SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The uproarious Steve Solomon is performing his hit comedy “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m In Therapy!” at the South Orange Performing Arts Center through May 22 and he is leaving the audience in tears — tears of laughter.
The wildly successful one-man show has been enjoyed by almost a million people in several countries and in more than 100 cities around the world since 2003, making it one of the longest running one-man comedies of all time. From 2006 to 2008, Steve performed the show on Broadway, winning Broadway.com’s Best New Play Award and BroadwayWorld.com’s Audience’s Favorite Play Award. The show continues to run on tour in multiple cities to this day.
The 90-minute laugh fest explores mixed marriage, familial relations, generation gaps, religious customs, ethnic stereotypes, the aging process, sex education, child-rearing, modern technology, airplane woes and much more, all against a backdrop of Solomon waiting for his therapy appointment to begin.
Where does Solomon get all his varied and hilarious material?
“I lived this every day,” he said during a phone interview with the News-Record, “and one of my gifts is memory. I’m a member of Mensa, and I can go back to specific conversations from when I was 3 years old.” Mensa is the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world.
Solomon, a Brooklyn native, grew up in the culturally diverse neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay.
“From the time I was a tiny kid, I could imitate different voices and characters,” he said. During his very early years, for example, he used his “old man voice” to imitate his father in order to get out of trouble for skipping school. Later, when delivering Chinese food, he would announce his arrival in a thick Chinese accent, only to deadpan, saying, “the other guy just left” in his normal voice when the customer opened the door.
Solomon continued to develop his talent for humor throughout his youth. He constantly wrote jokes and funny stories, worked on brilliant imitations of accents and dialects, and also taught himself how to vocalize a wide variety of sound effects. His parents initially discouraged him from pursuing his dream of being a comedic entertainer, urging him instead to follow a “safer” path that he could “fall back on,” like teaching.
The comedian became a physics teacher and eventually also an assistant superintendent of schools on Long Island, but his comedic drive showed no signs of slowing down. He delighted students and sometimes irritated school administrators with his irreverent brand of humor for years. However, after eventually growing disenchanted with some aspects of the educational system, he decided to leave teaching to pursue his dream of being an entertainer.
“My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m In Therapy” is one of the side-splitting products of his pursuit. The show stays current because it evolves with the times.
“I try to update it as much as I can,” Solomon said of his process. “Sometimes, I change it show-to-show. I try new material three times. If it works, it stays. I also listen to others performing my show and then edit from there. The most important thing is that consistent quality is maintained.”
Consistent quality was certainly maintained last Saturday evening, May 7, with Solomon frequently bringing the packed house at SOPAC to near-hysterical laughter. And he certainly appreciates his audiences as much as they appreciate him.
“The South Orange audience has been delicious,” he explained. “I love Northeastern audiences. They’re sharp, they get the double-entendres and they really understand the jokes.”
As for criticism? “I do not mind constructive criticism,” Solomon said, “as long as the critic is qualified.
“The biggest problem that some critics have is that I don’t care about the critics; I care about the people,” he continued. When his show is called “politically incorrect,” Solomon confidently responds, “They’re right. My whole family was politically incorrect,” reiterating that he does not care.
When asked what he likes the most about being an entertainer and performing the show, Solomon warmly explained, “It’s not the joy I bring to the audience, it’s the joy that they bring to me. That’s the gift that the Lord gave me.”
And quite a gift it is. Not only does Solomon continue to perform “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m In Therapy,” but he has also written three successful sequels. The latest of these, “Cannoli, Latkes & Guilt … The Therapy Continues,” will open on Broadway in 2018.
“My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m In Therapy” runs through May 22 at the South Orange Performing Arts Center, 1 SOPAC Way. To purchase tickets, visit the box office or the website at www.sopacnow.org. Group discounts are available for groups of 12 or more by calling 973-313-2787.