Day 1 of Just for Laughs Montreal’s English shows. I scarf down a bowl of soup at 9:30pm. Haven’t eaten since lunch at 2:00pm. That’s what happens when you go to a show straight from work. By the end of the month, I probably won’t have even one meal a day any more, but I’ve gone pretty hardcore during festivals before, and it’s always worth it.
Tonight I saw Eddie Izzard live for the first time. Going in, I believed that Eddie Izzard was one of the best living stand-ups on the planet. The man is extraordinary. He’s phenomenally intelligent, and his performance skills are surpassed by virtually no one. Plus he’s damned funny. Now was my first chance to see him perform live.
The scene: the Gesù theatre (which is also a church…) in Montreal, in sight of Place des Arts (like virtually all the venues). The theatre only seats 425 people (general admission) and tonight was sold out. Eddie said it was to keep him humble. It’s quite a modern theatre, with weird seats that change position when you sit on them. The ‘Just for Laughs’ logo shone in white on one wall, and the stage was lit a moody green and blue. As soon as the lights started going down, the crowd started to clap and cheer… before Eddie had even walked onto the stage!
The audience remained receptive throughout the evening, laughing often and clapping as well (which I find weird, but they calmed down after the first few funnies). These were clearly Eddie fans: familiar with his past material and his comedic style, and smart enough to get the many and varied references he threw at us.
The show started at 7:00pm, with a short intermission around 8:00pm, and finished just before 9:00pm (he went on to do the same show in French immediately afterwards!). Eddie is such a skilled improviser that it was hard to tell what was prepared material and what was truly a tangent. Regardless, watching him play with his own mind is never less than a delight.
As expected, his mime skills were well on display – and Montreal got in trouble a couple of times for buying into his mimes a little too thoroughly! – and the show was high on energy. It was also high on religious references, scattered throughout the show without much form. That being said, Eddie is a master of the casual throwback, a skill which many lesser comedians often attempt with little success (it’s very impressive when done right, but often feels too rehearsed), and he drew numerous lines of thought all the way through his two hour set.
The second half being shorter than the first, the audience only wanted more, and showed their appreciation with a standing ovation. May tomorrow and Wednesday’s crowds feel the same!