A comic is someone who says funny things. A clown is someone who does funny things, or does things funny, depending on how you look at it. George Burns, Milton Berle were comics while Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd were the great clowns. Clowning requires an acrobatic or physical element which joke telling does not require although some great comics like Groucho Marx and W.C. Fields and his juggling would augment their funny patter with physical humor. Red Skelton was probably the last great Television clown. Skelton's joke telling was terrible because he would giggle and convulse himself as he told his own jokes. It was at pantomime that he was a genius, generating pathos and humor. Sid Caesar was the other great television clown although Jackie Gleason, remembered best for his comic acting in the Honeymooners, performed in pantomime as Reginald Van Gleason III. More recent years have produced few entertainers with the talent of these greats, however, I believe the two funniest clowns performing today can be seen at the Signature Theatre in New York City in the stunning vaudeville-style review, 'Old Hats.' This incredible show is extended until June 9th. Bill Irwin and David Shiner are the two greatest clowns living today. Their performance in OLD HATS must be seen. Bill Irwin is this generation's Buster Keaton. He contorts his body in ways one would not think possible. Inventive costuming allows him to utilize the physicality of his humor in a way that is difficult to describe but simply which must be seen. Irwin was born in Santa Monica, California. He graduated from Oberlin College in 1973 with a degree in theater arts, and from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College the following year. In 1975, he helped found the Pickle Family Circus in San Francisco, California. He left the company in 1979, and decided to pursue stage work. Irwin, a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant, developed his silent clown persona in such shows as 'The Regard of Flight' and is also known by children as Mr. Noodle on Sesame Street's Elmo. He is one of the original members of San Francisco's Pickle Circus, has made a number of film and TV appearances and won a Tony Award for a dramatic role on Broadway. Irwin's co-star is veteran clown David Shiner. More traditional than Irwin, Shiner is as good as the great Sid Caesar when it comes to mugging to the audience for humorous effect, including the eye-roll and nose-snort which he uses to let the audience in on the joke. Shiner interacts with the audience throughout the show and communicates perfectly even though he, like Irwin, never speaks a word, although both have hysterical singing interludes. Shiner was born in Boston, Massachusetts,The lanky Shiner, usually donning a small dunce cap, started as a street mime, first in Colorado, and later in France and Germany. He managed to get multiple gigs with various circuses, including performances with the German Circus Roncalli and the Swiss National Circus (Circus Knie). In between he toured performing a dual act with Rene Bazinet. From 1990 he was featured in Cirque du Soleil's production Nouvelle Experience, touring for 19 months through Canada and the USA and playing for another year in Las Vegas. With his antics, including stepping through, on and over much of the crowd and the staging of a mock silent-movie melodrama with four members of the audience, he may be the best-remembered of the Cirque's clowns. I first saw Irwin and Shiner in Fool Moon during the 90s. That show featured the music of the Red Clay Ramblers, and consisted of a series of sketches and stunts featuring the two masters of physical lunacy in an evening of sly humor, chaos and music. In that show,as in OLD HATS, Irwin plays his sweetly mischievous persona off Shiner's more astringent one. Joining Irwin and Shiner for Old Hats is Nellie McKay who plays piano, ukulele, sings and has a pretty snappy patter with the audience of her own, although she of course talks. A cute, engaging and funny performer, the house technicians would be wise to boost her voice in the theatre audio. Many of her best lines and quips are lost because of the inadequacy of the volume of her voice. This minor quibble aside, all three performers put on a show that must not be missed. This will be one of the most memorable theatrical events you will ever experience. This maybe the last opportunity to see two of our last living clowns. See this show. Don't delay. For tickets go to http://www.signaturetheatre.org/tickets/production.aspx?pid=2366