Members say: Clever, Delightful, Funny, Entertaining, Hilarious

About the show

Signature Theatre revives its hit multimedia clown show featuring Bill Irwin and David Shiner.

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After an extended sold out run in 2013, Bill Irwin and David Shiner's award-winning, critically acclaimed production of 'Old Hats' returns to the Signature Theatre. This production reunites the clowns with original director Tina Landau and introduces their new songstress and comic foil Shaina Taub. Using music, technology and movement, Irwin and Shiner combine their inimitable magic and slapstick to create an unforgettable outing that's fun for the whole family.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

"The boys are back in town, with a new accompanist who gives their mild shenanigans an unexpected edge...These skilled clowns know that chaos and comedy are cousins. A delightful and manic audience-participation sketch recreating the filming of a movie western lifts everyone’s spirits before it’s time to go home." Full Review


"Directed by Tina Landau, the return engagement of Irwin and Shiner's 2013 Signature hit, 'Old Hats,' is a fascinating display of an art form that retains its newness in the hands of masters who mix classic bits with modern wordless observations...Family friendly entertainment is rarely this hip...Singer/songwriter Shaina Taub and her band entertain between routines, showcasing flippantly fun lyrics and melodies that she sings with dark cheeriness." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"First, an admission: I hate clowns. But I'll happily make an exception for Bill Irwin and David Shiner, currently reprising their show 'Old Hats.' Even the routines you might have seen before — whether in their solo performances; their previous collaboration, Fool Moon; or this production, first seen in 2013 — are bursting with comic freshness and vitality, belying the fact that both men are in their sixties." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"'Old Hats' is itself a retread; a slightly different version played a sold-out run at the Signature in 2013. The sketches are mostly unchanged, except to the extent that they are automatically altered by the serendipity of audience participation, of which there’s a lot...Even when the material is unaltered it’s still welcome, putting the sweet-and-sour pairing of Irwin and Shiner to excellent use both separately and together." Full Review


"Clowning may be 'old hat' for Irwin and Shiner — two masters of physical comedy — but they're pros at dusting off their old tricks and making them shine like new...Even if sight gags and magic acts leave you cold, you can't help but join the celebration of this onstage camaraderie that cheers the theatrical traditions this duo is silently keeping alive." Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"The encore production of this flawlessly executed and cleverly designed show turns out to be irresistible, an antidote for nasty times, alternative medicine for flu season, a reminder that nearly anything done well enough–even mime and vaudeville–can feel new and hip…The only obvious change from the last run is the choice of singer and band leader Shaina Taub, who now provides the musical interludes…These songs indirectly underscore the tension in some of Irwin and Shiner’s routines." Full Review

Front Row Center

"These two got me again. They know each other’s moves and if they spoke they would finish each other’s sentences…These clowns imbue their hats with life. Hats become sentient. They fly, they flee, they tumble and twirl, they zip and zing. And always, always, always they make us laugh…Irwin and Shiner make you laugh, and occasionally break your heart, with the lift of an eyebrow or the tweak of a pinky." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"For sheer sustained fun and laughter, there are very few shows that can rival ‘Old Hats,’ and very few clowns as multitalented as Mr. Irwin and Mr. Shiner, who dance, sing, play musical instruments, and clown with the nonverbal, physical genius of the great silent movie comics. This is the kind of show you can see over and over and still find that it never becomes old hat." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"There's something illuminating and inspiring about witnessing a master decades into his career ply his craft as though he were fresh on the boards. And when it's good, it doesn't matter if it's familiar. So even though Irwin, Shiner, and Landau were just here three years ago, when 'Old Hats' made its New York premiere in the same theater, there's a good reason for this revival: They've improved both it and themselves." Full Review


"Most of the routines will be familiar to those who have seen earlier iterations the show, whose highlights are some audience-participation shenanigans and the big fine, in which several folks are put into the service of filming a silent Western. The only thing assured is the sound of laughter." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"It was an entertaining evening, a bit on the soft smile side of the spectrum of enjoyment, but amusing none the less. Bill Irwin did crack me up as the magician’s big haired lovely assistant/jealous girlfriend in a skit that I must say stretched on a bit too long past the punchline. This is probably what I thought of most of the skits to be frank...I like my theatre with a bit more drive and a lot more engaging and engrossing storytelling." Full Review


"Bill Irwin and David Shiner are back in town, doing their familiar, irresistibly funny clown routines one more time, and who would want them to do anything else?...Although Irwin and Shiner are both in their 60s, they’ve retained the remarkable physical grace and dexterity that are at the center of their art...The versatile Taub, writes quirky songs, sings, provides entertainment between the clown numbers...All three performers prove that something old can be remarkably fresh." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"Two highly skilled clowns and a charming band make for an irresistible evening of entertainment...This is a show that will delight countless audiences from every demographic...This is a production that's suitable for all ages. Although it gets bawdy at times, its heart is with anyone and everyone who likes to laugh." Full Review


