Eddie Izzard at the Largo: A Hilarious End to the Comedian’s ‘Secret’ Three-Night Stand

[from laweekly.com]

“I was laughing. It was funny,” a deadpan Izzard fan protested at 2 a.m. this morning. Obviously a newcomer. Maybe an asshole. Clearly it was too late for enthusiasm for some folks on a Thursday because I’m pretty sure Eddie never misses his mark…and last night at the Largo at the Coronet was absolutely no exception. Eddie killed.

Much like his stint here in 2009, for the past three nights it was just Eddie in a room filled with mostly die-hard fans (his Twitter followers, likely). It was Eddie solo. Eddie intimate. Eddie without a dress. These things happen all the time in Los Angeles, right? Our favorite entertainers come to us, the jaded, star-wiped Angelenos, and get real, or at least get closer. Otherwise we might mob them at the Bean & Leaf.

“A midnight show in Los Angeles? Most other cities it’s cool and it happens all the time…but it’s just weird in L.A.,” Izzard quipped to his sold out show. “There’s a bit of it out there. I know that it happens…but there’s three people who do it.”

Looking like our collective hip bachelor uncle in his blazer and jeans, the self-purported “executive transvestite” channeled more executive than transvestite (a balance he’s more or less maintained over the past few years). He delightfully rambled and mumbled his way through recent material in a set that was reminiscent of his recent summer solo at the Hollywood Bowl.

He hammered out some newer bits — all of them combining his trademark historical meandering with Pythonesque absurdity (“Beware the Spartan Sheep!”).

With Izzard, you’re always going to get a few Nazi jabs: “If there are any Nazis here, you’re in the wrong room.” He then pantomimed a hapless middling Nazi at Nuremberg needing to use the loo mid-goose step.

Keeping it fairly fresh and relevant at times (no, absolutely no Gadhafi jokes), he spent a good 70% of the show effectively skewering the Tea Party and theists in general: “If there’s a god, I want my god to have a plan. Because if you go through the thorough history, of well, everything…there’s no fucking plan whatsoever!”

He even showed us how to use the new iPhone…mainly because his act, by his own admission, has become somewhat dependent on Wikipedia. He’s even taken to reading articles at length, adding his own skewed version of reality to the mix.

One die-hard fan who’d seen him in tiny clubs in London, Boston, New York and here likens repeat viewings of the same material to your favorite band. “Oh, it’s great, it’s like your favorite band doing the same songs….but just slightly differently….and improvising a bit,” he told us.

All that said, Eddie solo, even with fairly recent but not brand-spanking-new material is still fucking hilarious. In a small room, the full animation of his facial expressions and absurd pantomime is actually in focus. He’s one of few people left that can say nothing audible or intelligible for ten minutes (with a killer velociraptor impersonation) and still be a side-splitting time. Even at 2 a.m. On a weeknight. In the city that apparently can’t keep it together past midnight.

No worries, Mr. Izzard: We were laughing. It was funny.

Written by Momo in: Interview,Tour,Tour Reviews |

Performance review: Eddie Izzard at the Hollywood Bowl

[from the latimes.com]

But could he have done it in heels?

On Wednesday night British performer Eddie Izzard became not only the first solo comedy act to appear at the Hollywood Bowl, but he also raised the performance bar all the way to where the Bowl ends and the night sky begins.

“Maybe I should do the gig here,” he mused as, moments after coming on stage for “Eddie Izzard: Stripped to the Bowl,” he edged along the narrow wall separating the Pool Circle from the rest of the box seats. “Or maybe,” he said, lifting his eyes to the cheering crowd of more than 12,000 that rose before him, “I should do it in the back.”

And then he was off, clambering over those right in front of him before jogging 115 feet from the stage to the promenade and then up the 168 steps that zigzag their way to the back row. Unlike previous tours, in which Izzard, who is a transvestite, took the stage in semi-drag, “Stripped” refers in part to his decision to go “bloke,” with jeans, a tuxedo jacket and, most important, men’s shoes.

As security bolted to keep up with him and the crowd cheered its approval, Izzard made impressive time — less than five minutes to make it to the top. “I don’t know if everyone can hear me,” he said into the microphone, “but this looks amazing.

