Bill Irwin
Irwin at the 2018 San Diego Comic Con
William Mills Irwin

(1950-04-11) April 11, 1950 (age 74)
  • Actor
  • choreographer
  • clown
  • comedian
Years active1974–present
  • Kimi Okada
    (m. 1977; div. 1982)
  • Martha Roth
    (m. 1990)

William Mills Irwin (born April 11, 1950)[1] is an American actor, choreographer, clown,[2][3] 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 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?. He also worked as a choreographer on Broadway and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Choreography in 1989 for Largely New York. He is also known as Mr. Noodle on the Sesame Street segment Elmo's World, and he appeared in the Sesame Street film short Does Air Move Things?.[4] He has regularly appeared as Dr. Peter Lindstrom on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and had a recurring role as "The Dick & Jane Killer" on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.[5] From 2017 to 2019, he appeared as Cary Loudermilk on the FX television series Legion.

Early life

Irwin was born in Santa Monica, California, to Elizabeth (née Mills), a teacher, and Horace G. Irwin, an aerospace engineer.[6] 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.[7] He credits his experience with the circus, and performing in schools under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, as having made him a working artist.[8] In 1979, Irwin left the company to pursue stage work.


Creator and writer

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.[9] Largely New York (1989), Fool Moon (1993),[10] The Harlequin Studies (2003),[11] and Mr. Fox: A Rumination (2004).[12] 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.[13][14] Old Hats won the 2013 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revue.[15] Old Hats was revived in New York City in 2016, with Shiner and Irwin returning and a new third performer, musician Shaina Taub, performing with her band between the sketches. [16]

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.[17] His adaptation allowed him to incorporate 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.[18]


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.[19] 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?[20] In 2005, he starred as George alongside Kathleen Turner in a revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, for which he won a Tony Award.[21] He played Vladimir (Didi) in the 2009 Broadway revival of Waiting for Godot,[22] and Mr. McAfee in the Broadway revival of Bye Bye Birdie. In 2011, he appeared in King Lear at the Public Theatre.[23] In 2023, he played Clov in the Irish Repertory Theatre's Off-Broadway production of Endgame.[24]

Film and television

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 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! (1991). 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 and 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 as Uncle Teddy 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.[7][25]

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) and the 1996 music video of "Let Me into Your Heart" by Mary Chapin Carpenter. 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.[26] He starred in the 2013 medical drama TNT television series, Monday Mornings as Buck Tierney.[27] 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.[28]

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 Captain Olivia Benson.[5] Irwin also appeared on the television series Sleepy Hollow, playing the character of Atticus Nevins. Between 2017 and 2019, he appeared in the FX television series Legion.

In 2020, he appeared as Su'Kal in Star Trek: Discovery. In 2022, Irwin guest starred on The Gilded Age on HBO.

Personal life

He is married to Martha Roth, an "actress-turned-nurse midwife", whom he met while seeking treatment for a stiff neck.[29] They have an adopted son, Santos Patrick Morales Irwin, who was born on December 9, 1991.[29]

Awards and honors

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 five-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.[30]

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.[31] In 1993, this show had already won a Drama Desk Award for "Unique Theatrical Experience" and an Outer Critics Circle "Special Achievement" Award.[citation needed]

In 2000, the Jazz Tap Ensemble in 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."[32]

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."[33]

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?[34]

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.[35] 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 and stage work

Film roles
Year Title Role Notes
1980 Popeye Ham Gravy, the Old Boyfriend
1988 A New Life Eric
1988 Eight Men Out Eddie Collins
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 Buchman
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
2018 Ballet Now Himself Documentary
2020 Irresistible Elton Chambers
2022 Spoiler Alert Bob
2023 Rustin A. J. Muste
2024 High Tide Scott
Television roles
Year Title Role Notes
1979 Struck by Lightning Episode: "Frank Meets the Press"
1982 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
1992–2010; 2017–present Sesame Street Mr. Noodle, Air Mime, 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 Himself 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
2013–2022[36][37] Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Dr. Peter Lindstrom Recurring; 17 episodes
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 Himself 2 episodes
2017 Doubt Judge 2 episodes
2017–2019 Legion Cary Loudermilk Main cast
2018, 2022 This Is Us Dr. Spencer 2 episodes
2020–2021 Star Trek: Discovery Su'Kal 3 episodes
2021 New Amsterdam Grandpa Calvin 3 episodes
2022 The Gilded Age Cornelius Eckhard Episode: "Face the Music"
2022 The Dropout Channing Robertson 4 episodes
2022 The Andy Warhol Diaries Andy Warhol (voice) 6 episodes
Music videos
Year Title Role Notes
1988 "Don't Worry, Be Happy" Himself Music video; Bobby McFerrin
1996 "Let Me into Your Heart" Himself Music video; Mary Chapin Carpenter
Stage work
Year Title Role Notes
1984 Accidental Death of an Anarchist The Sergeant Broadway
1987 The Regard of Flight Writer and performer Broadway
1988 Waiting for Godot Lucky Off-Broadway
Drama Desk Award nomination
1989 Largely New York The Post-Modern Hoofer
Director, choreographer, and writer
Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience
Tony Award nominations for Best Actor in a Play, Best Choreography, Best Direction of a Play, and Best Play
1993 Fool Moon Creator and performer Broadway
1995 Fool Moon Creator and performer Broadway
1998 Fool Moon Creator and performer Broadway
2002 The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? Martin Broadway
2005 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? George Broadway
Tony Award
Drama Desk Award nomination
2007 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? George National tour
2009 Waiting for Godot Vladimir Broadway
Drama Desk Award nomination
2009 Bye Bye Birdie Harry MacAfee Broadway
2011 King Lear The Fool Off-Broadway
Drama Desk Award nomination
2018 The Iceman Cometh Ed Mosher Broadway
2019 Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus Movement choreographer Broadway
2023 Endgame[38] Clov Off-Broadway
2024 On Beckett Himself Guthrie Theater


