By Donald V. Calamia, EncoreMichigan.com

Every year, countless young people flock to The Big Apple armed with their freshly minted theater degrees and a stack of headshots eagerly searching for that first big break. But as actor/comedian Brad Zimmerman testifies in “My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy” at Andiamo Novi Theatre, what’s planned and what actually happens are often two different things.

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And the result may be a career that was once thought of as only a necessary, temporary gig.

Raised in New Jersey, the athletic 57-year-old arrived in New York City in 1978 to pursue a career as an actor. Instead, he spent the next 29 years as a waiter, which he explains is “a lot longer than is considered understandable.”

True, but the experience helped shape a finely-honed, one-man show that had the opening night audience laughing throughout the 70-minute performance that continues through Oct. 30 at Andiamo Novi Theatre, 42705 Grand River Ave., Novi.

“I don’t really live life,” Zimmerman explains near the start of the show. “I tolerate it.” Unlike many one-man comedies, “My Son the Waiter” isn’t a rapid-fire series of loosely connected jokes. Rather, Zimmerman simply tells the story of his life’s journey – its ups and its downs. His style of delivery is direct, but conversational; deliberate, yet leisurely.

Not quite a stand-up routine nor a one-man play, “My Son the Waiter” is completely autobiographical, Zimmerman once said in an interview. “If you haven’t made a penny acting in 10 years and you have a Jewish mother, you’re going to have conversations. Those are in the play.”

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That they are – thanks to the  recurring “character” of his mother – a staple of Jewish comedy acts. Knowing she’s been a major source of his material, she once asked what he’ll do once she’s gone. “Sell your house,” he deadpans.

His father, too, makes a handful of “appearances.” But mixed among the laughs is a particularly poignant and powerful moment: his recollection of his father’s final days.

A regular at casinos, resorts and comedy clubs throughout the country, Zimmerman performs the show on a mostly bare stage. If he looks familiar, you may recognize him as Johnny Sack’s lawyer on “The Sopranos.”

Although Zimmerman bemoans the fact “The world today is not my kind of place” – an observation to which many in the mostly middle-aged audience nodded in agreement – “My Son the Waiter: A Jewish Tragedy” is timeless in its message. As he proves, no one should ever give up on his dreams – even if they take three decades and a change of direction to come to fruition.

See ticket prices and showtimes at EncoreMichigan.com.

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 Donald V. Calamia is the editorial director of EncoreMichigan.com, the state’s most comprehensive resource for news and information about Michigan’s professional theaters. He is also the theater editor of Between The Lines, for which he created The Wilde Awards, a “must attend” annual event at Detroit’s Gem Theatre that honors the work produced by the state’s professional theaters. Calamia is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Theatre Critics Association.