“And,” he added, “this was not necessarily a good idea. I’m coming back down.”

Back onstage, he seemed only slightly winded — he has of late become a marathon runner — though he dramatically fell to his knees. “If you’re thinking of playing the Hollywood Bowl, don’t do what I just did,” he said. “That was my 50th birthday present to myself.

“As a street performer I learned that if you say something to the audience, you have to do it,” he added before suggesting to those in box seats that they use their time at intermission to jog up and take in the full open-sky glory of the Bowl.

It was a fine and physical endorsement of the Bowl, which Izzard, fresh off performances in Paris which he did tout en francaise, admitted was not as sexy a name as it might be “although you did tack Hollywood on which helps” but still hallowed ground. “Monty Python played here, and the Beatles.”

None of them ran the steps, of course, and certainly none began their sets by announcing, as Izzard did, that there is no God. The “Stripped” tour, which opened three years ago in London and made a stop at L.A.’s Nokia Theatre last January as “Stripped Too,” is quintessentially Izzard, a manic, psychedelic trip through pop culture and the annals of history, making random stops at Wikipedia, iTunes (“Who here has ever read the terms and conditions?”) the dinosaur age, the Stone Age, Shirley Temple, the Battle of Hastings, Nuremberg, the Romans, the Greeks and assassins on hashish.

But the show’s leitmotif is the absence of God, with frequent references to his Parisian tour and more than a few digs at Sarah Palin — “America, be very, very afraid.” Although, he concedes, God could be there, he probably isn’t, might be, definitely isn’t. Contradiction and outrageous contrast are what Izzard does best — in “Dressed to Kill,” the tour that launched him to stardom in the U.S., he introduced the term “action transvestite” to the lexicon. With “Stripped,” it’s “spiritual atheist.”

The Izzardian essentials, however, remain the same, the impressive tool belt of a former street performer which made him a perfect first solo act for the Bowl — Izzard may be one man, but he is many, many characters.

A gifted mime with the best sound effects in the business — a hilarious set exploring the many limitations of the dinosaurs included his interpretation of dinosaur poetry and dinosaur “administration” — Izzard, as action transvestite or bloke, remains a child at heart. Running and bouncing around, making fabulous noises (the recurring jazz chicken was particularly effective) and scribbling mental notes to himself on his hand, Izzard is, above all, a joyful performer, his comedy a boyish exploration of all the “how comes,” “what ifs” “why nots” and “but that doesn’t make any senses” that can drive a parent crazy on a hot summer day. If there is a God, how come he didn’t flick Hitler’s head off? If the world was assembled by intelligent design why did the dinosaurs never evolve? Who thought of naming a problem with understanding words “dyslexia? What if those iTunes terms and conditions include “we will cut off your buttocks and sell them to the Chinese”?

Embodying myriad human characters and animals as diverse as a speechless giraffe, a journaling giant squid and a squirrel that survived Noah’s ark (“it was a nightmare, man, like ‘Ghost Ship,’ without the gold”), Izzard had no problem filling the Bowl, with his sly wisdom and, more important, cascades of laughter. Though his timing flagged a bit after the intermission, he quickly found his footing and finished to roaring crowds. After one brief encore, he slipped quietly backstage without taking a victory lap. But then again, he didn’t need to.

Written by Momo in: Tour Reviews |

Eddie Izzard Makes Light of Civilization and Religion in Stripped on the Shore

[from sfweekly.com]

Saturday night’s Stripped on the Shore at Shoreline Amphitheater is a comedy act that’s been performed since 2008. But when the comedian is Eddie Izzard, that doesn’t mean much. The great British humorist who’s known for calmly pacing great expanses of stage during his routines is not known for sticking to a script. And, staying true to another part of his nature, Izzard tackled broad, serious subjects, so he had lots of figurative room to move in addition to the literal.

Against Earth-tone fabric backdrops branded with hieroglyphics, Hebrew, and Arabic, he summarized the history of civilization while also explaining his shift from agnostic to atheist. He built a case on the idea that God does not exist — or is, at best, a poor planner. He also took more detours than a sane mind can process, making for a dizzyingly funny monologue that didn’t come off like an anti-religious sermon.

