By Amy Nicole Tangel
Many people start out in life with big dreams, but to see those dreams through takes great courage and the will never to give up. For one lifelong performer who has dedicated his life to entertaining others, the true test came when the world shutdown and the lights went dark, but perseverance has given him the strength to rise.
Growing up on Long Island, nationally known singer/comedian/impressionist Billy Mira, said he always knew he wanted to spend his life making music. His school years started with the theater, and over time Billy said he just felt more drawn to singing; realizing early on this was his destiny. While attending East Meadow High School, Billy said he was lucky to have a drama curriculum in school during a time when not all schools offered such programs. His drama teacher was influential and always told him he was gifted and encouraged him to continue to pursue acting, but Billy said at the time he was all about rock-n-roll and strictly had his sights set on rock stardom.
“It really is amazing that I never went into acting, because that is how I started doing impressions and impersonating things, and that’s really what acting is,” he said.
Right after high school, Billy hit the road and moved to Florida for a period of time, but he said he wasn’t happy with the scene there then, so he moved back to New York in 1987 and took the lead in the rock band, Whisky Road. With long hair and tight skinny jeans, Billy said his days with the band allowed him to make memories of a lifetime and while the band recorded and released tracks under signed management, the alternative-grunge scene had come along and hair bands became a thing of the past.
“We creatively had this other influence that was more of a jazz influence, oddly enough that had horns in it, which was a foreshadowing what I would eventually do,” he said.
At one point along the way, Billy said he started getting into broadcasting and that is really where he got into comedy, but all the while he continued pursuing music and playing at local clubs. Most notably, Billy said his first real break came with comedy when he landed a spot on The Howard Stern Show in 2002 as a comedian and impressionist. From that point on, he said his career took off while traveling across the country with the show as a Stern-Personality over the years that followed; building a foundation that would eventually cross paths with his music career and the creation of his self-described, “Vegas meets Broadway” style show, Billy Mira & The Hitmen.
Reflecting on how he got to be where he is today, Billy recalls everything he did professionally as “an experience” until the moment came along when he landed his spot with The Howard Stern Show. Winding up on the show in the first place was a fluke thing, he admitted. He said one day he just decided to take a chance and call in when Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne were on the show to do his Ozzy impression. Billy said Howard told him he didn’t think he was that funny and hung up on him; leaving him feeling knocked down. Hours later fate stepped in and turned everything around.
Billy said he believes there are no coincidences in life, and that evening while out to dinner he was overheard talking about calling into the show by someone at the next table, and that someone just happened to be Sal Governale, writer and producer, of The Howard Stern Show. Billy said Governale asked him to do the impression for him right then, and the rest was history. Years later, they are still good friends and have continued to work together on various projects.
“I started doing the impression and he (Sal) said, ‘Everybody wanted to know who that guy was and why Howard hung up on him,’ and that’s how it started,” he said.
Years later, Billy took the culmination of everything he experienced musically along with his comedy act and brought it all together when he wrote and developed his show, Billy Mira & The Hitmen. He said the inspiration came to him during his time living in Las Vegas from 2011 to 2013 as he continued his broadcasting career covering mixed martial arts for Fox Sports and working alongside UFC – a time when he said the sport began to explode in popularity.
As much as Billy said he enjoyed his time broadcasting and is a huge fan of the sport, every day he said he looked at the billboards of Vegas shows and knew that was what he was really meant to be doing. Billy said he began writing his show with the vision for it to one day become a headlining Vegas attraction and was heavily influenced by Brian Setzer; combining orchestra and Broadway into one.
“It’s a music show that enables me to be funny, do impressions, do comedic stuff; everything within one show. The great thing about it is that I can change it at the drop of a dime,” he said.
Upon his return from Las Vegas, Billy went all-in with development of his show and performed Billy Mira & The Hitmen for the first-time ever in 2015 at Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut. He has traveled across Long Island with stops at theaters such as Gateway Playhouse and long-standing residencies at clubs such as The Polo Lounge at Westbury Manor. That was until the pandemic shut everything down and Billy no longer had a stage to call home. But just like every other unexpected turn in the road he has faced over the years, Billy stayed true to himself and kept looking toward the future.
While many solo-artists took to live streams and virtual tip jars during the shutdown, Billy said as great as that is for other entertainers, it was not right for him. For Billy, he said the concept of virtual performances would not work for him and his act because his acts are so interactive and draw so much energy from a live audience that something would be greatly lost.
In the meantime, Billy turned the downtime into a positive when he released a new cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s, “If You Could Read My Mind” and recently teamed up with longtime friends, Rob Rush of 94.3 The Shark and Mark “The Animal” Mendoza of Twisted Sister as co-host to a new weekly internet show, “Rollin’ With.” The live streamed show is produced with Area 22 Productions and for Billy it has not only been an opportunity to interview interesting people, it has been an outlet for him to stay connected and share his gift of comedy with countless people in a time when people need laughs more than ever.
During the past couple of months, Billy has been branching out once again as stages in New York continued to be dark and set his sights on Florida once again for opportunities to get back to business until everything opens back up in the northern part of the country. Billy said he is determined to take any good opportunity that comes his way to get back on stage, but ultimately his number one goal to return to Las Vegas remains the same.
“My road is going back to Vegas. When I left, I remember saying, ‘I am coming back here and I am going to come back with this show,’” he said.
Things have rapidly been looking up in New York and venues are beginning to announce plans for reopening. This Friday, April 30, Billy will finally be heading out for his first residency since Covid hit, when he makes his solo return singing live at Krish’s in Massapequa each Friday night. Billy said he is thrilled to be getting back out there and performing at one of his favorite local places. He is presently working on another local residency and said he will be releasing that information to the public as soon as it is confirmed.
To keep up-to-date with Billy’s most recent projects and upcoming events visit www.billymiraandthehitmen.com for all happenings.