Comedy and mime

by Bill Bowers | 1 September 2014

No one likes to be confused, and this is especially true when watching a mime.

When I was seven years old, my Mom dropped me off at the Wilma Theatre, an old landmark vaudeville house in downtown Missoula, Montana. There was a matinee showing of Charlie Chaplin’s The gold rush, featuring live musical accompaniment. I don’t know what it was that led me to see that Charlie Chaplin film – perhaps because I was a clownish little boy who loved Danny Kaye and Jerry Lewis – somehow my Mom knew I should see the Little Tramp, and she got me there.

Two hours later when she picked me up, I was a HUGE Charlie Chaplin fan. The gold rush was the funniest movie I had ever seen, and still remains one of my favourites to this day. Soon after, I learned that Charlie Chaplin and I share the same birthday: April 16. Well, when you are seven years old, and find out that your idol is born on your birthday … well, my head almost exploded. I have been a mime ever since. (Years later when I worked with Marcel Marceau, he would tell me a similar story about seeing his first Chaplin film and knowing that mime would be his calling.)

I taught myself what I thought mime was, and gratefully attended a high school with a strong theatre department. I got lots of encouragement to perform and to continue studying, and that has led to a thirty-year career. Along the way I have appeared on Broadway, studied with the legendary mime Marcel Marceau, and travelled the world performing my original solo plays.

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