Steve Solomon's comic journey began at age 12. He delivered Chinese food along Brooklyn's Ocean Avenue. When he buzzed, he found folks reluctant to let him in. "I'd ring again," he laughs, "and do my best pidgin Chinese. They said, 'Just a minute!'"
Then came the pranks. "Our phone number was one digit different from a bowling alley," he explains. "When I got calls to reserve lanes, I said, 'You got it.'"
In Sheepshead Bay, the Jewish, Italian, Irish voices stood out and Solomon began imitating them. In My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish & I'm in Therapy!, which arrived at Off-Broadway's Little Shubert after touring to over 50 cities, he channels his "roller coaster ride of growing up crazy" by creating a cast of 30 characters with spot-on dialects and sound effects. Though he's changed names "to protect the not so innocent," Solomon's characters are true to life. "I couldn't invent the stories of my mother, father, ex-wife, grandmother Angelina, Aunt Regina, Uncle Frankie," he says, breaking up. "They represent the wacky side of the human condition, but they're real!"
Claiming artistic license, he only exaggerates a little. But a few times his parents, "whose sole purpose in life was to drive me into therapy, wanted to take me to court to revoke that license!" His mother, now 88, told him, "It's all lies. I never yelled, I never cursed, I don't talk like that!" Stage/TV director John Bowab, who helms the show, says, "Steve reminds me of comics I've worked with on TV, such as Bill Cosby and Danny Thomas. They were great storytellers. Steve is, too. The added plus is that he's a master of the one-liner within a story."
A one-time high school administrator and physics teacher, "I always felt something was missing," Solomon says. Drastically changing fields presented challenges. Stand-up came easy, jobs didn't. "I was 20 years too old for HBO and the clubs," he explains, adding, "I wouldn't do the dirty stuff." So he began supplying material to comedians.
Comic Pat Cooper advised Solomon to play South Florida condos and venues catering to Jewish audiences. He titled his show The Man, the Music, the Mishuggina! "It sold out everywhere, but it was too targeted. I wanted a broader audience."
With a change in emphasis, Solomon toured the country with My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish & I'm in Therapy! He knew his stories worked in a larger context when he played Montana, where "they didn't know a Jew from an Italian. They laughed, stomped and yelled."
Some exchanges involve doctors, self-help books, airport security, sexual dysfunction. Then there's his sister's chain smoking, coughing and wheezing. His biggest fear was offending her, "but she didn't take offense. No one does. She only said, ‘You've made me famous.'"
Laughter, says Solomon, is the greatest gift you can give. "What I get back is priceless. I feel blessed."