Well-heeled comic is smart as well as 'Sexie'
Chicago Times | 10.02.03 | by Mary Houlihan

Eddie Izzard is a charming, goofy British bloke who likes to dress up. But we're not talking 007 tuxedos here. The transvestite comedian, in town for a nearly sold-out five-night run of his new stream-of-consciousness comedy show "Sexie," requires something a tad more flashy.

In past performances, Izzard has toned down his flamboyant style while never giving up the perfectly made-up face, brightly polished nails and impossible stiletto heels. This time around, he sported a "complete female look," enhanced by newly purchased breasts ("implants not planted").

"Sexie" will be remembered as "the one with the breasts," he quipped, during an opening segment that had the crowd hooting and hollering and Izzard explaining how breasts can really help men with a protruding belly look thinner.

"Sexie" is on a level with Izzard's previous one-man shows, especially "Circle," but neither of these approaches the outsized brilliance of his first outing, "Dress to Kill," the show that put the comedian on the map in this country. (Both previous shows are available on DVD.)

Yet there is plenty of hilarity in the two-hour "Sexie." Izzard is book smart and has a gift for drawing out the idiosyncrasies of life and twisting them into humorous routines. His loosely ad-libbed style looks effortless and at times dreamy and a bit daffy.

As he bounces around the stage warming up for a new assault, Izzard's presentation is matter-of-fact and pleasant. He has a keen eye for touchstone topics in the news, which he loops around rants on superheroes, firemen and their slidey polls, Middle Eastern religions, replacing fox hunting with fly hunting, cavemen, balsamic vinegarette, dentists trained in torture and actor Christopher Walken reciting Shakespeare. But while some of these rants were very funny, others felt flat and lifeless.

Izzard, 41, displayed his skill at physical humor in two hysterical pieces about dogs chasing bunnies and seeing-eye dogs who just can't pass the test. These were moments filled with sudden pauses, mumbled asides and frantic body language.

In a silly lesson built around fine details, he picked on the icons of Greek mythology, such as the snake-haired Medusa, whose hair would inevitably wake up before she did. "Just put in the video about the mice," said a sleepy-voiced Izzard. "They like that one."

After Sept. 11, Izzard related how in a moment of curiosity he bought the Koran but didn't get to it right away: "It's a bit of a dip-in book not like Tom Clancy." He went on to to say that nowadays, as a man dressed as a woman, reading the book on a plane was an attention-getter of the wrong kind.

But as Izzard flashed through all this material like a strange wizard on speed, one began to wish that he would stick to one topic and develop it further. A short piece on President Bush had promise but didn't carry on far enough; surely like every other comedian on earth, he has more to say on that wide-open topic.

Some of the best bits were jabs at the American way of thinking as seen from a foreign viewpoint. He poked fun at ideas such as the debate over whether private citizens should own assault rifles. "Assault rifles?" he asked in shocked disbelief. "For the public?"

Izzard is increasingly showing up in movies and plays (he was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg") but alone on stage he is clearly connected to an elemental lifeline. With his perfect timing and useful English accent, Izzard knows how to get a laugh but he also knows how to navigate life in six-inch heels, which adds another unusual level to his witty charm.

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