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Eddie Izzard shows Milwaukee his comedy is as smart as his wardrobe

Eddie Izzard
Photo by Amanda Searle courtesy of Pabst Theater, used with permission

Eddie Izzard Force Majeure Tour

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Yesterday, June 10, English comedian Eddie Izzard made his first of two appearances at Milwaukee's Pabst Theater as part of his international Force Majeure Tour. The stand-up comedy show ran for about two hours, with a 15-miute intermission and concluding Q&A session. The "action transvestite" was warmly welcomed by a full theater of enthusiastic fans and there was rarely a moment that the theater wasn't filled with laughter.

Eddie Izzard has been performing stand-up for the past 32 years, and though this was his first time in Milwaukee, the audience welcomed him with an uproar of applause as he entered wearing a suit and heels with red nail polish and lipstick. The audience didn't miss a beat when punchlines from past tours were mentioned and, though the show consisted entirely of new material, there were several nods to past tours and popular material.

Izzard put on a very smart show, both intellectually and comically. It's rare to find a comedian who can make a clean show accessible from Germany to England to America, all over the globe. In retrospect, it's difficult to remember how he logically transitioned from burrowing moles to human sacrifice to childhood makeup theft stories, but he managed it in a way that didn't jolt, stop or break up the fluidity of the show. While language and history were certainly main themes, it's amazing to think of the range in seemingly unrelated material he covered throughout the course of the night. In this way, the show was smart in that Izzard simply seemed to know a bit about everything.

Variety aside, the show was very smart largely due to Izzard's incredible sense of timing. Whether he was quickly jumping from one idea to another or drawing out the silence for added effect, his mastery of comedic timing was apparent throughout the show. He referenced past jokes in a way that was subtle yet doubled audience reaction. Izzard gave a clean, intellectual show that, while intellectual and focused largely on history, was not limited to history buffs or scholars.

The great thing about an internationally touring show like Force Majeure is seeing what works for a wide and varied audience. Izzard incorporated a range in content and style from physical humor to observational humor to pop culture, so there was something for all tastes. He even incorporated political and religious jokes while still remaining respectful. The only audience members that would possibly find some of Izzard's material offensive are extreme right political parties, or specifically Tea Party members.

Eddie Izzard followed the performance with a Q&A session lasting about twenty minutes. The lobby was soon packed with fans as Izzard not only answered questions, but asked them- clarifying the significance of Pentecost and stopping mid-sentence to be sure audience members were unharmed after a loud noise (from a fallen trash can) disrupted his thought. He answered questions ranging from his identity as a straight transvestite to acting preparation to how he lost 25 pounds by cutting out refined sugar.

Eddie Izzard will appear at the Pabst Theater again tonight, June 11, at 8 p.m. before continuing to Minneapolis. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available online.