Sunday, January 8, 2012

Dress May Kill Now, But What About In Twenty Years?

The Good: Funny, Endures well over multiple viewings, Performance
The Bad: Opening sequence, Anticipation of the future
The Basics: Eddie Izzard's comic observations on everything from World War II history to public singing make for one of the better, more enduring standup routines of our time.

I was introduced to the comedy of Eddie Izzard by a good friend who was in love with his Dress To Kill routine. She had made an audio disc of the performance and played it for me and I was amused. I was informed right then that the actual special was quite a bit better, as Izzard uses facial expressions and body language to enhance his routine. I was hesitant to add something like Dress To Kill to my permanent collection. Why? DVDs still are not terrible cheap (in general) and those that I get, I want to get some good mileage out of them. So, I was somewhat prejudiced against buying the DVD initially, despite enjoying Izzard's humor in this.

Since getting this disc in January, I have already watched it three times. Eddie Izzard is that good. He's funny and this routine is one that he has clearly honed to make one of his best. His sense of timing is masterful, his observations are hilarious and his ability to keep a thread of humor going throughout the performance is impressive.

Dress To Kill is a standup comedy performance, wherein Eddie Izzard makes observations on social issues, history, sex, and culture. His range is pretty impressive, taking the audience on a journey from understanding transvestism (as he is, in fact, an executive transvestite) to discussing the follies of mass murder and genocide to killing Englebert Humperdink to telling all of us about his first sexual experience. He has an impressive ability to engage the viewer on all sorts of levels, while still maintaining his authority as a comic.

Visually, Dress To Kill is dull as any standup. Outside the opening sequence, this is a man on stage, telling jokes. The opening sequence is a trip around San Francisco to Alcatraz, with Izzard narrating the scene. It's also the least funny part of his performance. Once inside the theater, there is Izzard, on stage, going through his jokes.

But the visual aspect of Izzard is part of the performance and an important one at that. My friend was right; some of the jokes hinge on being able to see Izzard's nods to the audience and his body language during his discussion of how national anthems tend to be overly dramatic is brilliant. Seeing Eddie Izzard perform these bits is essential to getting the most out of it. There is quite a bit beyond his words here.

Izzard establishes himself in Dress To Kill as an adept performer. He has clear chemistry with the audience and charisma and that holds over onto the DVD as well. Here he performs and his performance is very much "on." He is interesting and his sense of timing is excellent, never overplaying a joke and always quick to continue when one slips. This is a solid performance.

Is it worth getting for your own permanent collection? If you like standup comedy, I would have to say yes. Much of what Izzard is talking about is more general than dated. So, he gives his historical analysis of World War II and talks about general human traits like the search for sex, things that will endure. While he does make some jokes about things like the Clinton sex scandals, most of his observations are less dated, making this a set likely to hold up for years.

It is worth saying that Izzard's comedy is not based on putting anyone down. While some people like George Carlin have become angry and bitter and made their routine about how scummy humanity is and how horrible he and the audience are, Izzard makes observations but keeps everything upbeat. He doesn't simply pick on any group or person, which is a nice change from many stand-up comedians.

But how will it hold up in a decade or two? I suspect in twenty years, this will be one of those DVDs that gathers more dust on my shelf. I, however, am not big into comedy and the comedy I enjoy most tends to be sketch comedy. If you're a standup fan who enjoyed the late 90s, this is likely to be an excellent DVD for putting you back in the mindsets and feelings of being there. And hey, if you're not as cheap as me, getting twenty years out of a DVD probably seems like a value. If it is, this is a good investment for you.

For other works with Eddie Izzard, please check out my reviews of:
The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Across The Universe


For other movies reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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