Eddie Izzard @ Just For Laughs

For the few of you who were not familiar with this British comedian/actor that was rectified when the FX television series "The Riches" was picked up by Showcase here in Canada. It airs on Wednesday nights and shows the range of this talented man who up until now was known mostly for his stand up shows. As a comedian he is widely known as one of the best in the business as he has previously won Emmy Awards and Britain's Top Comedian Award for past shows. Whenever he comes to Montreal it is always to a sold-out crowd who are connoisseurs of his material.

His being a comedian who is a transvestite has brought him quite a bit of notoriety, but lately he has done his shows in male garb toning down that side of himself. Despite the fact that his stage wear is not quite as outlandish does not mean that his comedy style has changed any. If you loved him before you will not be disappointed. His rambling, stream-of-consciousness style is completely endearing. The type of free association/improvisational style he favours means that bits about human evolution become a discussion on how ridiculous bees flight patterns are to the difficulties of early language to debunking the problems of religion to a solution to the uproar about fox hunting in England. You feel as if he is writing the show as he goes along and that each one is slightly different. Yes, it is a wild ride, folks.

Part of the fun is never knowing where he is going. Mr. Izzard does not always know where he is going as he does not work from a script, but rather just randomly goes from one subject to another. The back-and-forthness of his delivery is complimented by his variety of ticks, such as saying "so, yeah…" or humming while dancing, while moving from one subject to another. Despite his lack of mapping out a plan of attack what you always get from Eddie is intelligence and a completely unique way of looking at things. His strength as a comedian is his quick mind and unending interest in the world around him. Amplified by his self-admitted obsession with Wikipedia, which is "90 per cent true and 10 per cent complete lies. We're just not sure what is which".

Though he is not necessarily good at doing imitations, though I defy you to find someone who does a better Sean Connery or James Mason, he entertained us with an imitation of Christopher Walken doing Shakespeare and his usual variety of animals/insects by doing flies, bees, dolphins, and even the silent giraffe. He also went through an array of pantomimes and sound effects to amplify his bits such as the useless parts of the body and musicians and their mike stands. Everything is better with sound effects!

Izzard does tackle such touchy subjects as religion, cultures and wars, but he is able to do it in such a way that it is not offensive in any way. There are not many comedians performing today that could portray God as a crack addict because of all the weird animals he has created, such as walruses "which are seals with more slug-like bodies and the mustaches of British generals" and wasps "which do sweet f*@k all besides stinging people", and not have anyone walk out of the place. His whole section on how he is not sure about God and that everything seemed too random for him was brilliant.

What all his odd mannerisms and ways of looking at the world does is educate his audiences about tolerance and being open minded about other peoples and cultures. He regularly switches from English to French to German and even to Latin in his shows to make everything seem less like the 'other' and more familiar. Don't get me wrong, it is not all about learning as the guy is a complete goof and hilariously funny. He manages to do things that are intelligent but not snobby and everything in his repertoire runs the gamut from droll to hilarious. For roughly 90 minutes we got to hear about jam, banjos, guys named Steve, bananas, badgers and we loved every minute of it!

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