"'Old Hats' is unlike anything else being staged in New York. If you missed it in its first go-round, catch this first-rate revival. It's a terrific investment of two hours of your life." Full Review

Broadway Blog

"Bill Irwin and David Shiner return in 'Old Hats,' which uses clowning and physical theater as a vehicle for social commentary as well as a belly full of laughs...Some scenes are, perhaps, even more timely this time around...Don’t be fooled by the ease of these masters as you witness the culmination of generations of clowning tradition. Taub is a charming foil to the pair, delivering a whimsical collection of songs...'Old Hats' is a dream not to miss." Full Review

On Stage Blog

“This is one of those exemplary evenings of theatre with flawless performances by all. It is graced by two consummate artists who excel in their craft, love their work, respect their audience and appear much younger physically and mentally, than their experienced years. Make some time to sit back and enjoy a remarkable entertaining evening of theater.” Full Review

Entertainment Weekly

"Bill Irwin and David Shiner have been clowning around for so long, you’d think their shtick in 'Old Hats' would be more, well, old hat. But the rubber-limbed clowns (seriously, do they have any joints at all?) are as irresistible as ever." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"The performers bring an undeniable freshness and fierce intelligence to clowning, a form that Irwin and Shiner seem to have a monopoly on these days, at least in the theatre. But they bring a different kind of intelligence that we associate with most other actors and performers–a comic intelligence, for sure–but also the emotional intelligence required to show us something we know but often forget: comedy and tragedy are merely two sides of the same coin." Full Review

New York Post

for a previous production "Let the cranks stay home and let the rest of us laugh our heads off at 'Old Hats,' one of the funniest shows of the past few years...Not many can pull gales of laughter out of thin air the way Irwin and Shiner do." Full Review

The New York Times

for a previous production "Inspiration almost never flags in 'Old Hats,' whose highlights also include a vividly performed sendup of a sleazy magic act, in which Mr. Shiner’s smarmy, pony-tailed prestidigitator lubriciously ogles various members of the audience. Portraying his vivacious, big-wigged female assistant, Mr. Irwin looks on with increasing bitterness beneath the 'ta-daaa' smiles. I do have to admit to a little fatigue during the overextended passage in the second act." Full Review


for a previous production "Everything old is new again, in this comic puree of ancient vaudeville routines, traditional circus acts, and classic mime pieces, along with silly tap dances and ukulele solos...There’s nothing snarky about this kind of satire, because every clown must first master the magic and love the artifice of it before he can presume to fiddle with it. But you also don’t want to turn your back on this show, because it’s loaded with sly insinuations about who we are and how we live today." Full Review

NY Theatre Guide

for a previous production "What is better than leaving the theatre smiling and feeling like a million bucks? Not much, my friends. There should be a Nobel Prize for making people laugh. When you laugh you have to let go. You have to open up and let all the goodness in. When you laugh you are vulnerable and filled with joy. When you laugh you are at the mountaintop of being alive. Get on over to this show!!!" Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

for a previous production "If there were nothing more to the evening than its clowns, that would not be a problem. But, as executed here, they’re just two cogs in a much larger machine. At least they’re hard-working cogs, and you never tire of seeing the wonders perform when they’re left alone to do what they’ve always done best. The biggest flaw of 'Old Hats' is that not enough people involved have seen that they can, and should, leave Irwin and Shiner alone far more often than they do." Full Review

New York Daily News

for a previous production "Get a load of who’s cooked up 'Old Hats' — two clowns and a singing sidekick with a salty streak. The combo actually works for this comic tasting menu that tips its cap to old-school vaudeville bits. The goal here is simply to make you smile and laugh for 110 minutes. Mission accomplished." Full Review


for a previous production "Battling cosmic forces beyond them is one of the things that make Bill Irwin’s collaborations with David Shiner so much more than mere clowning around. That’s not meant to take anything away from the clowning itself, which is the irresistible core of 'Old Hats...' 'Old Hats' remains the mostly silent testament of two vaudevillians to the curative power of slapstick over the winter blues. It’s sheer pleasure." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Funny, Delightful, Masterful, Quirky, Entertaining

See it if you want to see today's finest elder statesmen of vaudeville do their two man show.

Don't see it if You want a deep, profound, moving, linear play. This is light & fun entertainment.

Also I saw the 2015 iteration at Signature with Nellie McKay as the quirkil... Read more Read less

Delightful, Enchanting, Must see, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if you want to see clowning at its best. Two of the best clowns ever at the top of their game.

