You know, you make one little transatlantic flight to see two Eddie Izzard shows at Wembley, and you’re forever branded a rabid fan. 😉 The guys in the ValueClick London office must think I’m crazy and still quote Eddie-isms in almost every email to me. But the reality is, among true fans (who, by the way, are the best people to ever spend four hours in line with), I’m pretty average, at best. In fact, waiting in line Friday at The Comedy Store on Sunset, I was especially amused to note that I didn’t have the Eddie book, didn’t have an Eddie t-shirt, and hadn’t even seen one of his earlier shows (Definite Article, available on DVD November 9th). So yeah, see, I’m really not even a fan!
Except, wait… I am, and Friday’s awesome show reminded me why Eddie Izzard really is the funniest human being alive.
The show was definitely for Eddie’s true fans, as it wasn’t a touring show, but rather, one in a series of workshop sessions (as the “Work in Progress” name suggests) where he tried out new material and was much more interactive with the audience. He noted that most comedians dumb down their content for the audience, but here, he was “smarting up” instead, relying on the audience to know the answers to questions that he himself hadn’t yet worked out. So in between, he’d ask questions, like, if your cars goes underwater, do your power windows still work? This wasn’t Steven-Wright-type interrogative comedy, but more like he was working out a joke (about a worst-case senarios book) and literally didn’t quite know how the car thing would work. So the audience was shouting back answers to everything from random mechanics to later history and religion. For example, after a great Jesus joke about Archimedes, he stopped to verify from the audience that Archimedes lived before Jesus, chronologically, so that it was plausible that Jesus would be referencing Archimedes. Hilarious! Funniest audience contribution was when trying to figure out the other island Napoleon was on, when someone yelled out, “We don’t know, we’re American!”
I should note here, too, how wildly different this venue was from other places I’ve seen Eddie. Wembley Arena’s got a seating capacity of 11,500 so sitting in the 3rd row the second night was very close to the stage. But at Wembley, that meant we were still 30+ feet away from him as he performed. Even at the Virgin Megastore signing a year ago, the line of hundreds of fans took 6.5 hours for him to finish, and the few seconds we each got with a very tired Eddie were nice but not amazing. So imagine Friday night, sitting about six feet away from him while he performs for an hour and a half, in a venue that only seats 300 altogether, where he’s asking the audience questions and expecting answers. Entirely different feeling. Sort of the small discussion section to accompany the 500-hundred-person lectures, to borrow a college analogy.
In fact, this was very obvious in the first minute of the show, when there was some audio interference as he spoke and he decided that it was coming from the overhead light right above where I was sitting. (You can see from the photo here that we were sitting just behind the row of tables right up against the stage.) So, being the unconventional Eddie Izzard, he had the people sitting at that table in front of us clear off their drinks, and move the table towards ours, so he could stand on the table, and using the mic stand, hit the ceiling spotlight!! Have to admit, that’s something I’ll probably never see at any other show ever. Meanwhile, I’m standing next to his table as he’s doing this, worried that he’s going to fall off the table, trying to make sure he keeps his balance (which he did quite easily— all that running, jumping, climbing trees pays off). It was truly the most surreal moment I could’ve ever imagined from the evening.
As others have pointed out, this is a work in progress so we shouldn’t give too much away. But, here’s something timely that won’t likely be in future shows…
You’ve got an Election coming up? November 2nd? And I think you know what to do… We in R.O.W. — that’s “rest of world” — we’re watching. We understand the first time just kinda happened… there was the thing… and then the buildings… and all of that. But if it happens again, we in ROW will say… “Oh…” We can’t do much, really. Just walk around like this (hunched over)… “Fucking hell.” <Huge audience applause>
(If you can’t mentally hear him saying it, just like if you don’t speak French, “all of that was fucking funny…” 🙂 Also a reminder that his comedy is 80% delivery.)
As for his material, there were references to his earlier shows (which, given his stream of consciousness style is pretty expected), and there were some parts directly out of the Sexie shows we saw in London. But given how different his two shows were on the two consecutive nights, I wonder too if they were even more differences from the Sexie shows in the US.
For example, at least a few jokes in London were squarely aimed at English audiences, including one about how “we had 9/11, and we also had September the 11th… Yes… Don’t know why everyone makes such a big deal about 9/11, because really, November 9th was a pretty normal day, I think,” referring of course to the month/day vs. day/month difference between the US and UK. 🙂
(Even funnier to see that his dvd release date and the Virgin Megastore signing this year are on November 9th… Probably not coincidental, since this is Eddie Izzard!)
The best part was how informal and candid this show was. You got to see his mind work, even when, admittedly, not everything was as funny as you’d normally expect of him. Then again, keep in mind, his popular double-Emmy Dress to Kill HBO show was actually edited together from a series of shows in San Francisco. And even with the two very different consecutive nights at Wembley, we could’ve easily edited together a show better than either. But when you have the dvds, and see the official shows, and all of that, a show like this one tonight becomes a real treat for his fans— a way for him to work out his comedy, but also a fun way for people to hear bits (like the election bit) that wouldn’t normally make it into a full show. In fact, this show would’ve made a great extra on the dvd.
So… yes… a great show overall, highly recommended! Which probably goes without saying, since real Eddie Izzard fans jump at any chance to ever see him or hear him or wear his t-shirts. Maybe someday I’ll be a true Eddie Izzard fan too. 😉
Bonus link for you real Eddie fans: Which Eddie Izzard joke are you?