Theater Review: 'My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy"

Ben Miles

Brad Zimmerman spent 29 years struggling to make a living as an actor while waiting tables in New York. Beginning in 1996 Zimmerman found modest success as an opening act for comics such as George Carlin and Joan Rivers (who endorsed Zimmerman as “the best comic in his price range”). Since 2005 Zimmerman has been writing, honing and performing his autobiographical one-man play, “My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy.” The wait, the table-waiting and the will have paid-off in a fun and funny 90 minute show, which Zimmerman has now been touring for years.

Luckily, Orange County and Long Beach audiences have the opportunity to enjoy Zimmerman’s laugh-out-loud life story, through May 14, in the Huntington Beach Library Theater. Along with the chuckles that accompany his stories as a food server in casual dining establishments, however, are ample side dishes of wisdom and insight. For instance, Zimmerman refers to his time with a psychotherapist who suggested to him at a late point in his career that the issue isn’t about success or failure, but about participation. That bit of talk therapy sunk into Zimmerman’s thick-skinned persona and made all the difference in his professional life.

Forged between his long stint as a waiter, his disappointed but domineering mother and his keen observational skills, Zimmerman has developed a comedic facade that is crusty, but loveable, cutting but genuine. Zimmerman makes it clear that his tenure as a food server doesn’t portend any great knowledge with regard to food or interest in patron satisfaction or customer service. Like he suggests, “When a customer calls at me, ‘waiter,’ I call back, ‘customer,’ as I quickly walk by.”

Zimmerman has little patience for so-called “wine snobs.” In fact, he says, as a waiter he knew just two things about wine: “We either have it or we don’t.” With much physical grace and agility Zimmerman made a mark as a young athlete – excelling in soccer and other sports, which gives him the putative and comedic authority to declare that “Golf is a game, but not a sport!” His enactment of a golfer lining up a shot amusingly underscores this point as he does several double takes and minor (but laugh-inducing) physical adjustments before taking a soft swing at an imaginary ball.

Zimmerman’s humor is Catskill inspired, hard hitting and heartfelt. He has as a goal to bring the show to New York’s off-Broadway scene. Whether or not that happens is, as Zimmerman admits, uncertain. But, after all, it’s not about success or failure; it’s about participation. But one thing is certain: on the long journey to the Big Apple and the lights of off-Broadway, Zimmerman has succeeded in making many an audience nod with insight as they roll with laughter.

“My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy” continues through May 14 at the Huntington Beach Library Theater, located at 7111 Talbert Ave, Huntington Beach. Evening performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees are Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations, call 1-855-448-7469 (855-HIT SHOW). For further information, visit


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