Bill Irwin

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Bill Irwin
Bill Irwin by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Irwin in 2018
BornWilliam Mills Irwin
(1950-04-11) April 11, 1950 (age 68)
Santa Monica, California, United States
NationalityAmerican
OccupationActor, clown, comedian
Years active1974–present
Spouse(s)Martha Roth
Children1

William Mills Irwin (born April 11, 1950) is an American actor, clown,[1][2] and comedian. He began as a vaudeville-style stage performer and has been noted for his contribution to the renaissance of American circus during the 1970s. He has also made a number of appearances on film and television, and he won a Tony Award for his role in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf on Broadway. He is also known as Mr. Noodle on the Sesame Street spinoff Elmo's World, has appeared in the Sesame Street film short Does Air Move Things?,[3] and regularly appears as a therapist on Law and Order: SVU.[4]

Early life[edit]

Irwin was born in Santa Monica, California, the son of Elizabeth (née Mills), a teacher, and Horace G. Irwin, an aerospace engineer.[5] He graduated from Oberlin College in 1974 and attended Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College the following year. In 1975, he helped found the Pickle Family Circus in San Francisco, California.[6] In 1979, Irwin left the company to pursue stage work.

Career[edit]

Creator and writer[edit]

Irwin has created several highly regarded stage shows that incorporate elements of clowning, often in collaboration with composer Doug Skinner. These works included The Regard of Flight (1982), which ran on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre in April 1987 for 17 performances.[7] Largely New York (1989), Fool Moon (1993),[8]The Harlequin Studies (2003),[9] and Mr. Fox: A Rumination (2004).[10] Mr. Fox is a production that Irwin has worked on for years, a biography of 19th century clown George Washington Lafayette Fox that also has autobiographical elements. In 2013, he teamed with his occasional partner David Shiner to create and perform in the Off-Broadway "clowning revue-with-music" Old Hats along with actress and musician Nellie McKay.[11][12] Old Hats won the 2013 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revue.[13] Old Hats was revived in New York City in 2016 with Shiner and Irwin returning and a new third performer, musician Shaina Taub, in between sketches Taub performed original songs with a band.[14]

He adapted Molière's play Les Fourberies de Scapin as a comedy called Scapin, and has played the title role in several productions. He appeared in the play at the Off-Broadway Roundabout Theatre Company Laura Pels Theatre in January through March 1997, after performing in the play at the Seattle Rep.[15] His adaptation allowed him to interpolate his signature clowning routines into the course of the action.

In 1996, Irwin performed with The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps at the 1996 Summer Olympics, in a "band on the run" sequence where he played Dr. Hubert Peterson of the fictitious Federation of United Marching Associations of America.[16]

Actor[edit]

Irwin in 2013

Although Irwin is best known for his theatrical clown work, he has also been featured in a number of dramatic plays. Irwin appeared with Steve Martin and Robin Williams in the Lincoln Center Off-Broadway production of Waiting for Godot in 1988, in the role of Lucky.[17] Lucky's only lines consist of a famous 500-word-long monologue, an ironic element for Irwin since much of his clown-based stage work was silent.

He directed the 1998 Roundabout Theatre Company production of A Flea in Her Ear. He appeared in 2002 with Sally Field in the replacement cast of The Goat or Who is Sylvia?[18] In 2005, he starred as George alongside Kathleen Turner in a revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.[19] He played Vladimir (Didi) in the 2009 Broadway revival of Waiting for Godot,[20] and Mr. McAfee in the Broadway revival of Bye Bye Birdie. In 2011, he appeared in King Lear at the Public Theatre.[21]

Film and television[edit]

Irwin's first featured film role was in 1980, appearing as Harold Hamgravy in Robert Altman's Popeye starring Robin Williams. He has appeared in over 20 films, mainly in supporting roles. Irwin's principal film roles include playing Eddie Collins in Eight Men Out, which tells the true story of the "Black Sox" gambling scandal of 1919, and My Blue Heaven, a 1990 comedy with Steve Martin and Rick Moranis. Irwin tap-danced in a leading role in 1991's Stepping Out with Liza Minnelli, appeared as a mime in the Paul Mazursky film Scenes from a Mall alongside Woody Allen and Bette Midler, and played Charlie Sheen's father in Hot Shots! His authentic vaudevillian skills landed him a role in the Sam Shepard film Silent Tongue in 1994, and he appeared in film adaptations of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Laramie Project and A Midsummer Night's Dream. He played an ex-brain surgeon, house salesman in the Nickelodeon series The Adventures of Pete & Pete. In 2006, Irwin played the solitary Mr. Leeds in M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water and had a small role in 2007's Across the Universe. He received critical acclaim for his role as Paul, father to Anne Hathaway's character Kym, in the 2008 drama Rachel Getting Married.[6][22]

