CAMBRIDGE, Mass. A newly-released study is lending stature to a group of artists long dismissed as either inscrutable or merely annoying: mimes, who according to a white paper funded by the International Brother-and-Sisterhood of Mimes, contribute $300 trillion to the economy of this college town.
“Count me skeptical,” said Professor Aaron Bevilaqua-Stearns of the University of New England School of Business. “You see these crazy reports about how the arts are such a big engine of economic growth and you’ve got to take them with a grain of salt, but it would take all the NaCl in Utah to make that one go down.”
When asked to defend the research that led to the report’s startling conclusion, a panel of white-faced mimes shrugged their shoulders and pretended to be trapped in a box, from which they escaped with expressions of enlightenment, causing this reporter to ask a custodian at the union’s hiring hall what they were trying to convey. “That means ‘out of the box thinking,’” said Gus Tornquist. “They were in there to get out of an imaginary hurricane, I think.”
One in five Cambridge residents has a personal mime character, and the proliferation of the silent artists here means that violence sometimes breaks out at wine-and-cheese parties over which mime can perform first before the sole non-mime person at the affair. “It was uncomfortable, let me tell you,” says Con Chapman, a suburbanite who was caught in a dangerous cross-fire between “Fifi,” a female mime, and “St. Germain,” a white-faced male at the grand closing of a local used bookstore. “I lived on the South Side of Chicago, and the gang wars between the 57th Street Disciples and the Blackstone Rangers were tame by comparison.”
Objective measures of the value that mimes add to the gross domestic product of a region are few and far from robust, but mimes themselves say that they produce intangible benefits both to those who watch their performances, and those who don’t. “If you like what I do, you will smile,” says St. Germain, affecting a bogus French accent. “If you don’t like it, you will be made much happier when I go away.”