Life is a laughing matter for Steve Solomon
PITTSFIELD — Laughing matters to Steve Solomon. Making people laugh means even more. The sixtysomething Brooklyn-born comedian/comic actor has been making people laugh for more than a decade in a one-man show he calls "My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish & I'm in Therapy," which he is bringing to Berkshire Theatre Group's Colonial Theatre for one performance Saturday at 8.
It's one of several shows Solomon has developed over the years, ever since he realized stand-up comedy was not his bag. It wasn't a comfortable fit, he said during a telephone interview from an airport somewhere in Florida.
He credits the folks at the William Morris Agency, one of the premiere talent agencies in show business, with the idea of shifting from stand-up to a stand-up, sit-down, move-around one-man show that links material about his family, complete with evocative impersonations and voices he will slip into without hesitation during an interview.
He discovered his talent for impersonation and mimicry early in his youth, growing up the Brooklyn's Sheepshead Bay neighborhood. The self-identified class clown could be so persuasive, he once, according to his publicity material, played hookey from school by calling his school's truant officer and, imitating his father's voice, told the officer his son was home sick. When the truant officer asked the caller to identify himself, Solomon replied, "Um, this is my father speaking."
Solomon honed his storytelling in special events at churches and synagogues in and around his neighborhood. But his path to the stage was anything but direct. He was a physics teacher, then an assistant principal at a school on Long Island. Disenchanted with internal politics and demands, he left academics and joined the world of business. With his personal life in disarray, he left business and took up his real passion — making people laugh.
And so, in his mid-50s, he jumped into the comedy club circuit but it was punishing for a man his age and so, prompted by a new manager from William Morris, Solomon wrote " My Mother's Italian ...," a show he has toured to theaters and night clubs throughout the United States. He also has trained and licensed other actors to perform the show at venues around the world.
It is a show, Solomon said, for families, about family; his family; everyone's family. "My sister is a character in the show," he said; "my grandchildren."
"There's no shock humor in any of my shows," Solomon said. "The feeling is like we're coming around to your living room and just sitting and having a chat. I would say there's a laugh every 15 or 30 seconds [in this 90-minute show]."
He has a segment about his parents' struggles to master the cell phone.
"Technology has changed over the years," he said.
To keep up with the continuing changes in society, the world, Solomon rewrites this show every three or four months.
"When I see something in life and I see a twist, that's material," he said.
He's just finished writing a new show he calls "From Berkeley to Broadway in Only 49 Years."
By his own reckoning, Solomon has performed "My Mother's Italian ..." 8,700 times and "we've never gotten a letter of complaint."
Indeed, the only complaints he's had have come from critics who, he says, just "don't get it."
"I never read reviews," he said. "I know the people love it."
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