My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish and I’m Home for the Holidays

Steve Solomon spent a good chunk of his professional life as a physics teacher and high school administrator in Brooklyn. He took a chance and left the stability of a steady paycheck to follow his heart into comedy. The newly-minted comic found he was competing against comedians 25 years younger, and while he could hold his own, he couldn’t make a living. Comic Pat Cooper heard his repertoire of some hundred voices, dialects and sound effects and told him to take his act to Florida.

It was a good move. Solomon came up with the name for a show, My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I’m in Therapy, and then built an act around the title while perfecting it on a cruise ship. The show went on to an award-winning stint on Broadway. Now Solomon has trained several people to do the show and it is performed around the world. He followed that show with My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish and I’m Home for the Holidays, which takes family togetherness to a new level when everyone gets together for the holidays.

Solomon said that the play is successful around the world because families are the same around the world and that family is the best source for material. “You don’t have to be Jewish or Italian,” he said. “You just have to be able to leave a family dinner with heartburn and a headache. There are 32 people at the dinner and one bathroom and one plunger. When you grow up in a big family, as I did, you grow and change. You tolerate things as a kid because you didn’t know any better. When you come back, one uncle has dementia and the other has terminal gas.”

Lest you think Solomon’s family members might take offence at his good-natured barbs, he said that they are among his biggest fans. “They love knowing they’re in it and they love coming to see it,” he said. “My Stupid Cousin Kenny comes, but he gets annoyed. Of course, he thinks that Hamburger Helper comes with somebody to help. I impersonate my Sister the Smoker so well that my family thinks it’s her.”

Also at the party are Uncle Willie, Stuttering Cousin Bob, Steve’s new therapist, Cousin Sal and his parole officer and a variety of characters every one of us knows from our own families.

While the show is scripted, there is room for improvisation. “On any given night, there will be 10-20 percent off-script,” he said. “If I get a good laugh, the stage manager writes it into the script. You can’t ignore a cell phone. I ask for the phone and say, ‘It’s my mother.’ If someone is late, I stop and say, ‘Sit down, can I get you a watch?’ I lean over and tell him, ‘Here’s what you missed.’” Solomon said that he can only see two or three rows off stage and it’s the “grumpies” who are always looking at him. “In South Florida, you get a lot of grumpy old people,” he said.

You’ve been given fair warning. If you’re late, have a ringing cell phone, or are grumpy, you may well become part of the show. It won’t bother Steve Solomon at all.