theprotagonist5 (theprotagonist5) wrote,

Eddie Izzard Stripped Show Review - Chicago Theater - Friday May 16, 2008

This review will make more sense if you read the Thursday night review first.

The other times I have seen Eddie Izzard live and seen him after the show in person I have been completely giddy and in a hurry to archive the feeling of that moment before it passes. I did not have that happen this time at the Stripped show. I am not sure if the change was from him or me, or possibly both, but it wasn’t quite the same.


First off, I am different regarding my understanding of comedy now that I did 2 years of Second City’s Training Center improv programs. I am not an expert in it, but I have a lot more fun in conversations with improv. Also, I am in a very different place with comedy now that I am in a solid relationship and good job now, and doing improv and comedy for fun pale in importance when compared to those more concrete aspects of my life. Since comedy/improv are not career options for me, it seems less important and less a reason to agonize over all the details for hours. I still occasionally feel the urge to get up and play on a stage, or launch into a character in a conversation, but it isn’t the “I’m looking for direction in my life” kind of experimentation it once was and these shows are less a look at a life I would like to lead and more a fun entertaining night out.


That said, my take on Eddie Izzard and Stripped is different too. He is less of a “god-like comedy being” and more of a hard working business man who has some very funny things to say. I have the ultimate respect for him, but I no longer get giddy at the sight of him and his show. Maybe this is also because I have seen shows live before. I do intend to be a loyal fan for a long time since he has had a profound impact on my life and opened the door to a new way of thinking about the idiosyncrasies of life and embracing improv and comedy as a personality characteristic.


Honestly before the show I spent more time making fun of the naked guy in a chariot painted on the ceiling above the stage and singing along in improv to the classical music than thinking about Eddie Izzard. What on earth are all those naked people on the ceiling of the Chicago Theater about? And Steve humored me by laughing at my improvised singing.


Eddie Izzard entered with the usual fanfare and light show that serves him well and he seemed less stiff and abrupt this time around while starting the show. He must have seen the Chicago River at some point, because he mentioned it in the opening and it was a great deal funnier than the night before. 

He launched into many of the same ideas as on Thursday but he did not phrase them the same or use the same details. Eddie must enjoy seeing what changes work and don’t and everything was about 20% funnier and 40% different on Friday night. He was in the groove more. Less people heckled him. He moved quicker through the material (1 hr 30 min vs. 1 hr 45 min) and jumped quicker from subject to subject. I like the disjointedness of jumping around with non-sequiturs. I also liked the pace speeded up and less of the wandering details and more quick “concept and go” pace.


Steve said on Thursday he thought the show was a bit “preachy” and it probably is. It actually has moments when he introduces a segment by explaining his ideology for several minutes on it first and then acting it out. The acting it out is funny, why the ideological explanation first? Why not let people come to their own conclusion from the comedy rather than telling them all the theories? I think we can handle the "no-god" idea, it’s not that controversial. I don’t remember him having to explain as much about what he was doing and why in past shows.


That said everything was quicker, punchier and moved along faster. Even the encore was funny this time. On Thursday it left me with a feeling of “what was that?” and on Friday he illustrated the point of the funny more than wandering about his ideas and explanations. I still think the mix of ideology & comedy was 80/20 in past shows with comedy being the lion’s share.


I don’t want to give the impression that these shows were not funny because they were! I just didn’t write down every joke and story to re-tell online. It would be rude to give the show away to the next 15 cities on the tour and a bit immature also. I will say that badgers, giraffes and ducks return and many other funny concepts he has visited before but rolled around in a new way. Languages and cultures and a lot of Roman and hunter-gatherer history come in as well. And who could forget the  million ways to disprove religion? He has a lot of good points I believe in, but not all of them are completely funny.


If you are a dedicated and loyal Eddie Izzard fan, don’t miss this tour and an opportunity to see him rekindle some of the magic that was lost in the Sexie tour. It is never a bad way to spend an evening. If you don’t know who Eddie Izzard is, you probably won’t like this tour so much and will leave a bit confused on whether it was a funny university lecture or a comedy show.


On Friday Eddie also came out the stage door on the side of the theater to chat with the waiting fans for a few minutes and answer questions rather than sign autographs. (The problem is that they clearly label the door) It seemed that he was more relaxed and less tired this time and there were about double the people that there were on Thursday night. (200+) I still think he is generous to do this with his time and even though it makes his work day longer, it is probably one of the strongest marketing techniques out there. Everyone who got to ask a question got an honest and direct reply looking you straight in the eye for a minute or two and when I got my answer to my hair-brained question I was shaking. (Why did I ask if he would ever do TopGear again if I knew he gets motion sickness? Duh!) How can you not love this man and tell everyone you know about his work when he takes time out to be genuine like this?


Eddie was wearing eyeliner on top and bottom of his eyelids on Friday rather than just the lids on Thursday. I can see more guys doing this look in the future since it doesn’t really look like makeup, it just looks like you have more prominent eyes. And it looks like a rock and roll type style. Steve isn't sold on wearing it yet though.

One interesting question was a thank you from a group of opera singers for doing that bit about opera in the show. Eddie had the guts to do a bit of fact checking on the spot and ask if people in Italy and Germany really did understand the operas or not and they said they do rather than his bit that they don’t. So, maybe that will get integrated into the show? I think it is cool to have an interaction with fans and information like that and let the show form with feedback in a web 2.0 way. No one can replace Eddie’s mind, timing, or cleverness but feedback ala wikipedia and fact checking can only strengthen the comedy and show content.


I am also always impressed by Eddie Izzard’s fans. They are always very respectful well mannered polite folks that never do anything crazy or out of hand. They were nearly on top of him in the alley because of the tight space, and Eddie returned the favor with respect by not acting at all scared that someone was going to overstep a boundary in any way. He did have 3 very big bodyguards standing behind him, but for a Hollywood star guy, he had a great populace feel to the chat and his openness in answering questions even though we weren’t press or famous people.


After about 20 minutes and lots of interesting questions he called it a night and said they were going out. I am glad they got to go out on the town and enjoy some of what Chicago had to offer. I also hope Eddie Izzard and his crew all enjoyed some big thick Chicago steaks and great drinks that evening, since they did a great job with the tour and deserve a fun night to celebrate it. 

Also, I would like to thank Steve for going with me to these shows TWICE and at hopefully enjoying them. I am happy that my appreciation of Eddie hasn't freaked him out and now Steve has seen the action in person and likes to quote Eddie too. Actually, Steve gets a kick out of the fact that Eddie likes to use the name Steve in his bits. We joke that Steve is really an invisible co-star in the show that no one knows about, and he shares credit with the 5 million other Steves out there.

Tags: 2008, chicago, chicago theater, comedy, eddie izzard, entertaining, funny, great, may, new, show, standup, stripped, tour
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