Jan
11
2010

Review: Eddie Izzard at the United Center

[from chicagotribune.com]

Despite all the messages out there to the contrary, smarts sell. Exhibit A in this regard is that savvy comedic primate Eddie Izzard, whose international comedy tour is based primarily on the words of God, Moses and Wikipedia, and who concludes that the last named is the most logical and trustworthy.

That routine was on view Friday night at the United Center, on its way to Madison Square Garden. Yes, that once-outre U.K. transvestite has risen all the way to arenas.

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Izzard, whose ambition has always been palpable, right from when I first saw him a dozen years ago, ends up doing politics. His show is essentially a deconstruction of religion (he takes on Noah’s ark, the burning bush, the uselessness of our unintelligently designed appendix), but it has the same earnest morality as books by Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. Few other comics end their show with, in essence, a new admonition for the audience to go out and do good secular works. Izzard pulls that off. Brilliantly.

Even when he came out on stage wearing a dress — he’s ditched that now — Izzard has always taken himself very seriously. The roughly 6,000 people who showed up this weekend at the United Center could almost have fit in the Chicago Theatre (which is where I, for one, would have preferred to see Izzard’s solo stand-up show, HD screens or no HD screens). But Izzard clearly likes commanding an arena, his Twitter feeds writ large — for all to read.

I think there are some traps for the new globalized, techno-savvy Izzard. His show this weekend contained much of the same material as his 2008 stand at the Chicago Theatre, and that kind of repetition is pushing your luck in a town long supportive of his work. He also is a brilliant improviser, and I detect less of a willingness these days to react to his immediate environment. Izzard’s counter-cultural insouciance seems more subdued than when we played smaller venues. But those of us who fall for an artist in the early days invariably squawk when that artist goes mainstream. Perhaps we’re best ignored.

Izzard is a force with which to be reckoned. His rise is fundamentally cheering, not least because his material is rich, savvy and, at its best, still quite deliciously idiosyncratic. How many other comics wax lyrical on the Bayeux Tapestry? Look it up on Wikipedia.

In many ways, Izzard is a Python (or a post-Python) with greater ambition and optimism. At one point Friday, he announced his envy of the American dream and his intention to promote one for cynical Europeans. He’s still a cheeky ironist, but on that dream thing, he wasn’t joking.

Written by Momo in: Tour Reviews |

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