Eddie Izzard is back. Presently engaged in a new tour called "Sexie," surely to see the light of day on DVD in the not too distant future, Izzard has just released a live concert DVD for his last U.S. tour, "Circle." Like "Dress to Kill," Izzard's prior released concert DVD, Circle demonstrates Izzard's great knowledge of history, his insights into popular culture and his largely unaparalleled ability to make people laugh. Although Izzard may never be able to top the inspired brilliance of Dress to Kill (perhaps it was because he took a lot of people by surprise with Dress to Kill), This DVD is definitely worth watching and makes a nice addition to any Eddie Izzard fan's collection.
"Circle" contains an eighty-minute live performance by Izzard from June, 2000. For those not familiar with Eddie Izzard, he is a british comic who is also a transvestite. His brand of comedy is not the straight joke variety but is rather rapid fire observational humor, jumping from topic to topic and managing to come back and tie everything together. The topics he chooses vary tremendously and include religion, history, the big bang theory, dinosaurs, seals and dolphins and their seeming innate ability to play with balls (asking if perhaps Tigers might actually be good with banjos?), mad cow disease and the Irish / IRA ceasefire. His insights are both erudite and funny and it is hard to watch the show without laughing. A lot.
Particularly amusing are Izzard's discussion and musings with respect to monkeys who use sign language, the Spanish Inquisition, the sounds of the Whales, the cafeteria on the Death Star in Star Wars, and the role of Jesus in comparative religions, to name a few. Also impressive is what is not in Circle - old material. Although Izzard uses a couple familiar accents, he generally does not revisit any of his old material. This makes the fact that he is consistently funny in this show even more impressive.
Although Izzard, in the audio commentary track credits the inspiration for his performances to Billy Connelly and Richard Prior, his comedic talents are truly unique. Izzard has a keen gift of being able to jump from topic to topic, weaving them together and then coming back to the original topic. A good example of this is his discussion of monkeys and Charlton Heston who, Izzard points out, knows a thing or two about Monkeys. Izzard takes Heston's NRA theory that "guns don't kill people, people kill people" and instead suggests that instead the slogan should be "Guns don't kill people, people kill people, but monkeys do too (if they've got a gun).." Izzard then portrays monkeys with guns in their hands and suggests that to be fair, we should teach them to reload. Izzard suggests, however, that we shouldn't train them too much, mimicking an FBI Agent, breaking down the door, pointing an imaginary gun at people, "have you got bananas? Have you got bananas?" and finally suggests that the monkeys with guns should be released in Charlton Heston's house. (This performance, recorded in June, 2000 predated the now-famous release of Michael Moore in Heston's house documented by "Bowling for Columbine."). Also, once again, his discussions of religious topics are entertaining and intelligent and a highlight of his routine, from his observation to the fact that if man is made in the image of God, then dinosaurs must have been made in the image of his cousin Ted, and portraying the meek, waiting to inherit the earth. .
Perhaps emboldened by the success of his "Dress to Kill" Tour in America and his Emmy-winning show from that tour, Izzard also begins to poke a bit more fun at the United States. In one notable portion of the show, Izzard shifts gears to talk about the World Series and points out that, "Hmmm, it's the World Series and you've managed to win it every year." Izzard next launches into an entertaining rant on the organ music used at baseball games. Izzard has also taken great pains to make sure that the Circle DVD is more than just a recording of one of his shows. Izzard has included a flashy, special effects laden introduction that shows him getting transformed into the Executive Transvestite (or perhaps just "Vestite" in light of the new millennium). These talents combine to create a wonderfully entertaining performance.
Like "Dress to Kill," "Circle" is presented in full screen pan and scan presentation. The picture quality is consistently strong and appears a bit more sharp than "Dress to Kill." All in All, the picture quality is more than sufficient for viewing purposes.
The DVD is presented in Dolby 2.0 digital surround sound. While sound effects and music only play a part at the very beginning of the DVD, Eddie's stand-up performance is consistently clear. It should be noted, however, that those not yet initiated to the world (and accent) of Eddie Izzard, may find it initially a bit difficult to understand his every word. After a few minutes, however, it does become easier.
Although the stand up performance is absolutely the centerpiece for this DVD, the extras are worth watching (at least) once and are enjoyable. The bonus materials include a feature-length audio commentary by Izzard, a documentary on the tour, showing Eddie Izzard interacting with fans after his show, dealing with a microphone / PA meltdown on stage and off, showing Eddie appearing a bit inebriated at a wrap party for the tour, and funny enough, being pulled over by a cop in Los Angeles. In addition, the Circle DVD features a "Trivia Track" feature in the "VH-1 Pop-Up Video" format. Finally, the Circle DVD contains the "Dress to Circle" performance, a show performed by Eddie in Paris between the "Dress to Kill" tour and the "Circle" tour, (which is entirely in french and was attached to the Dress to Kill DVD).
The Trivia track provides the audience another dimension of Izzard's tangential jumping from topic to topic, as a short routine on the Pope and his Popemobile and the fact that the only other individual with such a personalized car was Batman, the pop-up trivia track expounds on the origin and use of the batmobile used in the Batman television show. Although the trivia track occasionally disappears for a while, it is an entertaining feature and worth watching once, even if it is not the type of feature one would watch over and over.
Once again, the audio commentary track by Izzard is quite an informative look into both the evolution of Eddie's comedy routine and his thoughts about the material he is performing. Izzard pays tribute to his inspirations, Billy Connelly and Richard Prior and talks about the ways in which they influenced his act. He also discusses his theory about the evolution of a comedy routine and how he views each performance he gives. He talks about his inspirations for particular segments and how they developed and finally, discusses his reluctance to "dumb down" the material and desire to try to challenge audiences. It is entertaining and refreshing to here his honesty in saying "This is stupid- not terribly funny this bit, but I liked it."
The "Dress to Circle" performance is a curious extra, in that the performance, from Paris, is entirely in French. Thankfully, Izzard offers a commentary track (though not a translation), relaying his experiences learning a bit more French on the go, sometimes from the audience, performing in a foreign country, and developing his material. (He also talks about the disappointed English fans who came to see him in Paris but didn't speak French). Althought the show is in French there are English subtitles (but no English Audio Option).
Although those avid Eddie Izzard fans that expect "Circle" to rival "Dress to Kill" may be a bit disappointed, Circle is definitely worth purchasing. Like "Dress to Kill," it stands the test of time (having been recorded three years ago) and is quite enjoyable, even after a second or third viewing.