Irwin's most notable television roles have been Enrico Ballati, "The Flying Man", on the television series Northern Exposure, Mr. Noodle in the Elmo's World segment of the PBS children's show Sesame Street and the "Dick & Jane" serial killer Nate Haskell on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. He was featured in the 1988 music video of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin (along with McFerrin and Robin Williams). Irwin was also featured in HBO's 1997 production Subway Stories. He has also appeared on The Cosby Show, Saturday Night Live, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Law & Order and Lights Out.

In 2011, Irwin guest starred in the pilot episode of the CBS television drama A Gifted Man.[23] He starred in the 2013 medical drama TNT television series, Monday Mornings, as Buck Tierney.[24] In 2014, he guest starred in the episode "The One Percent Solution" of CBS' Elementary.

Irwin voices the robot TARS in the film Interstellar, and puppeteers the robot in most scenes (those which are not computer-generated). He is featured in the PBS series Great Performances, in the episode titled "Bill Irwin, Clown Prince", initially broadcast in December 2004.[25]

He regularly appears on the NBC crime series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as therapist, Dr. Peter Lindstrom. Lindstrom normally appears on the show while counseling main character Lieutenant Olivia Benson.[4] Irwin also appeared on the television series Sleepy Hollow playing the character of Atticus Nevins. In 2017, he appeared in the FX superhero TV series Legion.

Personal life[edit]

Irwin is married to Martha Roth, an "actress-turned-nurse midwife", whom he met while seeking treatment for a stiff neck.[26] They have a son, Santos Patrick Morales Irwin, who was born in 1991.[26]

Awards and honors[edit]

Irwin was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Choreographer's Fellowship in 1981 and 1983. In 1984, he was named a Guggenheim Fellow and was the first performance artist to be awarded a 5-year MacArthur Fellowship. For Largely New York, he won a New York Drama Critics Circle Special Citation in 1988, and an Outer Critics Circle Award and Drama Desk Award in 1989. This show also received five nominations for Tony Awards.[27]

In 1992, he won an Obie Award for his performance in Texts for Nothing. Together with David Shiner he won a special Tony Award for Live Theatrical Presentation in 1999 for their show Fool Moon.[28] In 1993, this show already had won a Drama Desk Award for "Unique Theatrical Experience" and an Outer Critics Circle "Special Achievement" Award.

In 2000, the Jazz Tap Ensemble, Los Angeles received a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) "for a commission of a new work by Bill Irwin."[29] In 2004, the Signature Theatre Company, New York, received a $40,000 NEA grant for "the world premiere production of 'Mr. Fox: A Rumination' by Bill Irwin."[30]

In 2005, he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his appearance as George in the revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.[31]

Irwin received a 2008 CFCA Award nomination for "Best Supporting Actor" for his role in Rachel Getting Married. In 2010, The New Victory Theater presented Irwin with the first-ever New Victory Arts Award.[32] He was honored for "bringing the arts to kids and kids to the arts." Nathan Lane and Jonathan Demme spoke at the ceremony. Irwin is also on the board of The New 42nd Street, Inc.

