Comic and actor Eddie Izzard talks God, Wikipedia and Obama in his stand-up act at Seattle's Paramount Theatre, playing July 11-12, 2008; review by Misha Berson.
Comedy Review |
It’s got to be weird being Eddie Izzard.
No, not just because the actor-comedian is a self-outed cross-dresser prone to wearing eye makeup and the odd pair of high heels. And no, not just because his comic routines are free-range satirical rambles through cul-de-sacs of history, anthropology, religion and other meaty topics that pique his omnivorous curiosity.
The weirdness has to do with Izzard’s fans, so wildly devoted to this ingenious English performer, they snatched up all the tickets for this entire U.S. tour at warp speed. Such devotees were out in force at the Paramount Theatre on Friday night, roaring a welcome fit for a pop superstar when Izzard strolled onstage. (His Saturday-night show is also sold out, but devotees will likely be waiting for returns.)
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“You’re scary,” he said to the packed house, a bit overwhelmed by the reception. Then Mr. Izzard, dressed butch-light in jeans and a cutaway jacket, launched into an uninterrupted, two-hour-plus routine of sporadically shaggy and repetitive, often incisive musings (scripted and spontaneous). They covered everything from a sidesplitting thesis on how giraffes might alert each other to predator attacks (by coughing, perhaps?), to the frustrations of downloading iTunes updates.
Izzard is an excellent actor, with top stage credits, two new movies (the upcoming World War II drama “Valkyrie,” co-starring Tom Cruise, and “Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,” for which he voices a computer-animated character) and a hot TV series about a modern gypsy family on the FX channel, “The Riches.”
But doing stand-up, in a hypocrisy-mining style akin to such philosopher-jersters as the recently deceased George Carlin, was Izzard’s route to success. In this “Stripped” tour, he’s back at it with a show workshopped here last year at Seattle Repertory Theatre.
Some choice material from the Rep tryout wound up in “Stripped” — the title refers to Izzard’s decision to wear casual men’s clothes for this gig. (OK, he put on a little eyeliner on too, but “less than Keith Richards wears.”)
Izzard spent a lot of time at Friday’s Paramount show riffing on his religious skepticism: If there’s an all-powerful God, why is He not there when you need Him? If “intelligent design exists,” why do cows have several stomachs? And why do humans have that useless thing called an appendix?
He also voiced doubts about Noah’s Ark. Wouldn’t a lot of the other animals boarding the boat in pairs just be lunch for the tigers?
President George H.W. Bush came in for a light but firm drubbing, as did American football. And Izzard not only urged everyone to vote, but to pull the lever for Obama.
It took a while for Izzard to warm up and pull out his best stuff. His more impromptu prelude included a long, fumbling attempt to find some Seattle historical info by texting Wikipedia on his iPhone — which did, however, result in a funny bit about the pluses and minuses of techno gadgetry.
Occasionally his pacing fell off, as he chased a tangent or extended a bit too long.
That happens with stand-up high-wire acts — but one factor here may have been the size of the hall. Izzard is terrific at back-and-forthing with an audience, as he’s done so skillfully at the Rep, ACT Theatre and even the Moore Theatre in past shows. The price of his growing success may be a loss of intimacy with the audience, as his venues grow bigger.
Not that one sensed any complaint from the Paramount audience. The wild ovation that closed Izzard’s show, was equal to the one that opened it.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org