Eddie Izzard: Glorious Review
Recorded in 1997 at the Hammersmith Apollo, Glorious is a slicker, smoother operation than Eddie’s early stand-up shows. Eddie’s career had started to take-off big-time at this stage eventually achieving an international reputation that is shared by few other British stand-up comedian (possibly only Billy Connolly?) and a successful if modest career in film. Eddie parodies his status and ambition in the spoof documentary Lust for Glorious (included on this DVD), but there are signs in the show that the rougher edges have been smoothed away and that Glorious is a little too slick for its own good.
Following on from the success of the very funny Definite Article shows based around words and their meaning and preceding the Dress To Kill shows based very loosely around historical themes, Glorious is built around a theme of religion – very, very loosely. The overarching theme however certainly doesn’t restrict Eddie’s material here, encompassing such subjects as the X-Files and The Siege of Troy and computers. The show is structured therefore into three sections – The Old Testament in the first half, The New Testament after the break, and Revelations for his encore.
The Old Testament section stars Eddie Izzard regulars James Mason as God – reprising his divine role from Definite Article (and could you really imagine God sounding like anyone but James Mason now?) – and Sean Connery as Noah, with a cameo re-appearance from Eddie’s clarinet teacher, Mrs Badcrumble, to appeal to fans. The material soon strays from examination of the absurdities of the Great Flood (all the evil fish and aquatic animals would have escaped and not needed an Ark), through the Grim Reaper and old ladies who never die (slight connection to religion in Death), taxidermy (tenuous link now), through to the Royal family and the Siege of Troy (he doesn’t even mention the roles of the gods in the war) – which offers the funny image of Eddie miming Achilles with his foot encased in concrete, wheeling after the Trojans with his sword flailing.
The New Testament abandons its attempts to adhere to its theme very soon after a discussion of what constitutes a miracle to qualify for sainthood (“pick a card”). The show runs along quite smoothly, but coming at the end of a long tour there is a feeling here that the show that has been over-rehearsed and repeated and is no longer fresh for the performer. It could also be down to the fact that this was at the time the biggest venue ever used for such a show, but it shouldn’t matter as Eddie’s material doesn’t rely on audience participation or reaction as much as other performers. Eddie Izzard moreover doesn’t sit down and write new shows as much as let them evolve, reprising and revisiting old routines as appropriate. All of the material in Glorious is all-new in that it doesn’t repeat material from any of the previously recorded shows (Unrepeatable, Definite Article), despite possible connections such as Eddie’s querying of the rather English-sounding names of the authors of the New Testament in Unrepeatable. This kind of material does often cross over into live shows, so it is possible that the recorded show is edited down to only include fresh material. Possibly. I don’t know. I’m just trying to find some reason to explain why the Glorious show lacks spontaneity and playfulness and falls well short of the hilarity of the routines in Definite Article and Dress To Kill.
Where Glorious is successful is in the simple absurd-observational routines and mimes that Eddie is most famous for. Some of the funniest material for me consequently is in the routines on working a toaster, impersonating the likes of a stuffed rat filled with all the sand in the Gobi desert and, in the encore Revelations section, on the problems with getting a computer to print. Simple stuff, but done as only Eddie Izzard can do, tottering around on high heels in a shiny Jean-Paul Gaultier suit.
The Glorious show is presented in 1.85:1 non-anamorphic letterbox, which is disappointing. Being rather low-lit with blue and red colour stage lighting, the image also shows a lot of grain and not a lot of detail. Marks and scratches are visible on occasions, but infrequently. There are lots of digital artefacts, blocking and shimmering. The quality is quite poor and is little better than VHS quality (if not worse), but then again this is not a film where the picture quality is all-important and it’s therefore reasonably adequate for a stand-up show recorded on video. It could certainly look better though. The audio, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 is similarly average – stage-microphone sounding, but generally clear and audible. The DVD is encoded for Regions 2, 3, 4 and 5.
Lust For Glorious (27:03)
'Lust for Glorious' is the making of a promo clip to break Eddie Izzard into the American market. It’s kind of a spoof of a spoof and it’s consequently hit and miss. The whole PR/Management team spoof is rather tired, but Eddie’s improvising around a French village where he was supposed to have been born (“I got my head stuck in there as a kid”) is hilarious. Presented in 1.85:1 letterbox, the picture quality is very good and even clips from the Hammersmith shows look better here than on the main feature.
Again, as with Unrepeatable there is an option to have all the swearing bleeped-out should you be feeling a bit sensitive to excessive bad language.
Eddie Izzard provides a 2004 commentary track for the show and discusses using a radio microphone on stage, how some mimes are harder to do than others and how to get out of jokes that fail. It’s a reasonable commentary, but hardly anything essential and not particularly funny. Eddie doesn’t remember most of the material here, which leads to him watching the show more than talking about it. I found myself also focussing on the funnier material in the show and mentally blocking out the commentary track. There is also a commentary track on 'Lust For Glorious' so look out for that.
Again, a trivia track displayed as subtitles throughout the show provides factual background information on the topics discussed. Why?
Subtitling is provided for a full range of languages, including English for Hard of Hearing, which copes well with Eddie’s unusual delivery.
Writing a review about comedy is a bit of a pointless exercise, particularly when trying to convey Eddie Izzard’s style of comedy which has to be seen acted out. There are better DVD releases of his shows out there – Dress To Kill and Definite Article (which includes the superb documentary about Eddie’s stand-up shows in France – ‘Je Suis A Stand-up’) are personal favourites – and Glorious has its moments when you think it pretty clever and funny, but it fails to connect with many real laugh-out loud moments. At least for me. The DVD is only adequately well-presented, including all the extra material you would want for the show, but lacking the transfer that would make this worth repurchasing on DVD.