show many times and loves it, he said: “When people ask how she feels about me making fun of her, she says, ‘It’s all true.’ ”

Zimmerman tells the audience that he’s very proud to be Jewish, but is not a practicing Jew. “We were very Reform, though we belonged to a Conservative synagogue,” he said. “We did the things you were supposed to do. You fast and go to temple on Yom Kippur. You get bar mitzvahed. That’s what the grandparents wanted. It was important to them. For me, it never became a priority. But I was born to be a Jew. I have the angst, the medication, no hair. I love the culture and the food. I live to eat.”

As the show’s title suggests, Zimmerman talks about his 29 years waiting tables in New York, 16 of them at Chat ‘n’ Chew, “the kind of place where I could sit down with a customer and schmooze,” Zimmerman said. “I worked at a very fancy restaurant for a short time, but I [preferred] places where I made less money but I could be myself.”

Although he studied acting in college, Zimmerman, now 64, said a lack of confidence prevented him from pursuing his career to the fullest until he took a stand-up comedy class in 1996. Within a few years, he was opening for Brad Garrett, Joan Rivers and George Carlin.

A latecomer to writing, he began working on “My Son the Waiter” in 2005 and honed it by performing it for free. In 2013, an agent saw the show and booked Zimmerman in a Florida theater where the show became a hit and ran for more than four months. That success led to 15 months of shows off-Broadway and a seven-year contract that has taken him all over the United States. He has dates booked through September.

For the last four years, Zimmerman has been working on a sequel to “My Son the Waiter” called “My Rise to the Middle,” which he describes as “a similar story told totally differently. It’s all stories, no stand-up.” He will perform it on June 10, his last night at the Colony Theatre.

“Sopranos” fans may remember Zimmerman for his role as Ron Perse, Johnny Sacks’ lawyer. He hopes to do more television and film roles — “Mix it up a little,” he said.

With his struggling years behind him, Zimmerman said he is grateful for the chance to tell his story, inspire people and make audiences laugh. “The show is very relatable, and you don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate it,” he said. “Struggle is universal.”

“I’m very blessed and very proud of what I’ve done,” he said. “I have only one regret: I wish I had known early on how important saving money is for your future. I didn’t start till I was 58 years old. Otherwise, it played out how it was meant to.”

“My Son the Waiter” runs through June 10 at The Colony Theatre. Visit mysonthewaiter.com for tickets and information.