Billy the Mime | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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"I hate mimes," Billy the Mime has said. Blaming "bad practitioners" for the form's reputation as pretentious and boring, he says mime can challenge and amuse. Watch his scene in The Aristocrats, cocreated by longtime friend Penn Jillette, and you'll likely agree--mimes are known for pressing their palms against invisible boxes, not gleefully humping small dogs. Billy is the alter ego of Fresno native Steven Banks, who studied under Marcel Marceau and attended Ringling Brothers clown college in the early 80s. After an unnamed injury, he says, he ditched mime to focus on acting, music, and writing--all on display in Showtime's Home Entertainment Center, aired in 1989, and in The Steven Banks Show, a 1994 PBS sitcom. From 1998 through 2004 Banks wrote for Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network and for a time was head writer for SpongeBob SquarePants. In 2004 he returned to mime, building a repertoire of witty, irreverent vignettes. Drawing on world history ("Jesus: The Last Days"), current events ("Columbine: School's Out"), and fantasy ("Dreams of a Young Crippled Boy"), Billy is a dazzling showman with masterful mime skills and brilliant comic timing. a Sat 6/2, 10 PM, Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway, 773-472-3492, $15.

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