April 9th, 2012, 9:53 am · · posted by BEN WENER, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Overheard Saturday night in the men’s room near the main gate at Gibson Amphitheatre:
“That midget was hilarious,” said one 20-something.
“Yeah, man – way funnier than that British dude,” said another.
Back to the first, letting out a groan: “That was like sitting through history class.”
Poor Eddie Izzard. I know comedians of his caliber – or that of the other exceedingly funny guys in the mix forKevin & Bean’s fourth annual April Foolishness charity cavalcade at the Universal CityWalk venue – are supposed to be accustomed to rough nights and tough crowds.
But how it must have felt for the beloved Englishman to have made history at the Hollywood Bowl less than nine months earlier, when he became the first stand-up comic to ever headline that landmark, and yet come away from this Gibson gig having turned in one of the least memorable sets of the entire three-hour-plus event.
It wasn’t that he was particularly bad or off this time; actually, I thought his bit about iTunes – how most of us sign away who-knows-what every time we blithely agree to the service’s maddeningly revised terms and conditions – went over better here than it did at the Bowl. (“I don’t know about you but I’ve signed 4,521 agreements with iTunes. No one in this room, in Los Angeles, in California, in America, in the world … not even God has read the terms and conditions,” remarked the confirmed atheist.)
His joke about pop-up windows offering ever-shifting download times – “eight minutes, seven minutes, six minutes, five minutes … nine minutes, 12 minutes, two hours, three days” – that got a hearty laugh, too, as did his line that the title of Hitler’s manifesto, Mein Kampf, translates to “I’m Going to Kill Everyone.”
Yet, despite how much he may pepper his sometimes rambling monologues with endearing silliness (his dinosaur voices crack me up), Izzard is at heart a cerebral comic with a manic streak who prefers to free-form it on stage, rather than stick too closely to his own script.
That goes over smashingly with his own fans, many of whom (clad in Cake or Death T-shirts, after one of his best bits) waited patiently for his arrival and lapped up every last brain dropping. The majority of the capacity crowd, however, had just sat through nearly three hours of much more crudely, absurdly hilarious humor, which hit an early peak with a flawless performance from Fullerton’s own Brad Williams (the midget in question) and a riotous turn from another Brit, Tim Minchin, who looks like a blond Robert Smith but crafts remarkably clever and complex piano ditties that skewer PC notions of race, bigotry and misogyny.
Chase that with saucy sex talk from Eddie Ifft and some jaw-dropping, no-way-he-just-said-that zingers from Australian sensation Jim Jefferies – and Izzard suddenly seemed very out of place and a tad stodgy.
His critiques on the cumbersomeness of Latin and the illogic of grand-design creationism – that God planned for “nothing, nothing, nothing … monsters for 165 million years … nothing, nothing, nothing … then us” – are spot-on, even scathing. But such drawn-out explanations – along with random thoughts like “Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin lived two letters away on Dictionary Lane and Alphabet Street with Prince and Machiavelli” – simply sailed over too many heads, or just didn’t tickle any funny bones of people who were more or less laughed out.
“It’s very good that you’re keeping up with this at this time of night,” he acknowledged at one point, sounding resigned to reaching at best half the room. Plenty of people peeled off and went home – and why not? They’d already gotten their money’s worth.
The smallest player unquestionably killed. Remarked Jay Mohr, curiously resembling a young Stephen Stills this night: “After Brad Williams, we’re all playing for second place.” True, he’s got go-to material, given his stature, but he easily could bluster through his bits with all the grace of Joe Rogan on speed. Instead, he’s deftly self-deprecating about life among the little people: “I’m 28 … but when people come to my show, they don’t think I’m 28, they think, ‘Ooooh, puppy!’
“You’re always happy when you see a midget. You don’t see a midget and think, ‘Well, now my day’s gone to hell.’ They should be giving midgets to cancer patients,” he figures, to cheer them up. They’d work great in anti-terrorism missions as well. Call it Operation Willow Drop: “We don’t drop bombs, we drop dwarves.”
More O.C. music:
- The Devious Means put out new EP
- Midnight Hour goes slow and steady
- The Blank Tapes’ Matt Adams comes home
- Young the Giant wins three at OC Music Awards
- Lee Rocker’s fast train to rock’s roots
- Bleeding Through stays the course
- Orange Pop: Suedehead prepares for Coachella
- Death by Stereo prepares ‘Black Sheep’