Everyone has heard the story of the son or daughter who is an “actor” and known that it really means that they work in a restaurant. While most people do what they can to mitigate the shame, Brad Zimmerman is facing the issue head on. Will hysteria ensue?
In his one-man show, “My Son the Waiter” (www.mysonthewaiter.com), which will be performed Wed. April 23 – Sun. May 25 at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, Zimmerman (who eventually “made it” to the HBO superhit “The Sopranos” and other notable gigs) combines his experience as an actor and stand-up comedian with his many years as a table hopper. In the process, he leaves audiences laughing, but also considering what it means to truly love something so much that you would literally live on tips to pursue it.
Though the source material may not be unique (as nearly every server in New York and Los Angeles keeps a script in their apron pocket), Zimmerman’s approach to it is. Unlike the multitude who wait tables while waiting for their “big break,” Zimmerman says that he was simply “doing my best to believe in my product.”
“It’s atypical in that I didn’t make a dime from acting for decades,” he suggests, “and yet never did what 99%percent of the people who come to new York to be actors do- give up.”
As the show combines theatre and comedy, Zimmerman says it offers the full menu of his talents. “All of my acting experience is on display,” he says, noting how his ability to be comfortable on stage allows him to work through the jokes to the more poignant parts of the story as well. “It draws on my ability to be real,” he says. “That is what its ultimately about.”
While working his way through showbiz, Zimmerman caught the attention of such legends as Joan Rivers and George Carlin, for whom he regularly opened and from whom he definitely learned.
“Joan is a tiger,” Zimmerman observes. “She is totally committed! If she says ‘I hate the Hilton sisters,’ you believe she really hates the Hilton sisters.
Such strength, Zimmerman suggests, comes from River’s undying love of her craft. “She is from the classic setup and punchline school of comedians,” he says, citing other notable names such as Rodney Dangerfield, Henny Youngman, aqnd Jack benny. “You get loads of laughs per minute. That in itself is an art.”
As for Carlin, Zimmerman says that he was “a bit different” in that he was “more of a ranter” who related his true feelings in a different way.
“George was more of an experience,” Zimmerman says. “Watching Joan was entertainment.”
Since working with them, Zimmerman has tried to offer a bit of both, as he does in this show. “I always love it when there is more then just laughs in the comedians arsenal,” he explains. “I try to provide an experience for my audience. My material makes you think.”
As such, Zimmerman suggests, his show is not just for any particular group of people other than those who like to engage in ideas through comedy. “It’s for anyone who has a bit of sophistication and has some culture on his resume,” he says. “It’s for people who don’t have what we call today the short attention span. It’s for a theatre audience, plain and simple. Religious affiliation is irrelevant. It’s a universal tale!”
When then, Brad, is the subtitle of the show “A Jewish Tragedy”?
“The reason it is called a Jewish tragedy,” Zimmerman explains (crediting whoever came up with that “brilliant title”), “is because when a Jewish son doesn’t earn money for years, the mother becomes a huge part of the scenario.” Admitting that he too was a victim of the parental wish for doctors and of the disappointment that came when it became clear that this was not to be, Zimmerman says, “That’s what makes it a tragedy.”
Fortunately, as with all good theatre, the show has “a beginning a middle and an end,” and this show “ends on the upswing with the creation of the show and me not having to wait tables and finding my niche and my purpose on this earth.”
Unlike colleagues who give up their dreams for the promise of security (whatever that is), Zimmerman has persevered and stuck with his art and it is paying off!
“Here is a tale of a guy who was willing to pay the price to master what he does,” he says, “and the security (money) has always been the byproduct.”
As for what keeps him going, Zimmerman smiles and says,”I have a strong reason to wake up every day. That is a great feeling!”
Tickets: $47. Performances Wed-Sun. Check website below for dates and show imes.
– Matt Robinson
7 Medford St., Arlington, 781-646-4849 www.regenttheatre.com