15 February 2015

Eddie Izzard: The Milkman of God

Eddie Izzard
Force Majeure
Michael Fowler Centre
14 February 2015

It's always a treat when veteran comedians from the Mother Country expend the effort to fly around the world to entertain colonial audiences, because many don't bother or presume that they would struggle to fill venues here. Luckily there is a strong community of UK comedy-lovers in New Zealand, and I think a particular centre of excellence of aficionados here in Wellington. I've seen the world's premier action transvestite, Eddie Izzard, play in Wellington twice before in the last decade, which shows that he's a recidivist Wellington visitor from way back. Last night's show was another example of the benefits of expert-level absurdist comedy garnished with a commendable level of respect for an audience's ability to follow relatively complex material. 

After the requisite hero's welcome, Izzard launches into a series of loosely-linked digressions into a suitably deft ramble through the mysteries of human nature, the follies of history, and man's inhumanity to man (and chickens). His outlook is humanitarian with a philosophical bent, as illustrated by his sojourn into the ethics and logic of human sacrifice to the gods, which culminates in the self-defeating notion of a holy man bringing forth a hundred virgins to be sacrificed to a vengeful god, only to find that behind his back the assembled sacrifices have, er, 'disqualified' themselves as subjects for virgin sacrifice. Force Majeure proceeds onwards with a stately mix of Dadaist interpretations of history, including a satisfyingly daft running joke involving Julius Caesar's military advice being provided by Marc Antony who happened to be a chicken in disguise. Much fun is also had with Liam Neeson's craggy performance in the stinker Clash of the Titans, which surely must sit alongside Colin Farrell's Irish accent as Alexander the Great as the most legendary Hibernian accents in cinematic depictions of classical civilisations. Now all we need is a film casting Jedward as Romulus and Remus and cinema can be considered complete. 

Izzard is at his most engaging when he delves into his own life for material, such as the oft-discussed episode when as a teenager he was caught stealing makeup and manages to extricate himself from serious trouble by claiming it was all either a ruse to join the SAS or to win the affections of a French girl he met on an exchange trip. The second half of Force Majeure benefits from this material and the in-built callbacks to earlier discussions that reward an audience that pays attention and credits us with a modicum of intelligence. Similarly, Izzard's foray into standup comedy in French and German (to which he has recently added Spanish) permits forays into multi-lingual comedy, a highlight being Izzard's impersonation of Martin Luther trying to nail his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg Castle in 1517 during a howling gale: 'Wo ist These sechs? Ach, es war Schei├če'. Capped off with a resoundingly successful lampooning of dressage riding and a triumphant return visit by the fabled Mr Stephens, the head of the Death Star canteen, Eddie Izzard's Force Majeure was a top night out in the capital, and strongly recommended for comedy fans in other centres.

To round out the evening, Izzard returned to the foyer of the Michael Fowler Centre for a stand-up Q&A session with the audience, in which he handled questions about his TV and film roles and announced that he plans to run for Mayor of London in the next five years or so. This is canny stuff from Izzard, because it will help to prepare him for the duties of a politician, and as he observed, if Georgina Beyer can become a mayor and MP in New Zealand, why can't an action transvestite become Mayor of London?

See also:
Comedy: Bill Bailey, 2 November 2014
Comedy: Reginald D. Hunter, 8 May 2014
ComedyJosie Long, 5 May 2013
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