Comedian Leaves SF In Stitches
FRANCISCO -- When Eddie Izzard first brought his flamboyant cross-dressing
and free-associating, history-obsessed style of stand-up to San Francisco
with an extended run of 'Dressed to Kill' in 1998, the British funnyman was
far from a well-known commodity. He still might not be a commonly recognized
name on the shores of the States, but judging from the diverse crowd in attendance
at his second of five sold-out nights of his latest one-man show 'Sexie' at
the Orpheum, Mr. Izzard is no longer an underground sensation in the Bay Area.
on cell phones frantically coaxing tardy friends to the venue jostled with
grey-haired theater patrons and gay fashion plates at the entrance to the
Orpheum, anxious to find their seats in order to avoid missing any of the
comedian's rapid-fire commentary. The lights dimmed and Izzard was ushered
to the stage with a barrage of projected abstract images and a thunderous
blare of rock-concert volume electronica.
The Brit's make-up
and wardrobe were considerably more subdued than during his 'Dressed to Kill'
visit -- gone were the shocking red lipstick and sequined evening gown --
but Izzard's dizzying gift at ad libbing and fascination with religion and
world history remained delightfully intact. The enthusiastic whooping and
squeals from the audience (which included songwriting iconoclast Tom Waits
and his wife/writing partner Kathleen Brennan) prompted a deadpan warning
about "very pointy springs" poking from some of the theater's seats.
Prowling the stage
in leather pants and stiletto heels, the comedian found plenty of tangents
to go off on as his absurdist observations careened wildly from recollections
of early upbringing in Yemen to his take on certain tales of Greek mythology
(including Medusa visiting a hairdresser and hilarious character summaries
of participants in the Trojan War) to the rest of the world's perception of
President Bush's mental faculties.
Though the worshipful
crowd at the Orpheum didn't offer much in the way of hecklers to inspire his
usual off-the-cuff brilliance, Izzard's focus on history gave plenty of opportunities
for diversion. Playing up the average American's flimsy sense of global history,
the comedian would regale the audience with accurate descriptions of past
events before slipping random outlandish details of his own invention into
Though it's apparent
that Izzard draws from a store of well-rehearsed material, his ability to
deftly inject new ideas into his act as they cascade out of his mouth gives
the audience a vicarious, seat-of-the-pants thrill. Only local treasure Robin
Williams (who was reportedly in attendance opening night) offers the same
kind of kind of exciting comedic tightrope walk from the live stage.
attitude towards being a transvestite also offered up some interesting material.
The comedian likened crossdressers to costumed comic superheroes, albeit with
far less practical superpowers and a bit of a disadvantage when it came to
emergency rescues (the heavy application of make-up can really slow things
After a rather
abrupt intermission, the Brit came back to the stage with the shorter, somewhat
less entertaining second part of the show. While some of his observations
about the discovery of fire and how Homo Sapiens came to take over for Cro-Magnon
man came off well, the repeated motif of a grunted conversation between cavemen
started getting old, even in Izzard's skilled hands. Still, the comedian was
meet with ecstatic applause at the end of his performance before treating
the crowd to his impression of Christopher Walken (reenacting his Vietnam
speech from 'Pulp Fiction') as a brief encore. Eddie Izzard remains one of
the most remarkably creative risk-takers of the comedy stage.