This post goes back a while, but covers some topics close to my heart
I’m convinced I’m not alone in my attitude to mime artists, but for some reason others find it a deeply shameful thing to admit to. A lardy dieter will admit to going large with a Whopper and fries, then eating a family size bar of chocolate washed down with a quart of fully leaded Coke rather than say what I’m about to say. Completely normal people will admit to being serial killers in preference to this. But I’m made of sterner stuff, a good man in a crisis.
Mime artists are insufferably dull. They are boring. Tedious to a scaly degree. There. I’ve said what you’ve all been thinking. They are, aren’t they? Just how much entertainment value can a bloke with a white face squeeze out of pretending to battle a high wind, or carry a sheet of glass? About two millisecondsworth.
Look, even Marcel Marceau, supposedly at the top of the game, is as boring as all get out. Don’t you ever get the urge, after about ten seconds, to yell at the screen, ‘Bloody hell, you idiot. Stop buggering about in a bent hat and just learn the words why don’t you?’ I know I do, and I’ve succumbed to the urge as well.
In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, The Patrician, Havelock Vetinari, has a special punishment for mime artists. They are lowered by their ankles into a pit of scorpions. The last thing they see before they reach the bottom is a sign where, upside down, is written the instruction ‘LEARN THE BLOODY WORDS!’ I like this as an idea.
Right. While I’m on this rant, let me deal with human statues. This is not a proper job for a grown man. It isn’t. You can tell this from the fact they are all men. Women have too much sense and natural dignity to wrap themselves in a bedsheet, spray themselves grey, and just go somewhere and stand very still. And expect to be paid for doing absolutely nothing. Oh I suppose occasionally you can twitch a bit to scare the children, but really… It’s not big and it’s not clever, and it’s definitely not funny. Why can’t they learn to break-dance?
One man bands. Fortunately this particular artistic genre seems to have died a well deserved and overly delayed death. The novelty value of some old geezer – and they were all men, again – with a drum on his back, cymbals on his knees, a guitar, and a mouth organ on a neckbrace, banging out old Cockney standards, was limited, to say the least.
Birdcall imitators. They seem to have died out now as well, but they were all the rage when I was a nipper. Every few weeks on Sunday Night at the London Palladium, you got some superannuated old boiler in a dinner jacket imitating the call of the meadow pipit or something like that. I’m not sure what the native habitat of these no doubt delightful birds is, but if there’s a clue in the name then I’d guess it to be meadows. I am pretty sure you don’t find many in the grimy cotton town of Oldham, which was my native habitat at the time.
I also suspect that Winifred Atwell and Joe ‘Mr Piano’ Henderson spent a good stretch in Purgatory. Knocking out wartime classics on an upright piano may be OK for a nostalgia night down the pub, but on a mainstream Sunday night television programme it was intolerable. Ms Atwell went to the extent of putting drawing pins in the hammers to produce an authentic honky-tonk sound. Even my parents hated these two, and they knew all the songs.
I’m not sure about ventriloquists either. Yes, I admit I queued for quite a long time to shake hands with Lenny the Lion, but I was only about four years old. You don’t seem to find them any more, and I suspect this is an object lesson in the power of market forces.
It’s often claimed that the youth of today don’t know how to make their own entertainment. We should be grateful for this.
I feel a lot better now. Thank you for asking.
If you enjoyed this then you might also enjoy my mate Alastair ripping me to pieces.
It’s very funny.