What is the last thing in the world you want to see? A nuclear holocaust? President Schwarzenegger? A mime show? I agree. And I am a mime. My name is Billy.
Perhaps you saw me in the documentary The Aristocrats, miming the world's dirtiest joke? Or recently on Jimmy Kimmel Live? Or my one-man show at the Sacred Fools Theater in L.A.? Or, more likely, you have no idea who is writing this.
Point of fact: Mime is the only art form that has been almost destroyed because of bad practitioners. There have been a lot of awful singers and composers, but no one says, "Music sucks!" Lousy painters didn't destroy art, dreadful writers didn't end novels, etc.
Mime has one universally accepted master: Marcel Marceau. Unfortunately he spawned hundreds of Marceau wannabes with no training who harassed people on the street, at parties—everywhere. Or if they did stage shows they were self-indulgent, pretentious, and boring.
The real turning point of the anti-mime movement may have been in Tootsie, when Dustin Hoffman pushed the mime off the curb in the park and audiences cheered. It was official: Mimes suck. They became comic fodder for countless cartoons, jokes, and sitcom punch lines—and for a very good reason. That is, 99.9 percent of them were horrible: limp imitations of Marceau or annoying pests.
So why am I doing a mime show in 2005? Mime has a theatrical power that has been misused and underused. But who wants to see a guy get trapped in a glass box for the 246th time? Therefore I decided to take mime in a direction no one had explored and delve into subjects never before addressed with this ancient art form.
Consider some of my routines: "JFK Jr., We Hardly Knew Ye," "San Francisco: 1979," "Terry Schiavo, Adieu," "World War II," "Slave!," "The Abortion." In "Thomas & Sally: A Night at Monticello" our founding father sneaks out from a sophisticated gathering at his Virginia estate—courtly dancing, wine-drinking, music—to have sex with Sally Hemmings, his slave. And when Jefferson is having sex with Sally there is no doubt as to exactly what he is doing. If theatre was rated, this would be NC-17.
"The Priest and the Altar Boy" was born when I wondered why baseball players were in front of Congress testifying about voluntarily injecting themselves to attain better stats and make more money. Yet where were the priests and bishops and even the big guy from Rome? Why weren't they dragged into Congress for allowing the heinous crime of covering up and protecting people who abuse and rape children?
I recently performed in New York, and I was hesitant about presenting my routine "A Day Called 9/11" for obvious reasons. The audience was stunned into silence—no pun intended—as I portrayed a man who worked at the World Trade Tower and one of the religious fanatics who flew one of the planes. But the applause at the end was strong and validating. There were even parts at which people laughed. Did I forget to mention that it's also a funny show?
So how do you get people to see a mime show in 2005? It isn't easy. When a friend invited an acquaintance to see my show, the man let out an exasperated sigh and moaned, "You want me to go to a mime show?" He sarcastically added, "Does he walk down the stairs?" My friend replied, "Yes, but when he does it, he's Hitler going down to the bunker and giving poison to Eva Braun and his dog." The man perked up, exclaiming, "I'm there!"
One good thing about a mime show: It's cheap to mount. No set. One person. One costume.
So remember: Mime doesn't suck. But bad mimes do.
Billy the Mime will be appearing at the Playboy Mansion (no joke) and various theatre festivals nationwide. Two new Billy routines will appear on the DVD of "The Aristocrats," coming out Jan. 26, 2006. For more info, visit www.billythemime.net.