Stripped was also a show that the incomprehensibly brave and self-proclaimed “transvestite with a career” serves up in full “boy mode,” meaning he traded in the shiny glam outfits and heavy lipstick that have characterized past performances to cut a chiseled and manly figure in simple, well-worn outfit of wrinkled jeans and black tails. All he currently retains from a girlier time is a sexy slick of black eyeliner.

Part of the transformation back into boy mode was a longing to take off the teetering stilettos and really get to feel grounded to the stage again, an important change for someone with such elastic physical comedic skill. He looked free and unfettered Saturday as he made good use (as expected) of the large stage.

One of Izzard’s many endearing qualities is when he talks to himself, rating how his jokes are doing with the audience. Saturday we learned, for example, that the mention of the Northern England town of Swindon gets laughs all around the world for some reason. Later, when he did a panto of himself and a sheep, ripping off his fleece – eliciting a collective shriek from the audience – he noted, “Shoreline is very susceptible to mimes.”

Despite referring to Mountain View as Palo Alto a few times, he kept a strong sense of place, weaving in a thread of tech talk. He playfully juxtaposed Macs and PCs, comparing the latter to a dusty old opera singer. Whenever he had a question he wanted to Google, he wondered aloud if he couldn’t just go knock on the office door to ask.

After an hour, Izzard explained that there would be an “interlude” and he’d step off for 12 or 14 minutes, which sped by with the screening of several cute fan-made YouTube videos that capture some of his most beloved classic bits, including one about the world’s easiest choice and another about Darth Vader’s frustrated lunch adventures.

Later we learned that merchandise booths were selling covet-worthy “Cake or Death” T-shirts and “I’m Jeff Vader” tote bags.

I’ve been an active attendee of concerts at Shoreline, and it was both refreshing and interesting to see a comedian rather than a mega rock star on stage coming alive in the open air and holding the place in thrall.

Written by Momo in: Tour Reviews |

Eddie Izzard: Live At The Ambassadors (1993)

A great retrospective of Eddie’s first stand up video. Thanks, Ken!

“I’ve mixed bollocks with bollocks, and it levels out to complete rubbish.” – Eddie Izzard

If you were ever interested in seeing how Eddie Izzard evolved his act into the refined bits of loosely scripted material that were his shows Definite Article, Glorious, and Dress To Kill, track down a copy of his first show ever put on home video, Live At The Ambassadors. Filmed during March of 1993 in London’s West End theater district, it’s kind of like watching a rough cut of a movie, or listening to a demo tape of a band just before they figure out what they really need to make it work.


Written by Momo in: Tour Reviews |

Eddie Izzard: Stripped in Paris (Review)

[from chortle.co.uk]

‘Pourquoi êtes-vous ici?’ Eddie Izzard asks, supposedly baffled that anyone would negotiate the boulevard of neon-bathed sex shops and XXX cinemas in the insalubrious Pigalle district of Paris, just to see an Englishman talking in French in a tiny theatre.

Pourquoi est-il ici? might be a better question. His next performance after this run at the Théâtre De Dix Heures, is the 17,000-capacity Hollywood Bowl, so it seems an unnecessarily tough gig to spend two and half months playing to 135 French people a night, unaccustomed to British-style stand-up. But as his back-to-back marathons attest, Izzard is not a man who shuns a challenge; and as an avowed Europhile, he is being the change he wishes to see.

‘Vous étes les pionniers,’ he flatters his crowd , which comprises locals taking a chance, not expats seeking a home-grown celebrity. But, in truth, he is the real trailblazer. Izzard first brought his brand of flight-of-fancy comedy to Paris for a short run 11 years ago, when his language skills were less assured. He sincerely thought other British Francophones would follow, in the same way foreigners such as Germany’s Henning Wehn have found a place in Britain. But they haven’t… so now he’s back to perform Stripped ‘tout en Français’.

A brief preamble about his unusual situation aside, the content is the same as the show with which he toured the English-speaking world in 2008 – though edited to fit a brisk hour rather than the more nebulous shape his shows can sometimes take. It’s an atheism-inspired romp through prehistory and early civilisations: from ukulele-playing T-Rexes, the dawn of the Stone Age, the impracticality of the Noah’s Ark myth, the ferocity of the Spartans and Hannibal crossing the Alps.

