Laugh! Festival: Eddie Izzard

27.04.2000 -

Auckland Town Hall
Review: Greg Dixon

What is Auck? Is it an Auck? Is it the sort of Orc found in The Lord Of The Rings?

British comedian Eddie Izzard hasn't a blimmin' clue - nor for that matter did his audience at last night's first of three concerts in Auckland.

Trouble is the "Auck" thing is something of a tried-and-failed gag in these here parts. It's the sort of joke that must spring immediately to desperate comic minds as they roll up to the arrival terminal at Auckland Airport for the very first time. It's the sort of joke that can die a death.

Not, however, for Izzard. It is perhaps a measure of his comic tenacity that he can repeatedly milk a gag, a one-liner, a gesture for all it is worth and make it steal laughs again and again.

And his 21/2-hour performance - a series of digressions upon digressions - was littered with such curious and potentially unappealing bons mots.

On paper, of course, they make no sense: a monkey shooting people just sounds stupid; noting the audience's lack of response on an imaginary pad sounds cheap; forgetting what you're going to say next sounds contrived.

Izzard's talent is at once all of these things, but his timing, his sense of his audience and his anarchic, stream-of-consciousness style somehow makes it work.

Mostly it is a style without punchlines, more ramblings on a theme, riffing on an idea, a situation or perhaps a word. He weaves them all - sometimes successfully, sometimes not - into sprawling epic gags with no natural ending or just sudden stops. He doesn't seem to care.

Yet Izzard is the master of the one-liner, too.

On the Pope apologising for the Inquisition: "What was it? The Spanish Casual Conversation."

On mad-cow disease: "Then cows gave it to people. Margaret Thatcher was the first."

On the Queen Mother: "She's been 99 for 12 years. The royal family aren't Y2K compliant."

Izzard may well be famous for being England's most famous transvestite comedian (although he wasn't wearing a dress for his first New Zealand gig). But he's much more than that.

An Auck, perhaps? No. Just funny.