Filmography[edit]

Film roles
Year Title Role Notes
1980 Popeye Ham Gravy, the Old Boyfriend
1988 A New Life Eric
1988 Eight Men Out Eddie Collins
1988 Don't Worry, Be Happy Himself Music Video; Bobby McFerrin
1990 My Blue Heaven Kirby
1991 Scenes from a Mall Mime
1991 Hot Shots! Buzz Harley
1991 Stepping Out Geoffrey
1993 Silent Tongue Comic
1993 Manhattan by Numbers Floyd
1993 Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit Unnamed Brother #1 Uncredited
1994 Water Ride The Man in the Gray Hat Short film
1998 Illuminata Marco
1999 Just the Ticket Ray Charles
1999 A Midsummer Night's Dream Tom Snout
2000 How the Grinch Stole Christmas Lou Lou Who
2001 Elmo's World: The Wild Wild West Mr. Noodle Direct-to-Video
2002 Igby Goes Down Lt. Smith
2004 The Truth About Miranda Emile
2004 The Manchurian Candidate Scoutmaster
2005 Elmo Visits the Doctor Mr. Noodle Direct-to-Video
2006 Elmo's World: Reach for the Sky Mr. Noodle Direct-to-Video
2006 Lady in the Water Mr. Leeds
2006 Elmo's World: Pets! Mr. Noodle Direct-to-Video
2007 Dark Matter Hal Silver
2007 Elmo's World: What Makes You Happy? Mr. Noodle Direct-to-Video
2007 Across the Universe Uncle Teddy
2008 Rachel Getting Married Paul
2010 Goldstar, Ohio Chief Jeff 'Goob' Garver Short film
2011 Higher Ground Pastor Bud
2011 Elmo's World: Penguins and Friends Additional Voices Direct-to-Video
2011 Elmo's World: People in Your Neighborhood Additional Voices Direct-to-Video
2012 Elmo's World - Favorite Things Additional Voices Direct-to-Video
2014 Interstellar TARS (voice) Provides puppetry for TARS and CASE
2014 Frozen on Broadway: First Look Director Short film
2015 Identity Theft Mark Short film
2015 Ricki and the Flash Single Dad
2016 Old Hats Himself
Television roles
Year Title Role Notes
1979 Struck by Lightning Episode: "Frank Meets the Press"
1980 Saturday Night Live The Dancing Man Segment: "The Dancing Man"
1983 The Regard of Flight Performer TV Movie
1987 The Cosby Show Eddie Bartholomew Episode: "The Show Must Go On"
1990 The Circus Pierrot The Clown / Miranda's Father TV Movie
1991-1992 Northern Exposure Enrico Bellati 2 episodes
1992 The Last Mile The Maestro TV Short
1992-2009 Sesame Street Mr. Noodle, Air Mime and Professor Television Recurring; 25 episodes
1993 Great Performances Master of Ceremony Episode: "Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall"
1993 TriBeCa Gene Kelly Clone Episode: "The Loft"
1994 Monte Video Clown Episode: "Erntedankfest"
1996 The Adventures of Pete & Pete The Broker Episode: "35 Hours"
1997 Subway Stories Bill Irwin TV Movie; segment: "Subway Car from Hell"
1998 3rd Rock from the Sun Pickles Episode: "Pickles and Ice Cream"
2002 The Laramie Project Harry Woods TV Movie
2006 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Nate Royce Episode: "Masquerade"
2008 Law & Order Ellison Conway Episode: "Bogeyman"
2008 Life on Mars Dr. Schwahn Episode: "Tuesday's Dead"
2008-2011 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Nate Haskell Recurring
2011 The Good Wife Fred Medkiff Episode: "Ham Sandwich"
2011 Lights Out Hal Brennan Recurring
2011 A Gifted Man Ron Vinetz Episode: "Pilot"
2013 Monday Mornings Dr. Buck Tierney Main cast
2013-2017 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Dr. Peter Lindstrom Recurring
2014 Elementary Richard Balsille Episode: "The One Percent Solution"
2014 Blue Bloods Cardinal Brennan 2 episodes
2015 South of Hell Enos Abascal Main cast
2015-2016 Sleepy Hollow Atticus Nevins 4 episodes
2016 Confirmation Jack Danforth TV Movie
2016 Quarry Harlowe Episode: "Seldom Realized"
2017 Julie's Greenroom Bill Irwin 2 episodes
2017 Doubt Judge 2 episodes
2017–present Legion Cary Loudermilk Main cast
2018 This Is Us ER Doctor Episode: "Super Bowl Sunday"

References[edit]