A few routines have changed or been dropped to allow for different idioms and cultural references (no ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ here) – but not always: he has a stab at explaining who George Formby was, for example, via ‘Quand Je Nettoie Les Fenêtres’.

But there’s little need for change. Based, as it is, on big themes and nonsense imagery, Izzard’s is the sort of comedy that translates pretty well. The French have some knowledge of Monty Python, and make their own knockabout comedy films such as Les Visiteurs.

Despite speaking in an obvious accent, he doesn’t stumble over the language. Occasionally he might grope for le mot juste, but then he does that in English, too. Don’t we all? Plus stand-up shares some techniques with someone trying to be understood in a second language – not least the physical acting out what you’re talking about – so that helps. He occasionally asks the audience for an element of vocab, but only very rarely, and gets smatterings of applause when he successfully employs complex grammar such as the imperfect tense. Oh, and the very few words of English that do get in have a purpose: ‘la meme fucking chose’ should be adopted by L’Académie Française forthwith.
But the laughs don’t come because he’s an Englishman struggling with the audience’s mother tongue, but because the material is funny, just as it is in any language. The exaggerated verbal images he creates are ridiculously silly: a veloceraptor driving a car through the streets of Paris until he’s pulled over by les flics; giraffes trying to alert each other of danger despite being unable to cry out; or the overwhelming pedantry of Latin.

With my rusty schoolboy French, I followed most of it – though I made sure I was already familiar with the show before boarding the Eurostar. Plus my comprehension was surely helped firstly by Izzard’s anglicised pronunciation, and second by a French speaking pal to translate any vital words . Brits with a half-decent smattering of the language would certainly follow the show – but that would not be in Izzard’s spirit to reach out to the French.

And they seem to be connecting. There was no substantial difference between the laughs he got here and those he would get it the UK, plus he’s just added a night a 800-plus seat Parisian venue for his new-found fans. A bigger challenge comes in bilingual Montreal later this summer, when he performs the same show in French and in English on the same night.

With long-term plans to play in German, Russian and Arabic in his birthplace of Yemen, Izzard could well be on course to be the first global stand-up. Vive l’entente cordiale.

Written by Momo in: Tour Reviews |

Eddie Izzard: Stripped, Théâtre de Dix Heures, Paris

[from independent.co.uk]
“Tout en Français!” the posters proclaim, and indeed Stripped – Eddie Izzard’s whistlestop tour through the history of civilisation, which he has performed on and off in English since 2008 – sees him hold forth on evolution, Nazis, sharks, God being a crack addict and giraffes playing charades – all in French.

His command of the language is excellent: he’s fluent enough to hop, skip and tumble from one surreal topic to another just as he does in his native tongue. In fact, he uses barely a word of English, just the occasional bit of swearing for effect; if he can’t quite remember the conjugation of a verb he will ask the audience: (“Comment dit-on ‘éteindre’ au passé composé?” – “What’s ‘to extinguish’ in the past tense?”) and they are delighted to help out.

Although venerated by French comedians, Izzard is by no means a household name. He has played in Paris twice before, but the last time was 11 years ago. The title Stripped is apposite: the venue is a small, boiling-hot 135-seater in the heart of Pigalle, home to the Moulin Rouge and many a saucy cinema. (His next gig, incidentally, is the Hollywood Bowl, capacity 17,000.) After an initial flurry of bilingual expats, the vast majority of the audience now is French and they take to him right from his opening “Bonsoir!” The show is classic Izzard – universal themes illustrated in surreal detail: dinosaurs singing hymns, opera singers omitting consonants; a literary giant squid running out of ink. If anything flags slightly, he stops and makes his trademark notes on his hand: “Non. C’est drôle, mais peut-être pas pour lundi.” (“It’s funny, but maybe not for a Monday.”) There are passing topical references to Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Marine Le Pen, but bigger laughs come when he references George Formby and tries to explain his most famous song “Quand Je Nettoie Les Fenêtres”; or Kenneth Williams, whom he compares to a velociraptor opening a door. (I found out afterwards that he had improvised that scene and was so pleased with how it went down, he’ll now use it in English.) Izzard’s linguistic dexterity is particularly evident in a satisfying climax involving two soldiers trying to discuss Hannibal, but getting horribly entangled in Latin declensions and verb endings. Amo, amas, amat. We all loved it.

