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Regional Reviews by Gil Benbrook

My Son, the Waiter
Herberger Theater Center

Also see Gil's review Xanadu


Brad Zimmerman
Brad Zimmerman is a gifted stand-up comedian in his late fifties. Over the past ten years he has opened for both Joan Rivers and George Carlin so you would think he's been performing stand-up since he was in his twenties in order to land those high profile gigs. However, as we discover in his hilarious, yet somewhat disjointed one man show My Son, the Waiter, he actually didn't start doing stand-up until he was in his forties, shortly after attending a stand-up class in 1996. So the fact that he appeared with these A-list comics after such a short time mastering his craft is a testament to Zimmerman's comic abilities. My Son, the Waiter, with the tag line "A Jewish Tragedy," follows Zimmerman's life from sleep away camp in his youth to his finding his voice in stand-up along with dealings with his overbearing Jewish mother, with plenty of jokes, stories and anecdotes about life delivered along the way.

When he was young, Brad won several athletic awards but he wasn't ambitious and was even voted "most likely to work for their father" in high school. After finding the theatre program in college and moving to New York City in 1978 he found that fear and self-criticism got in the way of pursuing his dream of becoming an actor. So he did what so many other actors do and became a waiter, something he continued doing for 29 years while he pursued his dream. And, while he said it is very humbling being a waiter for 29 years, joking that "I made more money at my bar mitzvah then I did last year," he also shares plenty of hysterical stories about everything from difficult customers he waited on over those years to his limited knowledge of wine. He says he knows two things about wine—"we have it or we don't."

As good as Zimmerman is with his comic timing, My Son, the Waiter is slightly disjointed. What begins as Zimmerman telling about how he ended up becoming a waiter quickly moves into a basic stand-up routine. He gives us jokes about health and food issues, travel delays, reality TV and even Madonna's views on psychotherapy, but doesn't quite find a way to tie these jokes into his personal journey from waiter to stand-up comedian. While his stories about his dating problems touch upon his fond remembrances of girlfriends from his past who got away and his tales about his mother's reactions to the unsuccessful events in his life provide a continued source of material, he needs the stand-up shtick to have more resonance in his journey in order for the entire evening to come together.

Zimmerman spends plenty of time talking about regrets he had, like how his father never really got to see him have any success before he passed away and how his mother often asks him about how long he plans on being a waiter. But he fails to even mention some small successes he had, including a two episode stint on "The Sopranos" that he only mentions in his bio. I would think that adding something about how he felt about landing a part on such a high caliber level show and what his mother said about it would add considerable significance to the show. Surely she had something positive to say about that achievement. Even if he only had a few lines in that role, you would think he'd want to share at least one story about appearing on "The Sopranos" in his one man show.

Fortunately, Zimmerman not only knows his way around a joke but he now clearly has a goal and a drive and adds in several life lessons he's learned along the way. The most meaningful is that money doesn't equal happiness but the pursuit of excellence does.

Zimmerman's show tells the story of how he got to where he is today, told with many jokes, self-deprecating tales, some poignant stories about his father and many hilarious exchanges with his overbearing mother. He is also a gifted actor, often changing his voice to easily portray his parents, customers he's waited on, girlfriends he has dated, and he even displays an excellent Scottish accent to portray his first role in a play in college. He has stated that he is working on the show as it tours around the country so I'm hopeful that he will find a way to better incorporate the more typical stand-up routine into his life story. But even with these faults, My Son, the Waiter is still worth seeing, not only for Zimmerman's excellent comic timing but also for the nice connection the show has to anyone who is willing to stay the course when you find something in your life that you truly love doing.

My Son, the Waiter runs through February 2nd at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe Street in Phoenix. Tickets can be purchased by calling 602-252-8497 or at herbergertheater.org. The show then plays in Owings Mills, Maryland, outside of Baltimore March 12-16; in San Diego at the Lyceum Theater for 14 weeks, May 27 - August 31st; and in Thousand Oaks, California September 3-21. Additional tour dates can be found at mysonthewaiter.com.

Written by and starring Brad Zimmerman
Presented by Philip Roger Roy & Dana Matthow in association with Presley Theatre Corp.


Photo: Philip Roger Roy & Dana Matthow Productions

--Gil Benbrook


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for Phoenix



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