Saturday, June 21, 2008

Disappointed by Eddie

I do not like to go out at night, in general. Maybe to a cozy friend's house, or to my family, but most evenings I would much rather stay home, especially when I have been home for an hour or more, and have to get up and go back out. There are exceptions of course, and last night was one of them - I had tickets to see Eddie Izzard live at the Ryman.

I loooooove Eddie Izzard. I have watched or listened to everything he's ever done (stand-up), and seen most of his movies. I think he's brilliant. He's the only comedian I know to have figured out how to combine history so effectively with comedy.

The place was packed; at one point the audience started chanting "Cake or Death"; they obviously knew his material by heart. When he came out, it was the loudest audience response I have ever heard. The poor man could hardly speak for the screams of delight, and got into the habit of regularly shushing us whenever we would cheer for a particular line, just so he could get through his material. He performed without intermission for almost 2 hours straight, which has GOT to be exhausting, and my face got tired from smiling and laughing.


I don't begin to be able to articulate my disappointment in what he obviously thought of us. There's usually some kind of overarching theme throughout one of his shows, and tonight, it appeared to be Why Religion is Stupid, and I'm Here to Straighten You Out. He's touched on his dissatisfaction with the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of organized religion for years now, so it wasn't unfamiliar... but last night, I felt like he was on a mission to disabuse us of our blinkered and illogical devotion to God. It felt like he had tailored his show specifically to this Bible-Belt audience to correct us in our irrational habits. Every 5 minutes or so, he'd take a step back and make a little disclaimer about how there WERE things he admired about religion, like the sense of community and whatnot... but then he'd jump right back into mocking various stories in the Bible, the proliferation of gods throughout world history, the fact that some don't believe in evolution, etc. It felt like he took every single stereotype of Southern Christian culture as true across the board, and riffed on how foolish it was off and on for 2 hours.

I am NOT hypersensitive to this in general. I am used to it in almost every form of entertainment media I can think of, and I often agree. But I paid $59 for a ticket to have a good time laughing, and I came out of there feeling a little depressed, as thought I'd been gently scolded for more than an hour. Even my friend A. M. who went with me, and who generally shares his same opinions on religion and Middle American (and particularly Southern) culture said that she felt "patronized," as though he had come on a mission to try and fix us. I don't mind stand-up shows that use comedy to teach certain principles, such as Rob Becker's Defending the Caveman... but Eddie doesn't do that in general, so to have him try and correct what he thinks is wrong with American culture in his show here in the Bible Belt really made me feel disappointed, and for the first time in a long time, defensive.

I don't generally feel offended by that sort of thing; when it's addressed to an audience in San Francisco, and I watch it on a TV screen, it's not directed at me. But this WAS directed at me, and as I think of the supportive, genuine people at my church who help take care of each other so well, of the kind-hearted, generous, open-hearted relatives I have in Georgia who would do anything for a stranger, I was hurt. Because Eddie obviously thought they - we - were foolish and misguided.

AND YET, he was a little bit hypocritical himself, last night... despite gently mocking the religious culture we live in, he dressed down for the occasion - he wore jeans, boots, and cutaway coat - and barely any makeup. I have NEVER seen him wear jeans in one of his shows; he doesn't wear dresses, but he'll wear really gorgeous silks and brocades in beautifully cut suits, loads of makeup, nail polish, etc. But last night, he dressed for a Nashville audience. Perhaps it was meant as a sign of respect for what he perceives as a more conservative crowd, but I suspected that it was more of a "don't scare the crackers" choice.

The ridiculous thing is that, for the most part, he was preaching to the choir last night! The audience was made up of the most liberal-minded elements of Nashville society, with a huge majority agreeing with pretty much every word out of his mouth. So it was a wasted effort - I would venture to guess that 75% or more of that crowd would be voting Democrat this November anyway.


Gari said...

From what I've been reading about the "Stripped" tour, he seems to be on a "transvestite hiatus" at the moment, and what he wore is what he's wearing at all the shows, so I don't believe he was singling your area's show out for dressing down, so to speak. From what I've read in some of his interviews, it seems like he goes through phases in how he dresses, and has been mostly in "bloke mode" for awhile now. That's cool- I think he's a babe with facial hair!!

I get the impression that his shows have a lot of his version of history, including his views on religion, which is a big part of history and the cause of many wars and such. I guess it was important to him to get those views out there this time. There have been so many reviews and blogs about this show, that I guess you didn't read many of them to know ahead of time that his views on religion were a big part of the show this time around. I can see why some people don't want to read the "spoilers" about the shows, but at least you would have had the heads up on the subject matter. I guess you wanted to be surprised--I can't blame you for that.

No matter, I think Eddie is one funny cat, and every show is going to be a bit different, and some will go over much better than others, so I'm sorry to hear that some of it was a downer for you, as a fan of his. It sounds like "Dress to Kill" is still a lot of people's favorite show, ever. There are so many good reviews and blogs about STRIPPED. Maybe when it comes out on DVD one of these years, you could check it out and see if he refined the show a bit by the time he films it. I hear that every show was a little different. I've read maybe one other blog that had some disappointment with the religious aspect of the show, so you're not alone. I wish I could've seen the show live, but hope to get the DVD. Maybe next time...

Susania said...

I am suitably cowed. It never occurred to me to check and see if this was the same material/attire for everyone! But it's still somewhat patronizing; it still feels like he thinks Americans and their beliefs are ill-founded...