Don't see it if You are expecting a show with a plot.

Funny, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if you like slapstick.

Don't see it if don't like overacting.

Funny, Clever, Delightful, Entertaining

See it if What a great a show with amazing talent. Totally worth seeing!

Don't see it if Circus-y theatrics bore you.

Funny, Clever, Escapist

See it if you love clowns, mimes, and silliness. And also, the music is fantastic. Shaina Taub is crazy talented.

Don't see it if you have a distaste for goofy, slap-stick comedy.

Funny, Great acting, Twee, Sweet, Adorable

See it if You love clowns, are a fan of Bill Irwin or like a light, frothy night at the theater.

Don't see it if You prefer plot-driven theater will real backbone. This encompasses a series of lovely, sweet vignettes - but does not really tell a story.

Funny, Clever, Enchanting, Dated, Fluffy

See it if See these guys before they retire -- not quite as fabulous as they may have been before, but better than many in their prime

Don't see it if You've never heard of Bill Irwin or David Shiner, don't like sophisticated clowning.

Funny, Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy the art of clowning, and want to see it done by masters.

Don't see it if You're really not interested in physical comedy.

Funny, Clever, Delightful, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if like clowns

Don't see it if don't

Original, Delightful, Must see, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if you've never seen Bill Irwin do what he does best! 90 minutes of joy and silliness. Don't miss it!

Don't see it if you hate having a good time and laughing yourself silly.

Funny, Clever, Delightful, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if You're looking for a night of pure delight and masters of mime along with a great singer. Showmanship at its best

Don't see it if You're a Scrooge! If you only like tragedy or classical drama.


See it if This was the second time I saw the show. I enjoyed the music and some of the audience participation, but liked it better the first time.

Don't see it if You don't like comic routines.

Funny, Clever, Entertaining, Pure fun!

See it if You want a good time or entertaining evening out. Super talented physical comics...very clever show.

Don't see it if You only like serious theater, However, only a grump wouldn't want to go just to applaud Irwin and Shiner's talent.

Clever, Delightful, Intelligent, Entertaining, Bill irwin!!!

See it if I love Bill Irwin. He is irresistible, funny, clever, gentle, intelligent, with a body of rubber! The music is also wonderful. See it.

Don't see it if You need a really appreciation of imagination to enjoy this show. You have to meet the performers halfway and go with the fun.

Clever, Delightful, Intelligent, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if you like old vaudeville or corny jokes, but very fully funny.

Don't see it if You don't like clown shows.

Clever, Delightful, Entertaining

See it if you've never seen Bill Irwin before

Don't see it if you don't like humor

Delightful, Masterful, Must see, Hilarious

See it if you want a chance to see two masters perform together (for possibly the last time?).

Don't see it if you don't like laughing.

Funny, Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining

See it if you are a fan of physical comedy that borrows from commedia dell' arte (props over scenery); and if you love inspired clowning by Bill Irwin

Don't see it if largely non-verbal comedy bores or irritates you, or you're not a fan of Chaplinesque short bits or don't especially like physical comedy.

Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Enchanting

See it if You want to see two masters of their work live & in person. Funny, talented, laugh-out-loud skits.

Don't see it if You don't like slapstick comedy

Clever, Delightful, Masterful, Entertaining, Great music

See it if You want to see 2 masters of their field ply their craft. Delightful to watch - a simple, fun evening. Shaina Taub is excellent too.

Don't see it if You want to be intellectually challenged at the theatre, if you need dialogue to enjoy a show, if you hate physical comedy.

Funny, Clever, Intelligent, Quirky, Entertaining

See it if you enjoy serio comic mime done by two talented performers

Don't see it if you are a Luddite

Original, Delightful, Intelligent, Refreshing, Hilarious

See it if I think everyone would like this show! It is great for kids, parents, dates, intellectuals, music aficionados.

Don't see it if If you do not have a sense of humor!

Funny, Delightful, Hilarious, Entertaining, Completely different than anything offered

See it if you like physical comedy, fun music and these guys; Bill Irwin and David Shiner. You tend to laugh in spite of yourself.

Don't see it if you don't like baggy pants.

Funny, Clever, Delightful, Refreshing, Classic

See it if You like classic comedy, performed by masters of the art of clowning. Most of the show is light and fluffy!

Don't see it if you want edgy drama with a plot.

Delightful, Masterful, Quirky

See it if Like classic clowning and vaudeville, for "audience reaction" done right, to revere Bill Irwin, for nostalgic family fun

Don't see it if Mime and clowning would not hold attention, don't like slapstick, Shaina Taub too twee for tastes

Cast & Creatives (7)