Bill Irwin certainly qualifies as one of the most unique figures in show business; attempts to compare him to other talent invariably conclude with the observation that there is no one else like Irwin, a testament to his overarching individuality. A native of Santa Monica, Irwin spent periods of his youth in Southern California and Oklahoma, then attended Oberlin College (as a theater arts major) and Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey's Clown College in Florida, where lessons learned in slapstick, pantomime, comedic improvisation, and graceful balletic would continue to inform his art and style throughout his life. Following said education, he spent various periods of time in dramatic ensembles (such as the prestigious Kraken ensemble) and circuses (such as the Frisco-based Pickle Family Circus) and racked up a litany of theatrical accomplishments that included Broadway performances in Waiting for Godot (opposite Steve Martin and Robin Williams) and Accidental Death of an Anarchist (opposite Jonathan Pryce), a critically acclaimed turn in Fool Moon (with the Red City Ramblers), and many other highlights. Meanwhile, on television, Irwin built up a substantial audience of young people with his wordless portrayal of Mr. Noodle (opposite the late Michael Jeter) on the "Elmo's World" segments of Sesame Street. Irwin's feature appearances include A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999), Igby Goes Down (2002), Lady in the Water (2007), and Rachel Getting Married (2008), and Higher Ground (2011).
Biography by Nathan Southern
- Helped found the Pickle Family Circus in San Francisco.
- Performed with the Cadet Drum and Bugle Corp at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
- In 1984, became the first Oberlin alum (and first performance artist) to be named a MacArthur Fellow.
- Appeared in the music video for Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" in 1988.
- In 2010, received the first New Victory Arts Award for bringing arts to children, and children to the arts.