Doing an interview with Brad Zimmerman is pretty tough. He’s worked all over the country alongside other great entertainers such as Brad Garrett, Dennis Miller, Susie Essman, and Julio Iglesias. Joan Rivers once said, “I’ve had three great opening acts in my lifetime: Billy Crystal, Garry Shandling, and Brad Zimmerman.” The guy is a master of his craft. However, when you speak with him, he doesn’t instinctively regale you with outrageous accounts of his storied life. Instead, Zimmerman asks about you. And not in a ‘break the ice’ kind of way, he is genuinely intrigued by what makes others tick. By the end of the conversation, you realize that you’ve learned more about yourself than you’ve unearthed about him.
And that’s why his show, My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy (at Penn’s Landing Playhouse until Sunday, November 19), is so incredibly insightful. Brad’s story is not about him, it’s about us. He really understands the obsessions that drive people to continually search for their individual Holy Grail, relentlessly chasing their unfulfilled dreams. Brad’s material resonates so powerfully with audiences because he gets it. He gets you.
As the press proclaims: “If you ever longed for something, if you ever desired it with all your heart, if you were willing to wait tables for 29 years to pursue your dream, then My Son The Waiter will give meaning to your Life!”
“Everything has happened the way it was supposed to for me,” Brad told Entertaining Options. “There are no what ifs. I didn’t wait tables for 29 years because I was pursuing my career… I wasn’t even pursuing my career because I didn’t have any belief in my product.”
Brad was a natural athlete at a young age. He didn’t need to practice to be good, so he never experienced self-improvement. When he got older and tried acting, he discovered that he wasn’t gifted in that area. It was something he needed to work at. Still, Brad demanded perfection from himself. But perfection just wasn’t possible at that stage of his development, so it paralyzed him. Eventually, out of frustration, he decided to use the money that was left to him when his grandmother passed away to put something out into the world. Originally, it was going to be an early work by playwright David Mamet, but Brad decided he could write something funnier.
“It turned into a one-person show,” Brad informed. “The fact that I did it still strikes me as something that was beyond my comfort zone at the time. But somehow I did it. And then I didn’t do anything else for another six years!”
With the help of a psychiatrist, Brad was able to move forward, to learn how to improve. He took a comedy class and began putting some of his restaurant material into a stand-up show.
“I started to get jobs outside the city [New York],” he recalled,” and boy did I fail! But that forced me to overcome that fear of failure. And, as I like to say, I learned to tolerate my mediocrity.”
“When you start doing comedy, you do what is called a ‘bringer show’ — you bring your audience with you,” Brad continued. “They are prolific in this city because that’s how clubs will make money during the week when they don’t have their headliners. So, on a Monday night, you do a bringer show, you bring 10 people and they give you 10 minutes of stage time.”
In 2002, Brad did a bringer show at Caroline’s Comedy Club, which he had videotaped. That tape is the reason he became a comedian. Brad sent the video out and it caught the attention of Joan Rivers, who had the same agent as Brad Garrett and George Carlin.
“Ultimately, I put getting better over getting ahead,” Brad revealed. “Every time I would perform, there would be some adjusting. That’s really what it’s about; it’s working with precision and detail. Art is not painting in broad strokes, it’s getting so specific that it becomes universal. My Son The Waiter is not just for Jews, it’s for anybody.”
“There’s an expression, and it is the ultimate, most potent expression ever used to describe someone who wants to improve. It’s called the ‘rage to master.’ It’s an extraordinary expression because to master something you have to pay a price, and 99% of human beings have no desire to do that because life is already a struggle. People are very satisfied with the middle. They are satisfied with making enough money to raise a family, but they don’t think too much about ‘What can I do to get better?'”
Brad went on to propose that it’s not money that brings happiness, it’s the pursuit of excellence. Once you figure that out and stop letting your fears hold you back, it will change your life.
“There is nothing that can even come close the joy of that connection at a show,” Brad concluded. “A woman came up to me in Chicago and she said,’ I just want to hug you!’ That means that I touched her in some way, and really, what more is there than that?”
Brad Zimmerman was born and bred in Oradell, New Jersey. He attended Riverdell High School and went to sleep-away camp at Camp Akiba in Reeders, Pennsylvania. He was bar mitzvahed at Temple Emmanuel in Westwood, New Jersey. And his his one-man show, My Son The Waiter, A Jewish Tragedy, is entering it’s final two weeks at Penn’s Landing Playhouse. For tickets, click here or call 855-HIT-SHOW. The remaining dates and times are as follows:
Thursday, November 9 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Friday, November 10 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, November 11 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Sunday, November 12 at 2 p.m.
Thursday, November 16 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Friday, November 17 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, November 18 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Sunday, November 19 at 2 p.m.
Coming soon from Brad, the sequel to My Son The Waiter… My Rise To The Middle.
Title photo by Michael D. Appleton.
Brad Zimmerman: website • Facebook • Twitter