Phill Jupitus on Eddie Izzard - still the funniest man in fishnets
The Times | 12.07.03 | thanks Claire

If anyone had told me 30 years ago that one day I would spend an afternoon happily watching a film of a man wearing ladies’ clothes and make-up, telling jokes about Greek mythology, I would probably have burst into tears and then set my mother on them. Cheerfully that particular scenario, time travel notwithstanding, is unlikely to come to pass.

Eddie Izzard is stand-up comedy’s answer to Madonna; constant reinvention, relentless self-promotion, global recognition and occasionally a shade too much make-up. Once again he has taken 12 months off from his various acting commitments to storm the world with his latest tour, Sexie.

As ever, Izzard thinks outside the stand-up box. Elaborate lighting design and a massive plasma display backdrop could be a distraction with any other performer. But once he strides on stage in knee-high stiletto boots, fishnet stockings, miniskirt and scarlet basque, it is fairly obvious where your attention is meant to be focused. Few stand-up comedians think that it’s cool to have such a sense of theatre.

An opening quip about the outlandish costume being his old school uniform and we are transported once more into the head of Ed. Thanks to his ludicrous work rate, the rambling, absurdist style must be familiar to all but the most intransigent comedy fans. In this performance, filmed in Eastbourne earlier this year, it is business as usual. His day-to-day life as a transvestite, history, religion, mythology, zoology and pop culture are all grist to his mill.

Izzard remains at the calm centre of a vortex of comic invention. Every once in a while, I’m delighted to report, he loses control. A section on Odysseus barrels along like a flaming Formula One car crash, with loose ideas and facts far outstripping any gags. But when he comes to a glorious bit about Medusa going to the hairdressers all is forgiven. Similarly, an imagined encoun- ter between the scientists Pavlov and Doppler, in which they discuss how publicising their theories will get them laid, is both inventive and very funny.

The DVD bonus material contains a curious little documentary about how well Izzard is doing in America and a genuinely touching film in which Eddie and his dad, Harold, track down their old family home in Eastbourne. There is also a kind of trivia subtitling system that involves various facts pertaining to the subjects being covered on stage flashing up across the bottom of your screen — something I recommend you leave to your second viewing unless you want an eye-popping migraine.

Watching an Izzard gig with his commentary on it did strike me as kind of pointless, since during his performances he habitually self critiques as he goes along anyway. But the moments when you get a glimpse into the way that Izzard’s mind works are my favourite. During the Odysseus ramble, he contritely remarks: “I was really tired during this bit.” At another juncture he starts to wonder how many people in Eastbourne will understand jokes about sashimi. There are better stand-ups and there are many, many worse stand-ups, but there is nobody quite like Izzard. One of the more unusual stocking fillers.