I’ve been a fan of Eddie Izzard for over a decade, and have been lucky enough to see him 4 times, most recently this week in Portland. There are a few things that draw me to his shows most, and all of them were on strong display in this most recent show.
The first time I ever saw Eddie Izzard, I actually saw back to back shows in Seattle and Portland during the Stripped tour, and I was amazed at how completely different the moment-to-moment jokes were while still hitting most of the same major punchline. It was clear that a huge amount of his show is him just riffing on silly ideas to keep himself amused, which makes every show totally unique. At the show on Monday, there were several moments where he just giggled at the end of a tangent, saying that he didn’t really have an end to a joke, or that he was still working on it, but everytime he managed to make it fun!
Most of Eddie Izzard’s routines invoke a fair amount of history, even if a lot of it is skewed to a ridiculous perspective. In this most recent show, he started off by telling us that he had material the covered from the Big Bang up to “last Tuesday.” I don’t really remember anything that was quite that recent, but he definitely dug in to the origins of the universe, the evolution of great apes to humans, the demise (mostly via explosion) of several English kings, and the struggles of training for distance swimming, so I think he hit most of the major bullet points. I think what I love about this is that it invoked a curiosity about history for me when I was younger… when I listened to Eddie Izzard routines I found online, I’d then go look up the historical figures he mentioned in order to really get the joke, even if it was funny without the full context.
One thing that was super apparent in this show, more than anything else I’ve seen from Eddie Izzard before, is an optimism about where our society could go in the future. I think that any comedian is inclined to have a skepticism about our society, and there’s plenty about our culture that Eddie Izzard is critical of, but this time it was clear that he was pointing out flaws with the hope that identifying them would help society learn to be better.
There was a lot of silliness in this show, and a lot of criticism about our history, but the thesis was delivered in a line he mentioned early, and the line he closed with, which was a call for us all to make “a safe world for seven and a half billion people.”
I expected to laugh at this show, but I didn’t expect to leave inspired and optimistic about what comes next for us all.