According to Consumer Reports, the most popular vegetable in the United States is lettuce. According to the DC area, however, it’s clearly zucchini. The Great Zucchini, that is. For the last 15 plus years, he has been ranked the number one children’s entertainer in Washington DC. I have to agree.
The very first time I met The Great Zucchini, I didn’t know what to make of him. We had invited him to perform at our son’s birthday party, sight unseen. He was not what I expected. He had advertised himself as a magician, so for some reason, I was expecting possibly some tailcoats and a top hat. But there he stood, wearing a t-shirt and cargo shorts and looking a little sleepy.
My first impression was that he didn’t look all that great and there was no resemblance to a zucchini. We introduced ourselves and ushered him in. We offered him some coffee and he got to work, setting up our family room to his liking. My son bounded down the stairs and took to him right away, which spoke volumes to me.
We had invited twenty-five friends to the party. Every single invitee said “yes”. Every.single.one. But here’s the funny thing. My son was six years old. This was the magical age of the “drop off” birthday party, also known as 1.5 to 2 hours of free babysitting. Parents – you know what I’m talking about. I had noted on the party invitation that drop off was optional, but on the day of the event, with the exception of a few, most of the parents (and some grandparents!) decided to stick around. Truth be told, some who were not even officially invited decided to show up. Why?
Just prior to my son’s party, Gene Weingarten had published a fascinating article about The Great Zucchini and his reputation had preceded him. Some of the parents had seen his show before, but many had not and wanted to see what this guy was all about.
I don’t know exactly how to describe the show. All I know is, there was some serious belly laughing going on. And that’s when you understand The Great Zucchini. He’s like your favorite crazy uncle. You know - the one that would entertain the kids long after the parents tired of playing the same game over and over.
Once you see your child doubled over with laughter like that, well…you kind of want to see that happen again. And again. This explains his enormous group of loyal followers.
GZ is also just about the nicest guy I know. A few months after my son’s birthday, my niece became very ill and was in the hospital. I wanted desperately to cheer her up and wondered if The Great Zucchini would be able to pay her a visit. Not only did he say yes, he brought his friend Broccoli the Clown along.
As luck would have it, on the day of the arranged hospital visit, we were hit with a pretty serious snowstorm. Even with a 4 X 4 SUV, I was unable to navigate the roads (insert female driver jokes here). GZ, however, was able to make it, but I had forgotten one very important detail. My niece had a severe case of pneumonia and was unable to laugh without being thrown into a huge coughing spell. So Broccoli made her some balloon animals while GZ sat with her in her hospital room and kept her company, no laughing involved.
Recently, I took my younger one to her first Mr. Zucchini (that’s what she calls him) show. She is a little on the shy side, but just like clockwork, there were those huge belly laughs and my daughter joined right in. She even asked to go on stage – did I mention that she is SHY?
After the show, my son was asking me some random questions about The Great Zucchini. I said “Why don’t you ask him yourself?”
So he did. And now, we bring you, without further ado – Adam’s third celebrity interview, featuring The Great Zucchini:
Adam Rapp: What is your favorite vegetable?
The Great Zucchini: My favorite vegetable, well of course it's Zucchini!
AR: Do you play any sports and what is your favorite sports team?
GZ: As far as sports, I'm a huge Redskins fan, followed by the Nationals- I grew up playing football, basketball, and I wrestled in high school as well.
AR: What is your favorite food?
GZ: Well, my favorite foods are never that healthy, I'm sorry to say, but I love chicken-especially chicken from Popeyes.
AR: What is the best show you ever did?
GZ: The best show I ever did-Great question Adam, but hard to answer- I really try to never throw in the towel on any show, meaning I really do have fun performing, and I've done so many fun ones that when I get back to the car, I feel like I really knocked it out of the park.
AR: What was the worst show you ever did?
GZ: The worst show I ever did happened a couple of times. I've done over 5000 shows, and I've gotten sick during a show a couple times, and it's really embarrassing if that happens.
AR: If you HAD to pick a different job/career, what would it be?
GZ: If I had to pick another job, I think it would be to teach (I thought I was going to be a teacher), or a therapist
AR: What kind of music do you listen to?
GZ: I don't actually listen to lots of music-I'm such a big Sports fan that usually sports talk radio is on in my car.
AR: What is your favorite part of the show?
GZ: My favorite part of the show is actually when I get to talk with my volunteers, create a comfort level, where I hear about their lives a little, my favorite part never has to do with a trick, it's getting to know the kids and parents.
AR: What is the best thing that a fan ever did for you?
GZ: The best thing a fan ever did for me was one day I was brought to their school for a "bring a special guest to the class” day. I was the only non-relative that any of the kids had there. The father called me and asked if I would, and I was honored.
AR: Do you get nervous to perform in front of famous people?
GZ: I don't get nervous performing in front of famous people. When Sasha Obama came to my show, I was thrilled, but I don't actually remember the last time I was nervous. Maybe, during this interview. Haha
AR: What is the farthest you have traveled for a performance?
GZ: Furtherest distance to show has to be Tenafly, New Jersey. The parents had read about me, and asked me to come do a show there, and I had a ball.
Bonus questions from Adam's mom:
What is your advice for parents on how to build up their child's confidence?
GZ: The best way to build confidence is cliche, but spend time together one on one, learning things together, or just tossing the football around. Kids can notice how their parents are looking at them the second they walk into a room, them knowing that you’re proud of their achievements and support their mistakes as well, is the biggest thing. Self -esteem comes from mom and dad more than anyone else in the world.
A huge thank you to The Great Zucchini for taking time out of his insanely busy schedule for this interview. You can find out more information about him at www.thegreatzucchini.com, including his upcoming show schedule. After the show, he tends to get a little hungry and could possibly use some homemade treats to restore his energy. I hear he likes chocolate chip cookies. Just sayin’.