Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Eddie Izzard at The Orpheum

Human sacrifice as a metaphor to understand the history of western politics; monotheism as an efficient means to streamline belief; moles digging for gold; the relationship between the Kraken and right-wing foreign policy; the myriad applications of the French phrase et voilà; the "non-mammalianness" of equestrian dressage and doping in sports: these are just some of the topics addressed by the hysterically funny British comic Eddie Izzard in his Force Majeure show at the Orpheum last night.

I have long been a fan of Izzard's, and not just because he's a straight man who likes to wear women's clothes and put on make up. While he was in a very smart tailored suit last night, Izzard was sporting a pair of heels (in which he pranced and darted about the stage quite spryly) and flashing bright red nail polish and expertly plucked eyebrows. And he did not shy away from addressing his penchant for transvestism, telling us about how as a teenager he used to hide his filched lipsticks in a shoebox with a false bottom and how this related to his two other youthful obsessions: joining the elite UK special forces organization SAS and learning languages.

But beyond the fact that Izzard is a dude who embraces his femininity and his love of the Die Hard film franchise with equal fervor, what appeals most about his comedy is that in its content it is sophisticatedly intellectual and unabashedly political without talking down to or hectoring its audience (which, in Izzard's case last night, was remarkably diverse), or forgetting that the point is to tell a joke; and in its form, it is gloriously free-associative and meandering and rich with narrative embroidery and physical and vocal embellishment without ever losing the through-line of the story. This latter point was most evident in Izzard's encore, in which he brought together almost of all of his references over the previous two hours (including those stomping Kraken and digging moles) in a dazzling display of comic virtuosity.

Then, too, there was the fact that Izzard was so generous in the length of his set. When, after ninety minutes, he announced he'd be back after a short interval, I couldn't believe it. How did he have anything left? And then following his encore he said he'd be available after the show to take questions in the lobby. Richard and I didn't stick around but had we done so I would have liked to have asked him about his claims to be working toward a London mayoral bid in 2020. There were more than a few Rob Ford references in Izzard's routine last night. Not that Ford's is a civic career Izzard would ever seek to model his own on. However, you can bet that as a politician Izzard would be damn funny--in the very best kind of way.


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