Just For Laughs Festival - Eddie Izzard: Stripped
I was able to experience two of my favourite things last night. The first, homemade pulled pork, is not really the point of this article, but it is something I would be remiss not to mention. If you haven't already, you should give it a whirl (there's even a recipe right here!). A good piece of succulent, saucy pork butt is really something to behold; the luscious juices playfully mingling with the savoury pork flesh upon a pillow-like bun...mmm... but I digress. The second favourite thing is good comedy and last night I was fortunate enough to be treated to the comic stylings of a young lad who goes by the name Eddie Izzard. I have a feeling this kid is going places.
Of course, anyone who has paid even the least bit of attention to the world of comedy over the past 15 years knows of Izzard. He's sold out shows around the world, and has recently taken to performing entirely in French. He's arrived to the festival following a string of successful performances in Paris and, last night, performed his 2009 show Stripped in both official languages.
Previous to last night's show, my experience attending opening galas was limited to those at film festivals - fare that has ranged from bland to terrible (I'm still haunted by memories of sitting through at last year's TIFF opener Score: A Hockey Musical). Thankfully, the Just For Laughs festival does not espouse this programming philosophy, choosing to start things with a bang.
Izzard is a dynamic performer. Although I've seen him in video clips online and on DVD, neither accurately conveys his ability to light up a crowd. The comedian has perfected his rambling, shambolic persona; one that frequently makes you wonder if, perhaps, he had a little too much to drink prior to the show. In an intimate venue such as the 425-seat theatre Gesù, his lively and physical humour explodes from the stage, by the end of the night leaving you with the impression that he has just finished telling you jokes from the comfort of your own lap.
Stripped is a tightly constructed set disguised as a somewhat manic free association of topics ranging from the "Terms and Conditions" page of iTunes to Noah's Ark. I won't go into the nitty-gritty of his material, as nothing really destroys comedy more than over-explanation, but I will mention that it showcases Izzard's absurd, Mad Hatter-like sensibility. There was more than one occasion last night, in which I was reminded of Brit legends, Monty Python.
Izzard's Just For Laughs shows are in preparation for an upcoming gig at the Hollywood Bowl, so while we were treated to Stripped in all its glory, we were also able to see the comedian ad lib and test out variations on bits. Most were successful and even those that fell flat were rescued by the comedian's wit and charm. A single glance or quip to the audience turned an awkward reference or a drawn out physical gag into a solid laugh.
And there were plenty of those last night. Even if you don't, in the near future, have the opportunity to experience pulled pork slow dance with your taste buds (its hands slowly dropping lower and lower), you still have a chance to catch Izzard at the height of his powers. Eddie Izzard: Stripped runs for two more days at Gesù (July 12th & 13th) with performances starting at 7:00pm both nights (English only).