Be That Guy

Eddie Izzard in South Africa – Force Majeure


Edward John “Eddie” Izzard’s Twitter profile reads as follows: “I’m a British European, I think like an American and I was born in an Arabic country.” An eclectic mix of cultures and nationalities which I think is what gives him such a unique perspective on life and makes him damn interesting.

For those of you who don’t know (and I truly pity you if you don’t) he is a comedian and actor, a former street performer and, in his own words, an ‘action’ transvestite.

His resume is long, varied and illustrious consisting of stage, screen and television. His most recent turn as Dr. Gideon in NBC’s “Hannibal” is being hailed as “chilling and diabolical”.

He is so versatile that comedy and drama both seem to come effortlessly for him. All this is not bad for a man who potentially spends more of his time applying make-up and painting his nails than I do.

But all of this is beside the point. Eddie Izzard makes his living making people laugh and has been doing this successfully (and sometimes controversially) since 1982. He won TWO Emmy awards in 2000 for his televised HBO special “Dress to Kill” and now he has once again brought his unique brand of humour to South Africa.

The demand to see Izzard perform was so high that a second show was added to the Cape Town leg of his tour to accommodate his fans.

Having watched all of Izzard’s previous stand-up routines, I was well-versed in both his style and some of the more popular routines for which he had become famous, among them his Star Wars Canteen parody and his ever popular take on the relationship between God and Jesus. So I was very excited to see what he would have on offer this time and so plodded off in the cold to Grand West, my friend and fellow Izzard enthusiast in tow.

Before I go on, I must comment that the Grand West/Grand Arena staff are extremely efficient and helpful. We were greeted at the doors to the building with parking tickets so that we wouldn’t have to queue when the show was done.

Also, while sitting having a bit of supper before the show the attendants came around to issue us with arm bands in order to avoid the rush at the door.

We had great seats with a perfect, close-up view of the stage and I enjoyed the few moments prior to the show watching the varied group of people attending the show: young and old, strange and not so strange, the ladies in evening wear, and the guy in his pink bustier top.

As I watched people carrying cups of beverages up to their seats, I kept thinking “That’s probably not a good idea – drinking liquids at a comedy show…” The screens were on in the arena and cameras focused on the crowd while a barrage of tweets about the show were scrolling up over it.

An interactive part of Izzard’s shows recently where you are invited to tweet messages to Izzard’s Twitter page while you wait. Someone even tweeted that they had seen Riaad Moosa and Kurt Schoonraad in the audience – no doubt taking notes.

There are various moments in his performance that stood out for me while others are a complete blur. I spent most of my time laughing to the point where I couldn’t really remember what it was that had made me laugh.

During one particular moment I recall my friend patting me on the back and asking if I was okay because I was half crying, half hyperventilating and bent over like someone in pain. I quite nearly died laughing and you know what, it would have been okay if I had.

I remember clearly Izzard’s entrance which began with James Bond-esque visuals on the big screen, rousing music and bright lights and Izzard appearing in a dark suit and white shirt. The only difference between him and some other comedians was the expertly applied eye-liner, high heels and Union Jack painted nails. It’s a toned-down version of the garb he has worn previously on stage but is still so quintessentially ‘Izzardian’.

Eddie Izzard Dress to Kill
Eddie Izzard in ‘Dress to Kill’

Izzard’s style is often rambling, incoherent and nonsensical giving the impression that it is all completely unplanned. A sort of “I don’t know what the hell I am doing here and who are all of you?” approach that I find so endearingly funny.

It’s obvious that he has carefully constructed the entire thing from how well it is all tied together but his manner makes you feel as though he’s just coming up with it on the spot.

I’ll admit, his brand of stand-up may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like the fact that it feels like he’s just having a chat with a few thousand of his closest friends. He ‘makes notes’ if a particular joke doesn’t get the required response and happily admonishes the audience for not laughing or clapping enough.

He is marvelously frank and matter-of-fact like that good friend who doesn’t mean to be funny but nonetheless can have everyone in stitches by just relating a simple story.  Like how he was caught stealing make-up in his teens which he had expertly hidden in a secret false-bottomed box beneath his bed and how he had to cover himself by pretending that he was stealing it for some French girl he had met at school.

I learnt from Eddie Izzard that musicals are made for women and gay men, not a straight, action transvestite such as himself. I also learnt that fear and boredom cannot exist at the same time and that you can’t be either bored or afraid while you have diarrhea. I am yet to test out that theory but hey, it seems legit.

Some other memorable moments that stood out for me were the epic battle between God and Darth Vader over the spaghetti carbonara which eventually had to be broken up by Mr Stevens from Catering, and the Lord of the Rings skit which for some reason included Liam Neeson, a chicken and goblin cod pieces.

Don’t ask me why! By that time I was bursting out of my own skin. If you were to ask me to give you an account of what happened, I would not be able to do it. I wasn’t taking notes. I was too busy trying not to wet myself!

You’ll have to buy the DVD when it becomes available and I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

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Tiffany Masters

Tiffany Masters is a teacher of English, and an aspiring novelist. Lover of life, love and everything else. Avid reader and movie goer; fantasy fanatic and music freak.