Eddie Izzard Spins Hilarity in Full 'Circle'

By DARYL H. MILLER, Times Staff Writer

     He walks onstage to the roaring tumult usually reserved for rock stars and soon has the audience busting a gut about the Spanish Inquisition and chaos theory.
     Such is the phenomenon of Eddie Izzard, funniest man in, well, pretty much all of the known universe.
     If you didn't catch him during his last pass through town in "Dress to Kill" or its subsequent HBO presentation, you'll have to try to imagine an English/Irish-sounding Robin Williams in semi-drag--not the "Mrs. Doubtfire" look so much as '70s Angie Dickinson--who spins stream-of-consciousness humor out of world history, religion, philosophy, physics, popular entertainment, current events and monkeys with guns. (More about that last bit in a moment.)
     These are among the topics that take Izzard from the world's creation into the 20th century in "Circle," his new show playing a sold-out engagement through Saturday at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Hollywood.
     For Tuesday's opening, Izzard complemented his eyeliner, lipstick and frosted-blond hair with a black western shirt, sequined tux pants and spike-heeled boots. The transvestism isn't done for laughs, it's just part of who Izzard is--and the minute he opens his mouth, you forget all about it.
     Now, at this point, I really wish I could cut to video, because Izzard is difficult to capture in words. After all, how does one convey the dichotomy of a guy who turns the cerebral into material so funny that it leaves your stomach muscles hurting--a guy who, just moments into Tuesday's show, caught sight of a bit of fluff suspended in the air and extemporized: "Fluff. It just goes up and down and goes, '[Expletive] you, Isaac Newton.' " Anyway, here's how one stream of Izzard's consciousness flowed:
     It began with random thoughts on Pope John Paul II's recent act of contrition about such events as the Inquisition, which took the comic to Spain in the 15th century, cranking the rack. Somehow, this transformed mid-crank into a street entertainer with a barrel organ and monkey, with Izzard becoming the monkey and dancing to his own rendition of the song "Brazil."
     This improbably led to Charlton Heston and the National Rifle (or "Riffle," as Izzard insisted on pronouncing it) Assn. and the claim that "Guns don't kill people, people do." To which Izzard amended, "Monkeys do too, if they've got a gun."
     Recalling the groundbreaking primate research of several years ago, Izzard mimed a hysterical bit of back-and-forth sign language between a researcher and an increasingly fed-up chimp. Then he envisioned a new kind of research: putting guns in the hands of monkeys and setting them loose in Heston's home to see whether the actor comes out alive. Bringing the thought to life, Izzard-as-monkey stole across the stage, gun at the ready as he kicked open imaginary doors with his high-heeled boots--on the lookout for both Heston and his stash of bananas.
     Well aware of how odd his lines of reasoning are, Izzard cracked up the audience with such asides as: "What am I talking about?" and "And that is how it all really happened."
     If it's hard to picture any of this, you'll just have to figure out some way into the Fonda this week--where, like me, you may sit in front of Cher and join in her nonstop yawps of laughter.