I do believe that comedians cannot be rockstars because they rely on being relatable whereas rockstars rely on the mystique, but if there is one exception to the rule, it’s Eddie Izzard. His current traveling standup tour, Force Majeure, begins with an expensive light show set to James Bond theme music. That’s something you have to earn.
Izzard’s standup is all about taking you on a visual journey with your imagination. Yes, it’s wrapped in some highbrow academic lesson–from the history of the English language to how to add fractions–but it’s the sketches wherein he transforms himself with different accents and postures that make him so captivating. Bizarrely, what you walk away with in your memory is not the memory of what happened (which was a man standing on an empty stage talking to himself). What you walk away with instead is the vision of a canteen where Darth Vader and God (wearing scuba gear) fight with light sabers over the last of the spaghetti carbonese before their duel is broken up by the caterer, who whacks them about the face with food trays. I know how ridiculous that sounds, but at the time it made perfect sense.
That said, there were some scenes held together by very loose tethers of logic. Case in point, an entire sketch between Julius Caesar and his adviser, who is a chicken, all because Izzard wondered if Caesar would be upset that we put chicken in our Caesar salads instead of anchovies. The chicken pops up in a half dozen other sketches throughout the night to offer various pieces of advice before ultimately trying to take over the world with the ring from Lord of the Rings….Don’t ask. It makes me wonder if he just likes doing the chicken noises.
If you like cracks about religion and the tea party, there are jokes aplenty. In fact, God shows up in multiple scenes, sometimes as the Christian God with the deep voice, sometimes as Zeus when we are in Rome (Romans are just fascist plumbers, aren’t they?), and sometimes as Liam Neeson. What happens if you get to Heaven and God doesn’t speak your language? What if God can’t save your life because Jesus forgot the password to the wifi? What if God shows up and he has a high-pitched voice? All these answers and more.
After the ghosts of cows haunt the hotels in the meat packing district of New York and a giant turtle flattens the town, the scenery settles down a little and we step into realism as Izzard takes us to a time in his childhood when he first started wearing makeup. You probably know that Eddie Izzard is a straight transvestite. (He claims God was high when he decided that Eddie would be at the crossroads of action movies and Maybelline. It took Eddie a long time to get that into a “groovy position.”) He was a youngster who fancied himself SAS material, and he was pining after some girl he’d met in France. At the same time, he started stealing makeup and hiding it in a shoebox with a false bottom. After the cops confiscated a trash bag full of stolen makeup, he told his stepmom they were for the French girl he liked. She made him send her a scarf instead. He barely knew her and so it must have been a mystery to her why she received this present. He’s hoping she shows up in a theatre when he takes the tour to France.
Speaking of, Izzard is well versed in several languages in order to be able to perform his act all over the world. He comments on how difficult it was to get some of the German right. “Having an unfit body is about as useful as two weasels in gravy nailed to the back of a truck,” is funny in English, but he discovered in Germany that it’s actually not the image that’s funny. It’s the rhythm. And there’s no sense of rhythm in the German translation of that sentence, so the joke fell flat. Izzard is currently learning Spanish.
Izzard skillfully makes parts of his act look improvised to the point where it’s difficult to tell what’s been rehearsed. There is a cabbie scene where Eddie’s being driven home from Wembley and the cabbie has an Indian accent. Halfway through the sketch, the Indian accent slips (accidentally?) and he has to explain to Eddie that he’s half Indian and half Welsh, so sometimes he sounds like he’s from India and other times he sounds like he’s from Wales. “Why do you ask?” the cabbie wonders. “Well, because I might use it in a show someday,” Eddie explains. The cabbie warns, “Be careful not to use this joke in America because they can’t tell the difference between an Indian accent and a Welsh one.” Nailed it.
The encore is Izzard’s retelling of Lord of the Rings with characters from his show so far, including the giant turtle, the chicken, and moles digging for ice cream. Et voila: