Eddie Izzard's newest world tour and one-man show made a two-night stop in Pittsburgh this week. The Yemen-born Izzard has an enthusiastic and loyal U.S. fan base, drawn from his earlier tours (including Dress to Kill and Circle) and his film and stage work (A Day in the Life of Joe Egg on Broadway). Known for his stream of conscious delivery style (which he's been known to call going onstage and "talking crap") as well as his own style of transvestism, Izzard is totally unique when it comes to stand-up comedy.
The music accompanying this show featured selections of classics and covers by Tom Jones - unexpected, but high energy and fun ... and loud. The set (designed by Alex Saad), which consisted of a video backdrop and what appeared to be a geometric print fabric shroud over the stage, came colorfully alive with Josh Monroe's superb lighting design. Throughout the show, various abstract images evolve on the screen, not unlike a 21st century psychedelic light show. Izzard's first act outfit was a red bustier, short black ruffled skirt, fishnet stockings, incredible spike heeled black boots,and a long military style jacket. And, as he proudly announced, he's "got tits." He looked terrific, with perfect makeup (my friend Donna and I were envious of those eyes) and short, bleach blonde tousled hair.
Izzard's act is part improv and part scripted. He is in constant movement and appears to always be thinking about what he will talk about next. The main subject of the first act was superheroes and mythology, in particular the identity transvestites have with superheroes: "We both have to change before we help people." No matter how far he ventured from this subject - and venture, he did - he was always able to return to the spot where he left off, and this grounds his act and keeps things from being too random. He played off of the quirks of the audience - Pittsburghers in particular, Americans in general - good naturedly, but pointedly, while we laughed at ourselves. Nearly everything he says is funny, but when a joke falls on silence or few laughs, he deprecatingly shrugs it off and moves on.
After an overly long intermission, Izzard returned in black bustier, black sparkly skirt slit to the waist, and he mentioned not being able to find his jacket (perhaps the reason for the long break). No matter - again, he looked great. This act brought more off-the-wall subjects, including fly hunting, the invention of the wheel (not quite as important as the invention of the axle), and a very clever impression of Christopher Walken doing MacBeth. Izzard's smart humor is never mean spirited and, even when lightly delving into a political area, he doesn't go for the easy jokes. He often draws laughs from slightly twisting reality to bring humor from situations everyone can identity with.
Eddie Izzard's Sexie tour continues to Cleveland's Allen Theatre on October 17, then on to Detroit and Boston. The full schedule, and more information, can be found at EddieIzzard.com.