Waiter, there’s a waiter in my soup.
“My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy” is a one-man — or perhaps I should say a one-waiter — show written and performed by Brad Zimmerman. It is the story of an actor who “temporarily” waits on tables for 29 years while he also waits for his big break to come around. The big break that happens is not one of national Tonight Show type fame, but rather a career of steady stand-up work to elderly audiences in Florida, rave plaudits from Joan Rivers and George Carlin, whom he opened for, a currently running Off-Broadway show in New York, and a keen sense of gratitude for the level of success that he has achieved.
There were many times I wanted to complain to the manager about my waiter. I wanted to send back my meal for being too schmaltzy or unoriginal. Zimmerman uses some old borsht belt type jokes that should have been retired years ago or else seem more appropriate to the show “Old Jews Telling Jokes.” (That said, the audience still delighted in them.) He puts forth some routines that feel uninspired — such as why golf isn’t really a sport. And he begins the evening with a low-energy approach.
But… My Son the Waiter grows on you. Consistently funny, Zimmerman is most winning when telling the story of his decades-long career struggles and his relationship with his parents. By the end of the show, even though there are some Jewish tragedy elements — low income, no wife and kids — the overall message is one of success. Looked at from a different Jewish perspective, Brad has endured oppression and come out on top. His dogged determination to stay with his dream come hell or high water is both endearing and inspiring.
At one point, Brad Zimmerman tells us that he was a terrific athlete as a child and that his father would cheer for him, yelling, “atta boy Zimmy.” In spite of some of my complaints — and what Jew wouldn’t have a few complaints about his waiter/ performer / stand-up — the sum total of this evening is that you will have a ton of laughs, shed a few tears, and want to yell, “atta boy Zimmy.” A man who is funny and determined and willing to bare his soul is anything but tragic, he’s a gift from God.
“My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy” is at Stage 72, 158 West 72nd Street, Manhattan; 212-868-4444, mysonthewaiter.com. Through April 5th