To 2 July (www.justepourrire.fr)

Written by Momo in: Tour,Tour Reviews |

‘Race’ – You’ll Be Dying to Know

[from Liz Smith]

THE PLAYWRIGHT David Mamet is not someone whose work I ever want to miss. His kind of cynical wisdom onstage in his serious plays never fails to draw shocked laughter from the audience that can dissect the wisdom in his contempt. I think, for instance, that the very profane and shocking language of “Glengarry Glen Ross” turns that play into an American masterpiece. It’s like listening to perfect serious music.

And while I didn’t much like his out-and-out comedy spoof of the Bush presidency, titled “November,” which starred the talented Nathan Lane, I am very taken with his serious dramas. So I was late getting to his latest at the Ethel Barrymore Theater. “Race,” which Mamet directed, had already lost three of its major actors retaining only the popular Richard Thomas and adding new shocks in the persons of Eddie Izzard, Dennis Haysbert and the dazzling leading lady, Afton C. Williamson.

“Race” says it all, taking race relations to a new high (or is it a new low?). The setting is the big conference room of a law office. The client is a wealthy, white, spoiled WASP, a man to whom nobody has ever said “No!”

The play opens with two partners, Izzard and Haysbert, trying to talk this rich client out of their representing him, trying to show him that he’ll probably be found guilty of raping a black woman and that he most likely can’t win. Izzard is his quirky self, off-hand, brilliant and shrewd. Haysbert is large, forbidding, dispassionately full of hatred, elegance and contempt.

Interestingly enough, though, the play functions on the question of race; these two partners, one white, one black, never tell us anything much about their relationship to one another. They are simply out to win, to make money, to dash the competition – and they are as one – in looking down on intelligences other than their own, very sure of themselves. Their gorgeous law clerk, Ms. Williamson, seems to be a match for both of them.

You’ll be dying to know what happens in “Race.” Who wins, who loses, who forces who into a corner! All the most corrupt factions of what you love in “Law & Order” are here in this, the law part. It’s fascinating.

I thought the four actors were all splendid, Mr. Haysbert, who is familiar to us on TV as the president in “24,” makes his stage debut … Mr. Izzard, who keeps burying the fact that he is such a great actor under his comic façade, is irresistible as the partner-bastard. (Maybe you saw him in the offbeat series drama about white gypsies in America – “The Riches.” Unbelievably good!) Ms. Williamson is a find; great to look at, queenly and imperious in her intelligence – and in her morals too. But I was really overwhelmed by the considerable talents of Richard Thomas. The Playbill says this TV idol from the long-ago “Waltons” has been on Broadway for 51 years! Here, his rich man is a masterful, prissy, self-contained, confused, conflicted, well-tailored mess. It is quite a portrait.

“Race” is another riveting David Mamet play, full of horrible laughs, guilt, truths, pragmatism run wild and a shocking ending. Don’t miss it.

And I really mean – don’t miss it! This fabulous show closes on August 21. Run – don’t walk – for tickets.

Written by Momo in: Race Reviews |

NY1 Theater Review: “Race”

[from brooklyn.ny1.com]

Credit David Mamet and a slick production for the success of “Race,” a thin play that’s run a lot longer than I expected. While the drama still disappoints, a cast change adds a nice shot of adrenaline to a show that’s nearing the finish line.

“Race” is intended to be a highly provocative riff on the controversial topic of racial dynamics. But David Mamet offers no insights and instead manages to reinforce a bunch of stereotypes centering on not only race but gender, lawyers and privileged rich people.

Still, Mamet, who also directed, is a pro. While the work is intellectually flawed, he certainly knows how to keep an audience entertained. His signature staccato rhythms featuring tons of profanity-laced dialogue is very much in place, and it’s titillating to hear such toxic language.

Eddie Izzard, taking over for James Spader, plays attorney Jack Lawson, who’s trying to decide whether to take the case of a wealthy white businessman accused of raping a black woman. Lawson’s partner, Henry Brown, is now being played by Dennis Haysbert, replacing David Alan Grier.

