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Monday, July 18, 2011

Eddie Izzard Makes Light of Civilization and Religion in Stripped on the Shore

Posted By on Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 3:00 PM

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Saturday night's Stripped on the Shore at Shoreline Amphitheatre a comedy act that's been performed since 2008. But when the comedian is Eddie Izzard, that doesn't mean much. The great British humorist who's known for calmly pacing great expanses of stage during his routines is not known for sticking to a script. And, staying true to another part of his nature, Izzard tackled broad, serious subjects, so he had lots of figurative room to move in addition to the literal.

Against Earth-tone fabric backdrops branded with hieroglyphics, Hebrew, and Arabic, he summarized the history of civilization while also explaining his shift from agnostic to atheist. He built a case on the idea that God does not exist -- or is, at best, a poor planner. He also took more detours than a sane mind can process, making for a dizzyingly funny monologue that didn't come off like an anti-religious sermon.

Stripped was also a show that the incomprehensibly brave and self-proclaimed "transvestite with a career" serves up in full "boy mode," meaning he traded in the shiny glam outfits and heavy lipstick that have characterized past performances to cut a chiseled and manly figure in simple, well-worn outfit of wrinkled jeans and black tails. All he currently retains from a girlier time is a sexy slick of black eyeliner.

Part of the transformation back into boy mode was a longing to take off the teetering stilettos and really get to feel grounded to the stage again, an important change for someone with such elastic physical comedic skill. He looked free and unfettered Saturday as he made good use (as expected) of the large stage.

One of Izzard's many endearing qualities is when he talks to himself, rating how his jokes are doing with the audience. Saturday we learned, for example, that the mention of the Northern England town of Swindon gets laughs all around the world for some reason. Later, when he did a panto of himself and a sheep, ripping off his fleece - eliciting a collective shriek from the audience - he noted, "Shoreline is very susceptible to mimes."

Despite referring to Mountain View as Palo Alto a few times, he kept a strong sense of place, weaving in a thread of tech talk. He playfully juxtaposed Macs and PCs, comparing the latter to a dusty old opera singer. Whenever he had a question he wanted to Google, he wondered aloud if he couldn't just go knock on the office door to ask.

After an hour, Izzard explained that there would be an "interlude" and he'd step off for 12 or 14 minutes, which sped by with the screening of several cute fan-made YouTube videos that capture some of his most beloved classic bits, including one about the world's easiest choice and another about Darth Vader's frustrated lunch adventures.


Later we learned that merchandise booths were selling covet-worthy "Cake or Death" T-shirts and "I'm Jeff Vader" tote bags.

I've been an active attendee of concerts at Shoreline, and it was both refreshing and interesting to see a comedian rather than a mega rock star on stage coming alive in the open air and holding the place in thrall.

Follow us on Twitter @ExhibitionistSF, follow Tamara Palmer @teemoney415, and like us on Facebook.

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Tamara Palmer

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