Reveling in the rambling genius of Eddie Izzard

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British comedian Eddie Izzard’s Force Majeure comedy tour, which will encompass more than two dozen countires in more than two years, made three Bay Area stops: Santa Rosa, San Francisco and San Jose. Photos by Andy Hollingworth

Eddie Izzard was back in town this week with his Force Majeure tour. His San Francisco stop at the Golden Gate Theatre offered congratulations to audience members for being the smartest audiences in town (because they were there, naturally), and allowed fans the opportunity to offer depthless adoration to Izzard, the queenly king of the non-sequitur.

I reviewed Force Majeure for the San Francisco Chronicle.

You don’t go to an Izzard show for jokes you get to re-tell at work the next day. An Izzard ramble can begin with Oliver Cromwell, jog over to humanity going backward (“Take note, Tea Party,” Izzard said. “Here we are marching backward for Jesus.”), dive into the Emperor Constantine streamlining the pantheon of gods and end with Buddha, enjoying a delicious Indian meal and telling his followers that every time a gong sounds, a Buddhist angel gets its wings. We know this, he says, from the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life This Time Around.”

Read the full review here.

I also interviewed Izzard prior to his arrival in the Bay Area. Here’s a taste.

If Izzard is sounding like an optimist, there’s a reason. In five years, he’s going to do his part in making the world a better place by going into politics. He remains resolute in his decision to run for mayor of London or become a member of Parliament in 2020.
“I’m inspired by Sen. Al Franken,” Izzard says, referring to the comedian turned Democratic senator from Minnesota. “He initially won by something like 312 votes and six years later by 200,000 votes. He’s a workhorse, not a show horse. He has been good for his state, good for his country.”
In the most recent British election, Izzard campaigned in 62 constituencies for the Labour Party, but the election did not go his way. “It’s not good to be on the wrong side of that,” he says. “But you have to learn from whatever happens, however people vote. I know I’m trying to do a good job on my end.”

Read the full interview here.
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Eddie Izzard’s Force Majeure continues through June 20 at the Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., San Francisco. Tickets are $61-$94, subject to change. Call 888-746-1799 or visit Monday-Tuesday, June 22-23 at the California Theatre, 345 S. First St., San Jose. Tickets are $47.50-$69. Call 800-745-3000 or visit

Review: `Billy Connolly Live!’

Opened April 2, 2008 at the Post Street Theatre, San Francisco

Connolly unbound: Comedy sets Scot free
3 1/2 stars — Big, bulky laughs

Billy Connolly must tell you something. He simply must.

The Scottish comedian, best known for replacing Howard Hesseman on the sitcom “Head of the Class” or starring (quite admirably) opposite Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown, is a stand-up legend in Britain and Europe, where he sells out arenas.

In the more intimate confines of the Post Street Theatre, he’s adorable (it’s the accent) but with edge (it’s the material and his love of a certain four-letter word beginning with f and ending with uck). The 65-year-old’s exuberance and energy is unflagging for two nonstop hours, and once your ears adjust to the Scottish brogue, he’ll keep your energy zooming right along with him.

Connolly reminds me a little of Robin Williams in that his comedy seems to come from his very core, and that core is a little manic, hence the constant running up to the edge of the stage with, “Oh, I must tell you this!” There doesn’t seem to be a lot of writing or shaping to this material — it feels genuinely part of Connolly himself and not part of some well-thought-out joke machine. There’s a lot of improv going on, some of it quite physical. All of it very funny. He’s also got a little Eddie Izzard vibe in that he riffs on curious things, both personal and cultural, and then weaves them into the evening.

On opening night, he began with thoughts on the movie Rob Roy and what “shite” it is because Rob, though portrayed as a hero on film, was a “thief and an asshole.” Then he explained that he loves cursing, especially through the use of the aforementioned f-word. “I may sally into the area of c—,” he added, noting that in his native land, that c-word, so dreaded here, is no big deal.

For the next couple hours, Connolly rambled most marvelously about things as varied as: the balaklava his Auntie Agnes knitted him; a one-eyed man’s puce Porsche; sneezing with your eyes open; evolving air quotes into other air punctuation (my favorite bit of the night); terrorism in Glasgow (“Imagine bringing terror to Glasgow! We love it!”); his father’s many strokes; shagging a lady dwarf (that was one of the evening’s more interesting side roads); and pranks — or “frights” as he called hem — that he and his fellow band members inflicted on members of society.

We learned a few things about Connolly, like he worked in the shipyards, played drums and is devoted to the elimination of “beige-ism” from the world — a noble pursuit to be sure. But the most important thing we learned about Billy Connolly is that he’s a true original, a comedy voice we haven’t heard and a style that knocks us about a bit and gives us a grand time. Judging from the number of times he cracked himself up, Connolly seems to be having a grand time as well.