The casting is a plus for the most part, adding dimension to the characters. Haysbert, who seemed to struggle a bit with his lines, is a commanding presence and his interpretation reveals Henry to be less a bigoted reactionary than a jaded cynic.

Afton C. Williamson in the sketchy role of a young associate adds more credibility than Kerry Washington.

Richard Thomas, continuing as the accused rapist, still can’t do much with a confounding part.

Izzard delivers an intelligent performance, turning Jack more human and visibly conflicted. What was a single-minded opportunist in the original company is still a shark but one with a more pronounced conscience and a sliver of a heart.

“Race” remains one of Mamet’s lesser plays, but thanks to a company that brings new shades to the work, it’s not quite so black and white anymore.


Written by Momo in: Race Reviews,video |

Eddie Izzard Speaks Perfect American in Mamet’s Recast `Race’: John Simon

[from Bloomberg.com]

David Mamet’s “Race” continues its successful Broadway run with three new actors out of four, including Britain’s Eddie Izzard, better known for his comic monologues.

Richard Thomas, as Charles Strickland, a married billionaire accused of raping a young black woman in a hotel room, is the sole holdover from the original cast.

The law firm to which Charles has shifted his case consists of a white lawyer, Jack Lawson (Izzard), and a black one, Henry Brown (Dennis Haysbert), and a recent hire, Susan (no last name), an attractive young black associate (Afton C. Williamson). Charles has left his previous lawyer, a Jew, because of the more favorable impression a mixed-race team presumably would make on a jury.

Charles insists on his innocence. The two experienced lawyers have their doubts and Susan is convinced that he is guilty for reasons best known to herself. But do the facts of the case, whatever they are, matter? As cynical Jack puts it, “There are no facts of the case. There are two fictions which the opposing teams seek to impress on the jury.”

This wouldn’t be a Mamet play if sex and sexual politics didn’t play a role. More important, however, is how questions of race might influence not only judge and jury but the proposed defense lawyers, who may seem racists if they win the case, incompetent if they lose it.

There are revelations and counterrevelations galore and everything doesn’t always come across as logical, even as the dialogue is often a bit too cutely epigrammatic. Mamet, to be sure, has two modes: the naturalistic one, in which speech is often pause-riddled, stammering, barely coherent; and the comic one, in which people are smarter, swifter, wittier than they would be in real life.

Minor Climaxes

“Race” dances on the cusp between the two modes. Mamet has also directed, keeping the characters moving around aptly, and the tempo cleverly building to minor climaxes.

Izzard, though English, manages to sound, first of all, perfectly American. He does not have the boyish charm of James Spader, who originated the role, but this works well, giving Jack more of the apposite old-fox quality. We can even wonder whether Susan’s youth and good looks affect him more than they would a younger man.

Haysbert, taller, more formidable, more sardonic and even slightly menacing, is more effective than the original cast’s David Alan Grier — this despite the fact that Haysbert’s diction is somewhat less clear.

Williamson is not unlike the original Susan, guarded and provocative, and perhaps a trifle sexier than was Kerry Washington, albeit with a voice that takes a bit of getting used to.

The play has lost nothing by recasting, which cannot always be claimed for long runs. And whatever flaws it may have, it decidedly holds our interest even if in some minor ways we may feel cheated.

Through Aug. 21 at Barrymore Theater, 243 W. 47th St. Tickets: +1-212-239-6200; http://www.telecharge.com.

Rating: ***

Written by Momo in: Race Reviews |

Izzard defends panned Broadway debut

[from hollywood.com]

The British comic took over the lead role in the production, previously played by James Spader, last month (21Jun10).

Broadway’s notoriously tough critics panned his performance on his opening night for forgetting his lines and stumbling through his first show.

But Izzard doesn’t think he deserves the harsh comments he received – because he only had three weeks of rehearsals and one week of previews before the press weighed in on his performance.

He tells New York Magazine, “What do they expect? I came in very fast. Do they think that no one ever gets a line wrong on Broadway, ever? There should come and try and do it for a weekend.”

But Izzard is refusing to let the bad reviews get him down – he’s using them as motivation to perfect his lines and redeem himself.

He says: “I’m a determined little bugger.”

Written by Momo in: Race Reviews |


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