(NEXSTAR) — How do you learn to love yourself when you think you’re marked for eternal damnation? It’s the question at the heart of Brooklyn-based comedian and writer Zach Zimmerman‘s first book and his current book tour.
The 34 year-old will celebrate the release of “Is It Hot in Here? Or Am I Suffering for the Sins I Committed on Earth?” at Brooklyn’s The Bell House, located at 149 Seventh St.
Zimmerman’s debut is a “memoir-esque” collection of personal stories chronicling the Virginia-born comedian’s journey from a life plagued by religious guilt to one of self-discovery and acceptance.
“I thought I was going to Hell because my family and my community told me I was,” Zimmerman, whose father is a pastor, told Nexstar. “I grew up in an evangelical church. My dad was a pastor. I prayed the Sinner’s Prayer — anyone who grew up Protestant knows it very well. God didn’t answer back, so I knew for sure that my little, tiny soul was destined for H-E-double-hockey-sticks.”
Both of Zimmerman’s parents are evangelical conservatives. It’s a dynamic the writer — who is a self-proclaimed “queer vegetarian atheist” — often mines for comedic content.
Both “Is It Hot in Here?” and Zimmerman’s stand-up routines follow the evolution of his relationship with his family and how, especially in increasingly polarized times, families can still remain close.
“Hopefully it [the book] shows there’s a way for us to show how my family makes it work,” Zimmerman says. “We disagree on so many things except for loving each other.”
Even though it’s only just been published, the book’s already got a lot going for it: including a rave review by author Joyce Carol Oates (“Blonde”). It’s also already been optioned for TV and film productions by Sony Pictures.
Zimmerman, who performs regularly at the Comedy Cellar, has appeared on “The Late Late Show” and been published in the New Yorker and the Washington Post. He currently has over 99,000 TikTok followers (@zzdoublezz) and his videos have racked up over 3 million likes.
Monday’s ages 21 and up event will feature additional performances by comedians Joyelle Nicole Johnson, Mike Rowland and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum Miz Cracker. It isn’t lost on Zimmerman that in 2023, the sheer presence of a queer comedian and a drag queen on stage is an act of resistance.
“As someone who is part of the LGBT community, who loves drag, loves drag artists and thinks drag is such a phenomenal form of expression that needs to be protected, what’s happening is horrifying. Especially to hear states in the South, what they’re doing to drag bans and taking away gender-affirming care from young people is horrifying,” he said. “So the tiniest bit I can do is use my platform to speak out about it but also just being myself onstage.”
Tickets for the show start at $25 and include a signed book from Greenlight Bookstore.
“Is It Hot in Here? Or Am I Suffering for the Sins I Committed on Earth?” is available for purchase Tuesday, April 18. Zimmerman’s book tour will include stops in five more cities, including Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
While the comedian acknowledges the next few weeks will be chaotic, it’s a moment he says he’s appreciating right here and now. Zimmerman, who names hosting “The Tonight Show” and “The Price is Right” simultaneously (on rival networks) as his dream career, says that even though he no longer subscribes to any religion, the concept of surrendering to life’s out-of-control moments is one element of faith that still resonates.
“We humans have power over some things — we have agency over our lives. But then, a lot is out of our control. And that can be very scary. But it can also be very liberating to sort of, let go. I think about this a lot when I’m on a plane. I’m terrified of flying. It’s a place where I literally have no control,” Zimmerman says. “Hopefully, someone else — or many other someone elses — is in charge of getting me to where I need to go. And you just have to let go and listen to Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” on repeat, depending how long the flight is.”