I leave you with two of my favorite Connolly-isms: “You couldn’t hit a cow on the ass with a banjo,” and “If you’re on fire, and someone kicks you in the balls, it’s not your day.”

Billy Connollly Live! continues through April 12 at the Post Street Theatre, 450 Post St., San Francisco. Tickets are $50-$55. Call 415-771-6900 or visit or for information.


I need to get the embarrassing details out there here at the start: The first versions of Beatles songs I ever grew to love were – gulp – on the double-album soundtrack of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the 1978 disaster starring Peter Frampton, the Bee Gees, Steve Martin, George Burns, Aerosmith and Earth, Wind & Fire.

Yes, it’s true. I didn’t hear John, Paul, George and Ringo’s “Strawberry Fields” first. I heard Sandy Farina’s. And I loved it.

Eventually I came to my senses (ie, I grew up) and heard the Beatles’ “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and actually enjoyed it more than Steve Martin’s.

Which brings me to my current fascination: the movie musical Across the Universe.

This is a safe space to talk about musicals, of course, but there is some real theater cred at work here in the person of director Julie Taymor, the Tony Award-winning director of Disney’s The Lion King.

In case you don’t know what Across the Universe is, it’s the story of the 1960s, from the carefree early days (the last vestiges of the fabulous ‘50s) to the war-torn, protest-filled, assassination-laden end of the decade. And it’s all told using Beatles songs sung by the actors.

Think of Grease, Hair, Tommy (and even High School Musical comes to mind in a gymnasium scene involving basketballs) and Moulin Rouge and you’ll begin to get Taymor’s fantastical approach.

I loved this movie. I’ve seen it twice and fallen hard for the soundtrack (the complete double-disc version on iTunes rather than the abbreviated single-disc version on store shelves). You either get on board for this and let Taymor and her cohorts dazzle your mind and heart or you just sit there thinking: This is stupid. Give me my Beatles CDs and I’ll just slit my wrists now.

Clearly I was in the former category. It’s hard not to dig a movie that recasts “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” as a lesbian cheerleader’s heart-rending ballad directed to a fellow cheerleader. T.V. Carpio is the actress playing the role, and she’s fabulous.

So is Evan Rachel Wood as Lucy and Jim Sturgess as Jude, the young lovers – she from upper middle-class America, he from lower working-class Liverpool – caught up in the changing tides of the storm-tossed decade. Both sing beautifully (she’s got a sweet vibrato, and he sounds like Ewan MacGregor).

The best scenes are the most theatrical: Sturgess singing “I’ve Just Seen a Face” (a truly fabulous song I didn’t previously know, which gives me renewed interest in exploring the ENTIRE Beatles back catalogue) in a bowling alley. In terms of movie musical bowling alley scenes, it’s much better than “Score Tonight” from Grease 2.

Other highlights include a frat-boyish “With a Little Help from My Friends,” a dynamic “I Want You/She’s So Heavy” with some great dancing and masks (with Taymor, of course there are masks) and a soul-stirring gospel “Let It Be” that takes place during the Detroit riots.

How remarkable is it that this year we’ve had two wildly different, wildly enjoyable movie musicals (the other one being, of course, Hairspray)? Across the Universe certainly isn’t for every taste, but musical lovers – and you know who you are – will eat it up.

And to all those Beatles purists out there who can’t stomach the notion of actors (and Joe Cocker and Bono and Eddie Izzard) covering Beatles songs, I have this to say: I was introduced to the Beatles through a terrible movie, and made my way eventually to the lads from Liverpool. Across the Universe, which is a whole lot better, more intelligent and artistically alive, will lead a whole new generation to discover for themselves why the Beatles are so extraordinary and so phenomenally timeless.

Finally, “Let It Be” is sung, primarily, by Carol Woods, a veteran stage performer who just happens to be the best thing in Blues in the Night, the hit musical revue now at San Francisco’s Post Street Theatre. She’s the best thing in the show, and you shouldn’t miss her.

Here’s the trailer:

There are more clips and sound bytes at the official site here.

Eddie Izzard’s on his way!

One of the funniest evenings I’ve ever spent in a theater was at the Cable Car Theatre in San Francisco for Eddie Izzard’s Dress to Kill (which was later filed at the bigger theater next door, which is now Ruby Skye nightclub).

Since then, Izzard has claimed his place as the world’s funniest men both in his own comedy specials and in movies (some serious). He even won raves on the legit stage with A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. His current gig is on the FX TV series “The Riches.”

Well, Bay Area audiences are lucky because Izzard is coming back to San Francisco to workshop his new show — but here’s the thing: there are only two performances. Izzards will perform at 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5 and Monday, Aug. 6 at the Marines Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St., San Francisco. Tickets are $55. Call (415) 771-6900 or visit Maximum of four tickets per person.

Get ’em while they’re hot.

Here’s a little taste of Eddie doing what he does (and as for how he dresses, he calls the look “action transvestite”):