Izzard's one-man 'Circle' is a raucous treat

By Michael Blowen, Globe Staff, 3/9/2000

bout two years ago at the US Comedy Festival, Eddie Izzard took the Aspen, Colo., crowd by storm. And quite a crowd it was. Monty Python, half of the ''Cheers'' cast, and hundreds of industry hotshots were in attendance as Izzard, dressed in a colorful cotton frock, rocked the house. Competing with dozens of other stand-ups from around the world, Izzard mixed his savvy wordplay and quirky observations through a high-octane delivery that inspired John Cleese to declare ''He's the funniest man in England.'' He was funnier than that. And now, in ''Circle,'' his latest one-man show, he's even better.


On Tuesday night, dressed all in black - boots, trousers, and cowboy shirt - Izzard slithered along the stage like one of the humans-turned-panthers in Jacques Tourneur's ''Cat People.'' Although he might still be a transvestite at heart, he doesn't need his dress anymore. As the members of the audience roared approval, Izzard fed on their complicity with his hilarious, anarchic views. He mixed Victor Borge with the Borgias, the Guinness Book with the Bible, Thatcher and Pinochet and the American Dream with the European one.


He zipped from an acrobatic interpretation of an Olympic Games where drugs and alcohol are allowed to a sharp, intelligent riff on the misguided notion that the meek will inherit the earth.


Izzard is also a talented physical presence. His Olympic hurdler on five joints and 10 pints of lager is uproarious and, combining that impersonation with the high jumper with vertigo, he had the audience cheering as hard as if they had just checked in at the Python's Ministry of Silly Walks.


He's also an astute writer who plants verbal seeds early in the show, and patiently awaits their blooms at evening's end.


One of Izzard's greatest assets is that he treats the audience with respect. Many comics look at the customers as a bunch of self-loathing losers - and they play to that image with broad, primarily sexual humor. Not Izzard. He even did a routine in French - of which I didn't understand more than a few dozen words - and it is superb.


Izzard creates the illusion of spontaneity. Even though some of the routines were culled from his HBO special, ''Dressed to Kill,'' he made everything seem as if he were making it up on the spot. He has become a terrific performer of his own material - a comic who's become an actor.


Izzard's ''Circle'' tour is at the 57 Theater only until Sunday. If, for some reason, you can't get tickets, join the indoor golf club next door - and beat a hole through the wall with a nine iron.