Mime is Money

“A mime is a terrible thing to waste.” ~Robin Hood: Men in Tights

Confession: I was a professional mime. Yep. When I was in my 20s I made a (very modest) living for a time doing mime and teaching it. That’s right, I not only “used,” I got others hooked! And I don’t even have the decency to be ashamed.

When I went back to college for grad study, the head of the theatre department congratulated me one night on my “riveting physical presence” on stage. He asked what technique I’d studied. “Mime,” I said. “Nonsense,” he replied, “mime is a joke!” Then he mentioned that one particular younger actor in the play also had excellent physical technique. “Yeah,” I said, “I’m his mime instructor.”

Mime has gotten an unfair rep for being a cheesy street entertainment any talentless schmo can master. Why? Probably because too many self-taught beginners with no real technique attempt to perform it publicly. It’s as if, having only heard beginning piano students play “Für Elise,” we’d decided Beethoven was a third-rate composer.

Did you know Robin Williams was a professional mime early in his career? So was David Bowie. Mel Gibson, Dennis Miller, Jennifer Lawrence, Doug Jones (The Shape of Water), and many other actors have studied mime.

Charlie Chaplin, one of the greatest comedy actors of the 20th Century, was a student of classical French mime. So were Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel and Harpo Marx. Dick Van Dyke, Lucille Ball and Peter Sellers studied Chaplin. So did Marcel Marceau, the great French mime, and then he went on to pioneer the locking and popping techniques used by Michael Jackson (including his famous moonwalk) and countless jazz and hip-hop dancers.

My biggest mime gig was the gala opening of a Nordstrom store in Southern California. To my astonishment, I was paid what I asked (!), and told to create a brief but fun intro for their “sizzling haute couture” show. I was a brand-new Jesus-follower at the time, with a worldly past. So when I met the two dozen stunning models backstage and saw them standing around completely naked between changes (underwear leaves lines), I prayed very, very hard. Suddenly I knew what my opening would be!

As the program began, I pantomimed building an invisible box to keep the too-haute-to-handle models off the runway. And then, as they strutted out, shattering my invisible box, I was hurled into the audience—and the sizzle began! All of this lasted less than four minutes because, after all, as Billy Crystal said in This is Spinal Tap,

“Mime is money.”

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir, Quips and Quotes and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Mime is Money

  1. smzang says:

    I can only imagine the conflict within!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. 1kellilaine says:

    Hi, Mitch.

    I just received an email notice about your mime post. I would have had to log on to something or another to post a comment, so I didn’t.

    But I did want you to know that I remember being one of your students (briefly). You inspired me then and you inspire me now.


    Liked by 2 people

  3. sniderjerry says:

    Yesterday I saw two mimes get into an argument, now they are SPEAKING to each other.
    Have a great day.


    Liked by 4 people

  4. Marceau was amazing. He made the invisible wall, and other pretend “props” seemed absolutely solid and real. His routines always elicited “ooos” and “ahhhs.”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Clever Girl says:

    So interesting, I didn’t know actors studied the form but I can see how it would enhance their stage presence. I’m a stand-up comedian so maybe I should consider taking a class or two.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. That opening of yours for Nordstrom sounds like it was really clever. Thank you for teaching me about miming!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. You’re a man of many talents! 😍

    Liked by 2 people

  8. atimetoshare.me says:

    The art of mime is the perfect way to learn exaggerated movement, clarity and conflict. It truly is an art which should be taught to all actors.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Mitch. Here is another part of your life revealed. I had in the past wondered where you were able to attach so many areas of interest. And, I must say with admiration. You have been successful due to the fact that you have ventured into many realms of interest. That is a true sign of having a vast area of knowledge. Keep on working at it, It seems to work.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Your post has left me speechless. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

    Liked by 2 people

  11. YBP says:

    My oh my! Mitch, what else can’t you do?!? I’m so in awe! 😃✨🌟💫 You’ve got endless stories to tell. In an amazingly attention-grabbing and enthralling fashion. You can practically captivate us all in our lifetimes! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Paula says:

    Sharing your experience reminded me of my little brother who presented a mime ‘act’ when he was right out of high school. There were a couple malls (the places he like to perform most because of the little kids) who asked him to come on a regular basis and They Paid Him. It’s humorous to me that mime was his choice of theater because I knew him better than the people in his varied audiences. I knew what a challenge it must have been for my chatterbox brother to not speak.
    Mime comes in handy when I’m telling a joke because they both require the art of Timing. I like to think I handle them both well because I have to live up to the promise I make that “I’m working on my standup routine.”
    Thanks again for sharing bits of your life with us.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Not one of my more enlightening moments but in collage we had room that liked hallucinogenics. He’d come home after a night of tripping & we’d put him in an invisible box to keep him out of trouble. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Funny and thought-provoking.  To a lesser degree, making sushi and riding a skateboard are also things that look easy until U try them.  I’ve tried both.  Wouldn’t dare try tossing pizza dough.

    Mime looks easy when done well, but that’s only because the mime has honed his/her craft.  Hmmm.  For how many activities do we use exactly the same word for the activity itself and for the person who does it?

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Paula says:

    Off the top of my head, “cook.” Because I am one. 😉 Thanks for chiming in, m. curmudgeon.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: 50 Truly Clever Memes | Mitch Teemley

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