  1. ^ "Bill Irwin Biography". Brodway World. Retrieved 9 September 2020.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Brantley, Ben (8 November 2011). "A Fool, His King and the Madness That Engulfs Them". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  4. ^ Gussow, Mel (11 May 2008). "How to Deal with Midlife: Keep Dancing". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Television". Archived from the original on 2017-03-24. Retrieved 2016-01-21.
  6. ^ Bill Irwin Biography (1950-)
  7. ^ a b "Irwin Biography", accessed August 18, 2013
  8. ^ The National Campaign to Hire Artists to Work in Schools, accessed November 27, 2020
  9. ^ " The Regard of Flight on Broadway",, accessed May 12, 2015.
  10. ^ Simonson, Robert; Jones, Kenneth (November 2, 1998). "Irwin and Shiner's 'Fool Moon' Rises on Bway's Atkinson, Nov. 17". Playbill.
  11. ^ Jones, Kenneth (August 7, 2003). "Bill Irwin's 'Harlequin Studies', Dissecting Theatre's Clown, Premieres Sept. 3 Off-Bway". Playbill.
  12. ^ Jones, Kenneth (April 13, 2004). "Be a Clown: Bill Irwin's 'Mr. Fox: A Rumination' Conjures Forgotten American Actor". Playbill.
  13. ^ Isherwood, Charles (March 4, 2013). "Aging Clowns and Brand-New Gags". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Gans, Andrew; Jones, Kenneth (April 2, 2013). "Off-Broadway Run of Acclaimed 'Old Hats', By Bill Irwin and David Shiner, Extended Again". Playbill.
  15. ^ Hetrick, Adam; Gans, Andrew (May 10, 2013). "Billy Porter, Andrea Martin, 'Pippin', 'Matilda', 'Vanya and Sonia' Win Drama Desk Awards". Playbill.
  16. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (February 18, 2016). "Review: 'Old Hats,' Mime and Mayhem From Irwin and Shiner". The New York Times.
  17. ^ Viagas, Robert (January 10, 1997). "Bill Irwin Scapin Opens Jan. 9 Off-Broadway". Playbill.
  18. ^ "DCI Cadets 1996 Olympics Performance".
  19. ^ Isenberg, Barbara. 'Godot' Leaves Them Waiting for Tickets" Los Angeles Times, November 22, 1988
  20. ^ Ehren, Christine (September 9, 2002). "Sally Field and Bill Irwin Prepare a New 'Goat' for Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  21. ^ Simonson, Robert (September 4, 2005). "'Virginia Woolf' Howls Its Last on Broadway Sept. 4". Playbill.
  22. ^ Jones, Kenneth (April 30, 2009). "Irwin and Lane Are Waiting for Godot, Opening April 30". Playbill. Archived from the original on February 14, 2015.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ "Endgame by Samuel Beckett". Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  25. ^ "Filmography". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2008. Archived from the original on May 31, 2008. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
  26. ^ Wallemberg, Christopher (September 17, 2011). "STAGE TO SCREENS: A 2011-12 TV Season Packed With Stage Stars". Playbill.
  27. ^ Ross, Robyn. "TNT Orders David E. Kelley's Medical Drama 'Monday Mornings'" May 2012
  28. ^ "Great Performances. 'Bill Irwin, Clown Prince' ". Public Broadcasting Service, 2004, accessed August 19, 2013
  29. ^ a b "Bill Irwin's Biography", accessed July 25, 2014
  30. ^ Largely New York Listing for Tony Awards and Drama Desk", Internet Broadway Database. Accessed August 18, 2013.
  31. ^ Lefkowitz, David (June 6, 1999). "1999 Tony Winner: Special Award - 'Fool Moon'". Playbill.
  32. ^ "2000 Grant Awards: Creation & Presentation" Archived September 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, accessed August 18, 2013.
  33. ^ "2004 Grant Awards: Creativity" Archived February 20, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, accessed August 18, 2013.
  34. ^ Jones, Kenneth (June 5, 2005). "'Doubt' Is Best Play, 'Spamalot' Best Musical; Butz, Irwin, Clark, Jones, Nichols Win 2005 Tonys". Playbill.
  35. ^ "Philosophy". New Victory Theater. Archived from the original on July 31, 2013. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  36. ^ "Listings - LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT on NBC |".
  37. ^ "Watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Episode: A Final Call at Forlini's Bar". Retrieved 2022-09-01.
  38. ^ "Endgame".