Sexie, Melbourne Concert Hall, July 16
It says a lot about British comic Eddie Izzard, and the level he's reached in his career that he can begin his show with a heraldic light and music show of Spinal Tap proportions, charge more than $60 a ticket and yet, 20 minutes into his set, be consulting a piece of paper with notes on it like a try-out comedian doing their first ever 10-minute spot. And this is absolutely OK.
Wednesday night's world premiere of Sexie, Izzard's show, was fascinating because it's a rare privilege to see a performer of Izzard's quality and experience in the throes of creation.
By the time comedy stars of his stature get around to doing their stadium shows in Australia, we generally get the buffed schtick on the fag-end of a world tour.
But what we get with the
improvising Izzard is a glass-bottom boat tour of the rich soup from which
he will fashion his final shows.
If you can let go of expecting every line to be a zinger, his show is exciting and illuminating, much like attending a comedy masterclass.
This is not to say that Sexie isn't funny, sophisticated or assured. Izzard, a two-time Emmy award-winner, Perrier short-listed comic, recent Tony nominee for his Broadway performance in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, and famous transvestite, is charismatic, an improviser and comedian. He knows how to deliver.
Izzard is a storyteller with a brain wired for distraction and divergence, and some of his jokes are literally spread over an hour-and-a-half.
For the first 45 minutes of this show he includes the obligatory section of observations about Australia - he lays down his themes and motifs: being born in Yemen, his fake breasts, the notion of stoning people to death, how things are named, identity, sexuality, and body image among them. The second half of his show contains some gorgeous stories about his family, his career, and his upbringing. Like most comics, his humour is self-referential, but Izzard has the gift of giving this material a universality. His indomitable "Gran", the summer he spent gorging on chocolate, the gigs he has performed in French, the invention of fire, the Irish accent he had when he was six years old; all of these stories somehow inform each other and meld together creating a satisfying whole.
Or they will. By the time Izzard performs Sexie at Wembley Stadium on Christmas Eve (a gig that is already sold out), it will be a changed and vastly refined version of what he presents in Melbourne this week. And when you watch the video, you will be able to say, Oh! I see what he did there.