In hysterics at the Bowl
His time-traveling, nothing-is-sacred humor is direct and well-honed.
Eddie Izzard, above, is a true force majeure in Hollywood.
Throughout the washes of guffaws, chuckles and hysterics that accompanied Eddie Izzard’s set on Saturday night at the Hollywood Bowl, the British comedian, actor, logician and mimic performed gymnastic nonsequitur sequences and nuanced physical comedy.
Appearing as part of the wind-down of his long-running Force Majeure Tour, the self-described “action transvestite” wondered on the effectiveness of a highpitched God, explored the intricacies of his adolescent sexual confusion after getting busted for shoplifting makeup, time-traveled to the moment when polytheism gave way to monotheism — and imagined it as an ad pitch:
“Do you spend many hours every day praying to Jeff, the god of sandwiches, Roger, the god of baked potatoes, Kenneth, the god of helicopters, and Chavaugh, the god of dangerous spelling?” Izzard said. “For one easy prayer every day, you can pray for helicopters, sandwiches, baked potatoes and dangerous spelling. Don’t get let down piecemeal by multiple gods not answering your prayers one by one. Why not get let down in one big go by the Christian god not answering your prayers?”
The versatile Englishman, who is known to filmgoers for roles in “Velvet Goldmine,” Steven Soderbergh’s series of “Oceans” heist films and Julie Taymor’s “Across the Universe,” made Bowl history in 2011 when he performed his acclaimed show “Stripped.” Izzard was the first comedian to present a one-man show after breaking out of London in the mid-1990s with a series of performances with titles that included “Dress to Kill,” “Circle” and “Sexie.”
Like a long-distance runner who takes a few miles to get into his groove, Izzard’s brain needed some warming up Saturday. He started slowly, pacing himself until he forged a virtual superhighway from his frontal cortex to his voice box. What raced out was a rush of unfiltered, fully formed paragraphs that hummed with keen authority and insight.
As with all of his sets, Force Majeure has evolved over the years. The jokes have gotten sharper, the timing more precise, the presentation honed. The combination has given Izzard the power to time-travel.
Wearing a well-tailored black suit, white shirt, red kerchief and matching nail polish and black heels, Izzard adeptly jumped back to the death of Julius Caesar as witnessed by colleagues “Cassius, Lucius, Fabulous, Vesuvius, Tenacious, Tibia and Fibula, Spatula.”
Izzard’s not a comedian for those with short attention spans. Let your mind wander, for example, from his first few thoughts on the beheading of King Charles I in 1649 and you’re prone to be lost for the next few minutes after he descends into a riff on royal canine hairstyles of the time. While you are pondering the Bowl’s stacked parking system and the nightmare of exiting, Izzard is expressing frustration with his god: “You built a world, you made it round — and you told no one. Your sense of humor is so dry.”
He moved into linguistics to discuss the definition of the word “hallelujah.” Izzard’s conclusion: It means “yabba dabba do,” and he suggested that churchgoers discreetly introduce the phrase into hymns. Delving into the evolution of religion, Izzard imagined the scenario surrounding history’s first human sacrifice, one he described as “logical behavior by scared human beings try- ing to impress invisible people who are behaving as if they’re not there.”
Izzard’s question: Who was the person who came up with the idea? “Look, the crops have failed, the weather is bad. The gods obviously hate us. So, yes — let’s kill Steve.” Izzard then imagined the coitus that would inevitably occur the first time a priest suggested sacrificing virgins. “Don’t worry, I’ve got another hundred outside, they’re all virgins so we can — hey, stop that!”
Inhabiting the brains of lions, moles, trouser-thiev- ing “wild dogs who live on the prairie,” and horses as they compete in dressage competitions, Izzard danced with an easy grace. “Is that horse looking for a contact lens? Is the horse on drugs? Am I on drugs?”
He set about proving a straightforward argument about moles.
“Gold exists in the ground, yes or no?” The crowd assented. “Moles dig in the ground, yes or no?” “Yes!” “Therefore, in the entire history of eternity, one mole must have at some point struck gold. That must be true.” The crowd clapped at the solid logic, as Izzard acted out a mole finding a nugget in the ground.
“‘Gold! We’ve struck gold! High-threes, we’re rich!’ The moles would come around, dig their gold out and become rich, and buy houses in Beverly Hills, and they’d all have chauffeurs.”
The more sophisticated moles might have even directed their drivers down Mulholland to their Bowl box seats for Force Majeure.
EDDIE IZZARD performs a set that has evolved over the years — jokes sharper, timing more precise.