If you was asked to name your top ten stand up comedians, who would make it in there? Richard Prior? Bill Hicks? Lenny Bruce? Anyone who puts Peter Kay or Paddy McGuinness in please go back to the beginning of this article and start again. However, one man who should be in there is a certain Englishman by the name of Eddie Izzard
Go back a few years and Izzard was the subject of a hopeless piece of tabloid journalism by BBC’s Watchdog programme who sent, as Izzard himself quite accurately said, “a joke accountant” to count how many jokes they would accuse him of repeating from previous tours. They missed the point in this programme that previous heroes of comedy on the BBC such as Morecambe And Wise or Benny Hill made entire careers on their stage shows by repeating sketches and jokes from their television shows.
Understandably hurt by this, Izzard took to the road and quite deliberately played in front of tiny audiences to test out whole new jokes and routines. The result was the sold out “Stripped” tour, a resounding success that cemented him as one of our truly great comedians.
Eddie Izzard is back again with another world tour that will take in an incredible 25 countries, at times, speaking solely in the language of the country that is hosting him. I caught him on the 7th June at a sold out MEN Arena (he had to add a further date on the 6th June in Manchester such was the demand for tickets). I got to the arena early to sample the atmosphere and, just as in his Stripped tour, he had his Twitter feed up on big screens so you could send a message. When some people first join Twitter they get annoyed when their messages don’t get answered by celebrities. I suggest they take one look at Izzard’s Twitter feed scrolling like credits at the end of a television programme to get an idea as to how many messages they receive.
The tickets we received stated that the start time of the show was 8pm. As the clock ticked to and past the start time people were still making their way to their seats in droves. Clearly there had been an issue outside but the arena thought fit not to tell us who were sweltering in their seats. Obviously this is not Izzard’s fault but certainly something the MEN Arena can work on along with their quite extortionate prices for their refreshments (a pint of beer, Coke and a packet of sweets cost £10.20).
Eddie Izzard finally took to the stage at around 8.20 and to say it was worth the wait would be an insult to the man. It was a simply astonishing performance of surreal brilliance that had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand from the first minute to the last. All the classic Izzard mannerisms were there. The miming, ad-libbing, satire, Pythonesque surrealism. On his Twitter feed, Eddie Izzard mentioned there was a sequel to his famous Death Star canteen sketch and indeed it was there together with a nod to his “Do you have a flag?” joke about British imperialism that had this writer laughing so hard that my wife had to give me a nudge to try and calm down. Fat chance of that. The way he describes Heaven and Hell actually makes you think they could be like that no matter how premise my be when written down on paper.
His show ended at around 11pm with a short interval of around fifteen to twenty minutes dividing the show into two halves and it is rounded off beautifully with an excellent sketch that brings together all the characters he introduces throughout the evening.
If you can get a ticket to watch this true master of his craft at work, then I beg you to do so. If you cannot then the DVD will be out later in the year. If you can’t wait until then, all his other shows are on DVD with some sketches on Youtube.
Fans of Eddie Izzard can be accused of nerdiness when it comes to his jokes, the big cheer that comes up whenever he mentions bees or jam giving away the fact they’ve memorised whole routines. If these people are nerds then I am happy to join their group, wrap their flag around and prepare to take over the world and if anyone tries to stop me I shall ask “Do you have a flag?”