BOTTOM LINE: British humor — I mean, humour — at its finest.
Okay, you caught me — Eddie Izzard is a comedian and Theatre Is Easy doesn’t cover comedy, but I’m making an exception because Izzard is doing a whopping three-week run in New York and, well, he’s really funny. I would feel bad not letting you know about it.
So why is Eddie Izzard so funny? His shtick is simply the rambling rehashing of facts and references in a dry and unabashedly sarcastic British manner. But somehow Izzard’s interpretation of giraffes conversing makes me laugh so hard I cry.
If you’re unfamiliar with Izzard, that’s probably because he’s somewhat of a cult favorite with an eclectic following. His comedy career began in Britain in the early ’90s, and according to his Wikipedia page, his U.S. breakthrough came in ’99, when his Dress to Kill stand-up special aired on HBO. (By the way, I feel totally okay citing Wikipedia as a source because a large part of Izzard’s show involves his reverence for the website.) Izzard is also a respected actor — he stars in the FX drama The Riches, which returns for a second season next month, and he played Mr. Kite in Julie Taymor’s 2007 Beatles lovefest, Across the Universe.
Izzard’s comedy style is everything that’s good about British wit. It has a Monty Python feel minus the slapstick, although a lot of it is visual, e.g. snakes on speedboats in the Garden of Eden. And his subject matter is relatable, but not in the culturally specific, dumbed-down way used by comedians like Larry the Cable Guy. It’s relatable on a grander scale, encompassing religion, world history, and human history in addition to pop culture. Izzard’s mind is a library of random facts — or he’s just an amazing bullshitter. Maybe a little of both. Either way, he turns Stonehenge and ancient Greece into fodder for fantastic comedy.
His act is largely improvised, and he lets his snarky British pretension drive the subject matter. I’m not sure how much the current show varies from night to night, but I’m pretty familiar with Izzard’s past shows, and almost all of what I heard this time was new.
If you’re already a fan you owe it to yourself to check out the new show, especially while Izzard’s here in New York (where he rarely plays, although he performs a lot in L.A.). If you’re not already a fan but you like British comedy, you probably are a big fan and you just don’t know it yet.
Eddie Izzard performs at Union Square Theatre, 100 E. 17th St., through March 8: Mon-Sat 10:30 PM. Tickets are $40 and available at ticketmaster.com.
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