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No Head In A Box At The End
on 6 December 2009
Eddie Izzard is without doubt one of the finest and most original comedians in history. Collected here are seven of his stand up shows. Unfortunately, his first and breakthrough show Live At The Ambassadors is not on here and is currently still unavailable on DVD. Whether there is a copyright issue or Mr Izzard doesn't want it to see the light of day for his own reasons, perhaps someone can enlighten me? It is a pity, as it was a defining moment.
The first time I encountered Eddie Izzard was whilst watching an edited version of his second show, Unrepeatable, one night on Channel 4 in the mid 90's. I had prior to this had a conception that his transvestism was a gimmick and his act would be poor, so I had narrow mindedly taken a dislike to him. I think I tuned into the show to prove myself correct. An hour and several dollops of humble pie later, I searched out his other material.
At about the same time Unrepeatable was being shown, Definite Article became available on video. By this time, Izzard (whether self deliberate or just through the quality if his material) was reaching a wider audience. I remember laughing hard at the bird in plane sequence on a TV chat show when he was plugging this release. Definite Arcticle sits nicely alongside Unrepeatable as the finest work in Izzard's ouevre.
Now firmly emplaced as my favourite comedian, I was first in the que to see his next show Glorious in the flesh. I remember being a bit disgruntled at the time that the Video was released before the tour was finished. However, both myself and then girlfriend loved the show itself. Watching it back on DVD, there really was sufficiently different material to evidence the fact his shows evolve as the tour progresses and he does genuinally improvise.
A year later brought Dress To Kill. However, on this show there was a noticeable dip in the quality of the material. At the time I assumed it was due to the frequency of his tours/shows. After all, this was his fifth in the space of 6/7 years. I did laugh like a drain however when he informed the audience about the status of Englebert Humperdinck, subsequently changing his mind for comic effect about 15 times.
If Dress To Kill was the show where I suspected that Izzard's work was on the downslide, Circle was the show that confirmed it. By no means bad, against most other comedians the show can still be considered superior, but it was still disappointing by the standards that he had set himself. Featuring the much talked about (if slightly overrated) Death Star canteen sequence (are you Jeff Vader?!).
A few years after came Sexie, which was not only Izzard's worst material, but also his delivery has become increasingly rambling. Although he had been predisposed to ramble and improvise in all his previous shows, the source material was very tight, a product of continually honing it in front of smaller audiences. This show seemed like he had performed it in front of a few audiences full of Eddieophiles and then released into the wider domain.
After a six year hiatus largely furthering his film career, with much fanfare came Stripped. I had hoped the intervening years since Sexie would have given Eddie the chance to recharge his comedy batteries. Unfortunately Stripped just seemed like an extension of Sexie. A very bloated feel, with several of his previous subject matters being revisited. The material is different enough, but it still feels like tipping the hat a little too much.
In summary, three classics, two good, two not so good, one absentee. I can only hope that Eddie Izzard rethinks his delivery and gets back to basics with his material before thinking of embarking on another show. Although it could be time for Eddie to hang up his boots, this package is testiment to his brilliance. Anyone of the first three shows is worthy of the entrance fee only.