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Comedy review: Eddie Izzard at Nokia Theatre

January 31, 2010 |  5:15 pm

Izzard The iPad was finally unveiled this week after a frenzy of excitement and speculation. Steve Jobs called the tablet “the best browsing experience you’ve ever had.” But Steve, have you seen Eddie Izzard? The British comedian who thinks different appeared this weekend at the Nokia Theatre, bringing his Google-scale fancy and nanosecond timing to talk about, as he put it, “everything that ever happened … with gaps.”

The buzz on his Stripped Too tour is that Izzard appears sans usual skirt and high heels. But the charismatic performer’s new look -- a black tailcoat lined in red satin, black shirt, Levi’s and black footwear of a manly variety -- didn’t prove a drag. He’s still applying eyeliner and a deadpan comic logic to dress down the world’s absurdities.

Besides running in charity marathons (27 miles a day, six days a week, for 51 days), Eddie’s latest passion is Wikipedia. For Izzard, nothing is as much fun as clicking on “one of those blue lines” and being transported to a new page with yet more information. (Of course, Eddie is the Original Hyperlink—it’s just that technology has finally caught up with him.)

“Wiki” refers to an easily edited, collaborative website; the word was coined by programmer Ward Cunningham, from the Hawaiian, meaning “quick quick.” And that’s the tenor of the evening, as Eddie speeds through a two-and-a-half hour history lesson. Call it stand-up disambiguation. (The set, with its massive receding panels, on which various ancient languages were projected, suggested an ancient temple. High on one wall, an animated window revealed a giant eye that appeared and disappeared throughout the show.)

The evening’s leitmotif is God, or the lack of him, or at least a deity with a serious crack habit, who thinks creating dinosaurs who spend 150 million years doing nothing but grunting and eating is good fun.
But there’s plenty of human error on view as well. Eddie’s characters are often the haplessly embedded, trying to keep their cool in a world gone bonkers. We check in at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, where the photojournalists are weavers, frantically at work on the Bayeux Tapestry as the carnage unfolds in front of them (“More red thread!”). There’s the squid writing on Trip Advisor about accommodations on Noah’s Ark  (“The minibar is crap”). An ancient Egyptian reporter reads the news in hieroglyphics (“Triangle, boat, three squiggles. Man with dog head, dog with man head, fish with gun…”).

If Izzard occasionally takes an overextended detour into an idea, consider it down time to reboot your brain and get ready for the next neural assault. Besides, the comic’s biggest problem now is how much his fans adore him. There’s something downright reassuring (sorry, Eddie) about his signature dashes back and forth across the stage: part ringmaster, part wicked little boy delighted to show mum his latest naughty thingy. (Memo to Guy Ritchie: Izzard belongs in your “Sherlock Holmes” sequel, doing something genuinely scary.)

Maybe Eddie shouldn’t worry too much about God. Droll, assured and ever iconoclastic, Izzard creates his own universe and invites us in, all the while tracking our reactions to his riffs. Eddie makes us believe we can surf World 2.0 instead of just being swallowed up by it. As search engines go, he makes us feel lucky.

--Charlotte Stoudt

Related story:

Eddie Izzard works in 'boy mode'

Photo by Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times

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