(Detroit Opera House, MI - May 20th, 2008)
Eddie Izzard's style is heavily influenced by Monty Python, especially in his use of a stream-of-consciousness delivery that jumps between topics as he free-associates onstage. He does not generally work from a script, due to his dyslexia. Instead, he interrupts himself with new joke ideas, the characters he portrays turn into other characters, and he nonchalantly leaps from historical analysis to musings about household appliances. This often results in brief pauses in the routine which he fills with 'so, yeah,' and other verbal tics that have become his trademarks.
Weaving historical tales together of events and thoughts spanning the course of all time into one entertaining stand up event named 'Stripped,' Izzard calmly walks out on stage to a packed, applauding house. And for this latest show he does not don his platform heels and sparkly, tight pants, but instead opts for more comfy sneakers, relaxed jeans, and a black tuxedo jacket with tails; with an underbelly of fire red linen.
Bringing his traditional excitement and charisma instantly to the fore; tools that enable him to reach such a varied audience, his historical wanderings began in Ancient Egypt (which was apt as that was the foundation of his stage set - together with a weird cut out square at its top where an eye and glowing sun slowly passed on by during the near two hour show), and followed on through to the times of Christ, Ancient Greece and Rome, and even up to the post-WW II era in discussions of religion - a topic mostly avoided by comics.
Izzard has such a light touch to traditionally avoided "hot" topics that he is able to joke about them while still being careful not to cross any offensive boundaries. Sure a few of his jokes - probably spur of the moment improv ones - didn't land as well as he'd hoped, but instead of becoming a deer in headlights he jokes that they didn't hit and that they need to be reworked!
The first third of the show covers such anecdotes as Lions, President Bush, his ruminations on Wikipedia (and Jam!), an improv'd Snake and its scales joke that was old, tired, weak ... and yet got the whole audience laughing; even the comedian himself, TV channels, YouTube, 2050 (where there would be no dictators and a minimum wage around the entire world), God's creation of the universe game plan ("Nothing but Volcanoes and Dragonflies"), those once "Bat-shit crazy Germans", the Bible, and even Dinosaurs and their eating habits!
Izzard's style is that of the world's most hyperactive dinner guest! There's wildlife charades: some that involve Tigers and Giraffes, some that involve Badgers (who in the case of the overlong crème brulee skit seemingly "... can be choosers!"), and some that include Buffalo ... or was it Bison?!
The next third of the show was taken up by his ruminations on the Ice Age, the fear of saying aloud the name of 'Macbeth' on stage (which he then proceeded to do 17 times!), the Gatherers, Scrabble, and his own battle with dyslexia ... and that from here on in all sufferers of dyslexia will spell it 'Kat'! He points out that politicians should be more up for a dance during their speeches, wondered why the Nazi's took it upon themselves to name their military walk the 'Goose Step' (when it was clear that "... geese don't walk anything like that"), and Farming - and the need for all those noisy animals when so many silent ones would have meant many more lie ins!
Izzard then goes into an explanation about being a transvestite and how it’s been kind of a double-edged sword for him in the States because he started stand up in the States wearing men’s’ clothing, not sure he would get gigs in a dress! Moving on he discusses Noah and the filling of the Ark - which included a sly reference to one of the animals not being able to get 'The Riches' on his non-working TV - before explaining to us that the 'Good Ship Lollipop' movie was actually the forerunner of the Sparta movie, '300'!
In the final third he takes us back to Roman times, Hannibal's trip across the Alps, how Latin must not have been the easiest of languages to speak to each other in a crisis even back then, and how the fall of the Roman Empire came about because they all died crammed into the same phone box! So yeah, Izzard's show isn't packed with punch lines, per se, just riffs that grow more and more absurd as the evening progresses!
Closing the show with his thoughts on Tapestry ("The first form of Paparazzi"), Charles Darwin and his monkeys, Gnomes, the big picture of Intelligent Design, he even manages to create an entire monologue from the point of view of a disgruntled appendix! Moses, the Burning Bush, the 10 Commandments (complete with an overly-long Plague of Frogs tale!), he ends the night with what should (in his opinion) have been the only Commandment on the tablet: "Treat all others like you would like to be treated yourself" ... and then, clasps his hands together, bows and leaves the stage with a "And that's all from me, goodbye."
Coming back within 30 seconds for a very quick encore, Izzard tells us that although most of his thoughts never amount to much that sending the cast of Big Brother up into space; having them all in such a confined space would have everyone watching - and that he must talk to someone about that! And then, with several more stage bows, he is finally gone for the night.
All in all Izzard's performance was incredible and well worth the journey anyone will make to enjoy this near two hour experience. There is no other way to say this: 'Stripped' is a hit and makes for an incredibly enjoyable evening!
Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk