Daily Elysium: Now Showing - Cake or Death
In a continuing effort to find a variety of things to prattle on about, I thought it might be fun (for me) to discuss some of the fine films, specials, documentaries, and assorted nonsense that have recently been projected from my DVD player onto the back of my retinas. This is not a DVD review exactly, because that would be boring for you to read, and more importantly boring for me to write. I'd have to talk about aspect ratio, and Digital 5.1. I'd have to watch all the boring parts of DVDs that I don't really care about, like what the Gaffer thought about the cruller he shared with Tim Robbins, and then he might go on to tell me what the hell a Gaffer is, and I just won't put up with that. Also, I'd have to watch DVDs I don't care about, like movies with Vin Diesel and Anime. Frankly, someone's going to have to get busy paying me money before I watch that stuff! If Certis or Sway want to take up that angle, I welcome them to it.Today, I'd rather talk about British Comedy. Read on if you like funny. For those of you who don't like funny, we have plenty of articles by Certis in our archives! (rim shot)
"There's not much makeup in the army, is there? No. They only have that nighttime look, and that's a bit slapdash, isn't it?"
Eddie Izzard is a transvestite. I thought that might matter to some people, so I'd get it out of the way from the start. It's not actually relevant in any appreciable way, but it's probably the first thing you'll notice if you should pick up Dress to Kill, his HBO comedy special. As he's quick to point out, he's not a particularly feminine transvestite. He is, as he characterizes it, an Action Transvestite, which involves running, jumping, climbing trees, and putting on makeup. The second thing you'll notice is that Eddie Izzard is remarkably funny.
"You! Cake or death?", "Umm, cake please."
If there's one thing I know it's funny. Well, actually, if there's one thing I know it's not to eat things I found in the sewer, but funny is somewhere on that list, perhaps lower than I might actually care to believe. But, we're not talking about me. We're talking about Eddie Izzard, and he knows funny. I can't say what his position is on eating things from a sewer though.
"And Henry VIII, a big hairy king, went up to the Pope and said, "Mr. Pope! I'm gonna marry my first wife, then I'm gonna divorce her. Now, I know what you're gonna say, but stick with me. My story gets better. Second wife, I'm gonna kill her! Cut her head off. Ah, not expecting that, are we? Third wife gonna shoot her. Fourth wife, put her in a bag. Fifth wife, into outer space. Sixth wife, on a rotissamat. Seventh wife, made out of jam..."
I think what makes this stand-up routine work for me, is how very different it is from the vast majority of stand-up routines I've been subjected to. I've heard ten-thousand different jokes about impotence, digestive processes, dating, and a variety of excretory functions. On the other hand, I can't say I've heard many routines on the formation of the Anglican Church, or Henry VIII, or even Englebert Humperdink. Better still, any comedian who can perform the vast majority of his encore in a language I don't even pretend to understand and still make it uproariously funny, has got to be doing something right. And, that's precisely what makes the sometimes muddling wandering humor of Eddie Izzard so approachable, that it is based on creativity and genuine wit as opposed to rehashing tired and familiar material with a slight rewording of the precise vulgarities.
(Re: The European Union) "It's the cutting edge of politics in a very extraordinarily boring way!"
I wouldn't exactly recommend Eddie Izzard for every taste. For example, if you're not very smart then a great number of his jokes will do irritating and somewhat mocking fly-bys over your head without ever landing firmly in your consciousness. You've got to have some basic understanding of the world's histories and cultures to get the fact that it's all quite funny when put a certain way. For example, there's a wonderful moment when Eddie attributes the portrayal of the French in American movies repaying the"debt of honor" owed to General Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette. Naturally, not a great many people are going to be familiar with General Lafayette or his role in the Revolutionary War, though it becomes funny even if you don't get it at first, but those that are will be doubly entertained for the fact that Lafayette is successfully incorporated into the routine and explains why English people play bad-guys and French people have a lot of on-screen sex. It's the kind of humor that has only been tried and applied well a few times in the past, and Eddie Izzard's attempts harken back to the best Black Adder episodes or historical Monty Pythos skits (no one expects the Spanish Inquisition).
You can't land on the moon and say, "Ooh, it's all sticky! It's covered in jam!"
That's not to say that Dress to Kill isn't marred by a few faults. First, and perhaps most notably, is the simple problem of having been filmed in 1998. As such, some topics and discussions might seem, at times, politically anachronistic. It's not a serious flaw, and certainly was unavoidable, but you'll notice it when he discusses topics like Islamic Jihads and American Foreign Policy. That's not to say that he's particularly controversial on the issues, and he's certainly never mean-spirited, but he's clearly drawing his comments from a perspective that has since shifted slightly. Further, he often wanders obviously from his script. Usually he ends up somewhere funny, but on occasion he trudges right through funny and winds up firmly planted in 'huh?' territory where he decrescendoes to a flat stop. It's not a regular or serious issue, but it will occasionally draw perplexed lines into your forehead. And, yes, there's profanity, so Dress to Kill is not necessarily family viewing, but it's not blatant vulgarity or overt, just emphatic. Here's an example.
You say 'erbs', and we say 'herbs', because there's a f*cking 'H' in it!
All told, I own just one stand-up comedy DVD. I might occasionally rent a classic George Carlin routine or stay up late for a Dennis Miller rerun, but Eddie Izzard is the only stand-up that I feel I need to actually possess for its originality and quirkiness. An unusual, but funny, blend of Robin Williams, Monty Python, and a well-written Social Studies textbook, Eddie Izzard reaches into an entirely different bag of inspiration for his material and in the process provides a new perspective on comedy. I highly recommend.