It is surprising that so many people are unfamiliar with one of the funniest comedians working today- Eddie Izzard. Although Eddie Izzard has had notable roles in such films as "Mystery Men," "Shadow of the Vampire," "Velvet Goldmine" and "Cat's Meow" the familiarity with his stand-up comedy genius has been limited to those fortunate enough to see his live tours and those who have seen his HBO special "Dress to (a slightly abbreviated version of this "Dress to Kill" show. To the dismay of those of us hoping to get tickets to his upcoming 2003 U.S. Tour, the release of "Dress to Kill," along with Izzard's other concert videos, on DVD may increase both Izzard's exposure and his popularity. "Dress to Kill" is nearly two hours of standup - and rarely, if ever, misses its mark. This is a DVD that is definitely worth watching.
People unfamiliar with Eddie Izzard's material will be surprised and impressed how simultaneously funny and intelligent Eddie Izzard is. Although the "Dress to Kill" show was recorded in 1998, over 95% of the material is still uproariously funny today. Although Izzard is most frequently distinguished from other comedians as the "Transvestite Comedian," (Izzard is a transvestite and talks extensively about this fact in his act) he is perhaps more appropriately distinguished as one of few comedians who never seems to resort to the lowest common denominator to find his humor and make the audience laugh. Rather, Izzard relies on history, pop-culture, religion, puberty, and french for the sources of his humor and seems both well-versed and funny on each topic.
One of the most impressive aspects of Eddie Izzard's stand-up performance is the wealth of topics covered intelligently, including the murderous tendencies of Pol Pot, Stalin and Hitler, the endearing noble qualities of Shaggy and Scooby Doo, the formation of a melting pot in the European Union, the arrival at Plymouth Rock, the formation of Stonehenge, and the advancing of the British Empire through the cunning use of flags. Perhaps the funniest of topics covered in "Dress to Kill":is religion, as Eddie discusses the origins and policies of the Church of England (the Church of England inquisition - "Cake or Death!" is hilarious), the origin of religious traditions like Christmas trees and Easter eggs, and the painting of "The Last Supper" ("Look, we can't all do the big arms thing!").
Izzard's performance in "Dress to Kill" makes clear that he is not afraid to take chances. For instance, it should be noted that during the encore, Eddie revisits portions of his act and even portions of the plot of "Speed" - in French. He also goes through an entire piece on whether or not Engelbert Humperdinck is actually alive or dead that is largely incapable of description and has to be seen, and posits his theory on why rather than "God Save the Queen," people should sing "God Attack the Queen." Throughout the show, Eddie Izzard's many talents shine through. He has a gift for physical comedy, he has a quick wit and a wealth of knowledge. These talents combine to create a wonderfully entertaining performance.
"Dress to Kill" is presented in full screen pan and scan presentation. In his commentary track, Eddie Izzared addresses the fact that it is not in widescreen and points out that because it is a one-man stand-up comedy show, it wouldn't make much difference to have it presented in widescreen, but suggests that it be presented in tallscreen, with black bars on the sides. Although the picture is at times a bit less sharp that at others, 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 do not play a part in this DVD, every word of Eddie's stand-up performance is clear.
Although the stand up performance is absolutely the centerpiece for this DVD, the extras are definitely enjoyable. The bonus materials include a feature-length audio commentary, a short homage to Ken Burns showing photos from Eddie's tour through New York and San Francisco, and the "Dress to Circle" performance, a show performed by Eddie in Paris between the "Dress to Kill" tour and Eddie's follow-up, the "Circle" tour, (which will hopefully be released in the United States soon).
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, even when he confesses to being a bit tired of performing certain parts. This honesty is rather enjoyable and provides a tremendous insight into what life as a stand-up comic is really like. In addition, Izzard speaks a bit about his being a transvestite and people's reaction and perceptions (for instance people's expectations as to how he should be dressed during performances).
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). Although those not fluent in French will be at a loss from this bonus feature, the commentary is enjoyable.
Eddie Izzard is definitely one of the funniest comedians in the business today. "Dress to Kill" is filled with hilarious, intelligent, commentary on British Imperialism, John F. Kennedy, growing up as a transvestite, the difference between "executive transvestites" and "weirdo transvestites" and religion. "Dress to Kill" easily stands toe to toe with such classic comedy performances as "Eddie Murphy- Delirious" and Richard Pryor- Live on the Sunset Strip. It is that funny. The "Dress to Kill" show is filled with highlights and phrases that still seem funny on the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth viewing. This is definitely a DVD worth owning and is one that will not simply sit on the shelf but will make its way back to the DVD player again and again.