  1. ^ Isherwood, Charles (4 March 2013). "Aging Clowns and Brand-New Gags: 'Old Hats,' With Bill Irwin and David Shiner". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  2. ^ Brantley, Ben (8 November 2011). "A Fool, His King and the Madness That Engulfs Them". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  3. ^ Gussow, Mel (11 May 2008). "How to Deal with Midlife: Keep Dancing". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Television". thebillirwin.com.
  5. ^ Bill Irwin Biography (1950-) filmreference.com
  6. ^ a b "Irwin Biography" tcm.com, accessed August 18, 2013
  7. ^ " The Regard of Flight on Broadway", playbillvault.com, accessed May 12, 2015.
  8. ^ Simonson, Robert; Jones, Kenneth (November 2, 1998). "Irwin and Shiner's 'Fool Moon' Rises on Bway's Atkinson, Nov. 17". Playbill.
  9. ^ Jones, Kenneth (August 7, 2003). "Bill Irwin's 'Harlequin Studies', Dissecting Theatre's Clown, Premieres Sept. 3 Off-Bway". Playbill.
  10. ^ Jones, Kenneth (April 13, 2004). "Be a Clown: Bill Irwin's 'Mr. Fox: A Rumination' Conjures Forgotten American Actor". Playbill.
  11. ^ Isherwood, Charles (March 4, 2013). "Aging Clowns and Brand-New Gags". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Gans, Andrew; Jones, Kenneth (April 2, 2013). "Off-Broadway Run of Acclaimed 'Old Hats', By Bill Irwin and David Shiner, Extended Again". Playbill.
  13. ^ Hetrick, Adam; Gans, Andrew (May 10, 2013). "Billy Porter, Andrea Martin, 'Pippin', 'Matilda', 'Vanya and Sonia' Win Drama Desk Awards". Playbill.
  14. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (February 18, 2016). "Review: 'Old Hats,' Mime and Mayhem From Irwin and Shiner". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Viagas, Robert (January 10, 1997). "Bill Irwin Scapin Opens Jan. 9 Off-Broadway". Playbill.
  16. ^ DCI Cadets 1996 Olympics Performance
  17. ^ Isenberg, Barbara. 'Godot' Leaves Them Waiting for Tickets" Los Angeles Times, November 22, 1988
  18. ^ Ehren, Christine (September 9, 2002). "Sally Field and Bill Irwin Prepare a New 'Goat' for Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  19. ^ Simonson, Robert (September 4, 2005). "'Virginia Woolf' Howls Its Last on Broadway Sept. 4". Playbill.
  20. ^ Jones, Kenneth (April 30, 2009). "Irwin and Lane Are Waiting for Godot, Opening April 30". Playbill. Archived from the original on February 14, 2015.
  21. ^ Hetrick, Adam (October 18, 2011). "'King Lear', With Sam Waterston, Kelli O'Hara, Bill Irwin and Frank Wood, Begins at the Public Oct. 18". Playbill.
  22. ^ "Filmography". The New York Times. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
  23. ^ Wallemberg, Christopher (September 17, 2011). "STAGE TO SCREENS: A 2011-12 TV Season Packed With Stage Stars". Playbill.
  24. ^ Ross, Robyn. "TNT Orders David E. Kelley's Medical Drama 'Monday Mornings'" May 2012
  25. ^ "Great Performances. 'Bill Irwin, Clown Prince' ". Public Broadcasting Service, 2004, accessed August 19, 2013
  26. ^ a b "Bill Irwin's Biography" bill-irwin.com, accessed July 25, 2014
  27. ^ Largely New York Listing for Tony Awards and Drama Desk" Internet Broadway Database, accessed August 18, 2013
  28. ^ Lefkowitz, David (June 6, 1999). "1999 Tony Winner: Special Award - 'Fool Moon'". Playbill.
  29. ^ "2000 Grant Awards: Creation & Presentation" Archived September 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. arts.gov, accessed August 18, 2013
  30. ^ "2004 Grant Awards: Creativity" Archived August 6, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. arts.gov, accessed August 18, 2013
  31. ^ Jones, Kenneth (June 5, 2005). "'Doubt' Is Best Play, 'Spamalot' Best Musical; Butz, Irwin, Clark, Jones, Nichols Win 2005 Tonys". Playbill.
  32. ^ "Philosophy". New Victory Theater. Retrieved August 19, 2013.

External links[edit]