Katherine said...

I was going to come and also say that he is wearing the jeans, blazer and shirt for all the shows as well but Gari eloquently pointed that out.

And I am not here to flame in anyway. But I happen to agree with Izzard and many other about Religion and the US.

Listen I go to church every weekend, but I do not use religion in my politics...I hold to the original goals of this country that religion is supposed to be personal...not evangelized...and it is NOT supposed to influence our laws and policies. But unfortunately for the rest of the world that is not how it has evolved from our initial founding goals. I mean I find it fascinating how we desparately want these countries in the middle east to become democracies and remove their militant religious leaders from running their countries...and yet we here in our own country could not dream of letting someone become President if they do ot show they go to church every Sunday and who their Minister/Priest/Preacher's are and what they say becomes part of the political process.

So but to end on an up note. Eddie is amazing in a dress, in a pant, on a boat or on a float!

Thanks for your blog and taking the time to contribute to the community at large.

Gari said...

Oh, Susania, I wasn't trying to trash your views in any way, I promise. I'm just saying I've read a lot of stuff about this show and wanted you to know about him being in bloke mode in all the shows, and religion being a big part of the shows every place he has played so far.

I get the Google alerts on Eddie and I've read so many reviews about that show and for the most part, it seems to be going over really well, and some bloggers have said they didn't necessarily agree with the religion part of it, but it made them laugh any way. I guess his delivery of the subject matter is hard not to laugh at, in some cases, even if it's not an agreeable subject matter for some. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on that, of course. If it had been me, and I didn't agree with some aspect of his show, I might have felt the same way, who knows.

I kind of like him in bloke mode best, but have read that a lot of folks miss the way he dressed in his other shows. I've mostly seen him on talk shows and on The Riches, so I suppose that is the way I'm used to seeing him. I did see some of the older shows on BBC America and after awhile, you don't even think about the outfits so much, just the humor. He does have a wicked sense of humor that I really enjoy!

You are so lucky to have been able to see Eddie live, and I wish that one aspect had not messed it up for you. Other than that, was it a pretty good laugh??? Eddie played three shows in Austin, but I just couldn't afford it. I'm looking forward to the DVD. Who knows how different that will be, by the time it gets filmed. The show could go through a lot of changes before then. I've read that he uses some jokes in some places, and maybe something a little different elsewhere. I guess we'll find out...

Susania said...

I am so appreciative of the kind comments made by both Katherine and Gari; this is the sort of rational discussion that I pine for in media and among individuals! Let me clarify a few things...

I laughed A LOT at his show. Eddie is Eddie; he's funny just walking across the stage. His pantomime bits get better and better as the years pass. So the show wasn't awful! I laughed and smiled so much that my face hurt afterwards - good stuff.

And yes, I prefer Eddie in bloke mode; I do recollect him saying in an interview a few years back that he was less and less inclined to "tart up" because it took so much work; he was getting lazy about it as he ages.

As to the religion issue again... it's a fine (and picky) line for me. I get so upset by those conservatives and fundamentalists who can't have ANY fun made of religion, and throw a hissy fit over anything in the media they have decided is offensive. There is plenty to mock in religion; flawed humans interpreting God's commands in a flawed and sinful way pretty much guarantees that religion in general is a long series of mistakes. I hate being called "religious".

But to tar all believers with the same brush... that's not fair. I strongly believe in the separation of church and state, and the particularly American hypocrisy of claiming Christ while behaving in such an immoral way in politics outrages me more than I can say. The sense I have gotten from Eddie over the years is that he thinks religion is stupid, except for things like the Golden Rule, Gandhi, and the warm-fuzzy eachings of Jesus. He cannot seem to believe that rational individuals could have logic and experience at the core of their faith.

I'm not saying I was offended that he chose to make religion a key topic of his show (for example, I love "Life of Brian," which does an amazing job of showing the hypocrisies of religion); I was hurt that he SEEMS to think that people who believe in God are foolish for doing so, and he's lumping us all together.

Since my initial post, I've spoken with another broad-minded friend who was at the show, and has every DVD of his as well - and she used the word "disappointed" too. This person that you admire and respect and enjoy and memorize finally comes to your town, and he makes you laugh really hard... but he also makes you feel like you're a bit of a thickie for believing in God. It's hard when a hero disses you.

Gari said...

You know, I get the feeling that Eddie's ideas about religion were influenced by the early loss of his mother. Some older interviews I've read gave me that impression. Unless you have a painful loss like that at such an early age, I think it's hard to imagine how that would affect one's views on God and religion. I cut him a little slack on that subject for that reason, but that's just my take on it.

I'm betting it IS harder to get tarted up as you get older, and could be he doesn't like the way it looks as he gets older??? The pictures I've seen of him in "Stripped" mode, with a bit of eyeliner, looks rock 'n roll, as he has said in interviews. I think he is so much more masculine looking as he ages, that it's hard to carry off the TV look, even if he still feels the same about it, as some of his comments on the Q&As I've watched indicate. He says it's part of his DNA or in his genes. I wonder if it will come out again in his future shows...I'm voting no, because I think he looks hot like he is now, as I've said in an earlier posting!

I'm glad to hear that the show was mostly enjoyable, though! A lot of the bloggers said their faces and stomachs were sore from laughing so hard! I hope to have that experience some day, for sure.