Best of Live Shows

Published on November 22nd, 2012 | by Sharilyn Johnson


Review: Eddie Izzard’s Work In Progress

In keeping with his reputation as a comic who plays to the top of his intelligence, Eddie Izzard had no need to actually tell his Toronto audiences that he was working on new material. We understood: he’s playing to about 100 people at Comedy Bar, for $30, and he has a new tour coming up in the spring. No announcement that hey guys, some of this might not totally work required.

But almost everything did work.

With no opener and no introduction – really no warning at all – Izzard walked onto the stage Wednesday night and eased into his first set by contemplating the meaning of the word “Toronto”, the difference between performing to French audiences in France and speaking Quebecois, and how Canada controls American comedy.

The two shows featured primarily the same material: how the heads at Easter Island came to be, the logic behind human sacrifice, Clash of the Titans, and his impression of a dinosaur being pulled over by a cop. If you think those ideas can’t be connected… well, they can’t (yet). Izzard happily jumped straight from topic to topic, segue-free (“so… wigs!”), which in itself earned laughs.

While most of the premises remained the same, the framework allowed for some improvisation within. Sometimes, Izzard would hit on something different. Other times, this caused a quirk in the construction – a too-short set-up here, or a missed link there – issues he’ll easily iron out as the set becomes more tightly scripted.

The few times a bit didn’t end on a big enough laugh for his liking, he pretended to cross it off the imaginary setlist written on his hand.

The two biggest standouts were about the equestrian sport of dressage, and the observation of how pipes are no longer smoked by society’s wisest people. The latter prompted a running gag through the late show, mocking his own impression of what pipe-making must sound like (which sounded a lot like an impression of a race car). Both of these pieces were the best received by both audiences.

Not all the material was new. His Noah’s Ark bit from Stripped made an appearance in both the early and late shows, complete with the interview with the squirrel. He closed with a crowd-pleasing piece of verbal gymnastics illustrating the challenges of speaking Latin, also from Stripped.

After both sets, Izzard returned for a brief encore about the moon landing and God appearing, which has potential to function well as his standard encore or as his new closer.

Still five months away from premiering his Force Majeure tour in Europe, it’s hard to get a sense at this point how these ideas will come together, and ultimately how they’ll be presented. But based on the reaction from fans at Wednesday night’s shows, he’ll have a lot of repeat business once the tour hits Canada.

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About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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