This is where it all started. In 1999, just a student, Leon won the first prize in the Eindhoven Cabaret Festival and soon after followed five more prizes in national cabaret festivals, an impresario, a website and in 2002, the premiere of his first full-length show ‘A Cool Fast Boy with a Soft Brown Coat’ took place. He had chosen this long title so that he would at least stand out in the theatre booklets.

Cabaret turned out to be his passion, especially interacting with the audience. He was known for his quick and sincere interaction and slowly but surely he conquered the Netherlands with his narrative, physical and interactive style. With his fifth show Cola, he also started playing in Belgium and from 2005 he toured the Dutch expats in Asia and the Middle East every year to perform for them.

Sfeerfoto - Leon van der Zanden



Coole Snelle Jongen met een Zachte Bruine Vacht (2001/2002)
about his search for his identity
directed by Malinca Verwiel

Hoerejong (2003/2004)
about his 13-year-old ex Manon and the people under the Aldi
directed by Jeroen van Koningsbrugge and Wil van der Meer

Zwarte Hond (2004/2006)
About being honest, truth or dare and Limburgers
Directed by Dennis van de Ven

Leòn (2006/2008)
About old times, chickies and loneliness
directed by Teresa van de Ven and Bart Dooremalen

Cola (2008/2010)
about losing his father, swimming with dolphins and Usain Bolt
directed by Bart Oomen

Vruchtvlees (2011/2013)
about being single, Michael Jackson and the GS1000
directed by Bart Oomen

Rebel* (2013/2015)
about Robert defeating his fear in a symbolic story and becoming a man
writer: Patrick van Es, direction: Aike Dirkzwager

Supergewoon (2015/2017)
about chakras, a magic chair and the birth of a daughter
co-writer: Patrick van Es, direction: Aike Dirkzwager

Kameleon (2017/2019)
about Dirk, a dying man who asks Leon to perform at his funeral
Directed by Aike Dirkzwager

*Rebel plays an important role in his career, after the performance before it received a 1-star review in the Volkskrant. Leon chose to let go of everything he had built up and had a new performance written by his best friend in response to his dreams. This took him down an experimental path where he made a deeper connection with the audience instead of just making them laugh. This resulted in the mythical story of Rebel and ultimately in his farewell six years later.

Fragment Zwarte Hond


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Geen Cabaretier

After twenty years and nine full-length performances, Leon van der Zanden is quitting as a comedian to reinvent himself. The jacket no longer suits who the sympathetic Brabander is today: no cabaret performer. His cabaret career threatens to go out like a candle. As tour manager, Bart van Tongerlo followed him closely during his last theatre tour ‘Kameleon’. He wrote this book about it.

Geen Cabaretier is a raw and unaffected portrait about being (un)important, lonely dressing rooms, the real world, signifiers, microwave dinners, Stef Bos, an expensive watch and a new dream.

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