Published February 16. 2013 12:00PM Updated February 16. 2013 11:13PM
Mashantucket — Anyone who’s ever studied Latin knows it’s a bitch of a language. And the ablative case? What were they thinking?!
Eddie Izzard’s take: that in fact Roman foot soldiers had such a difficult time trying to negotiate the various ablative declensions, in describing the wily efforts of the Punic Carthaginian military genius Hannibal, that their own language brought about the Empire’s downfall.
If that sounds arcane and, frankly, not all that interesting or even funny, you’ve gravely underestimated the comic brilliance of Izzard.
This out-of-nowhere bit comprised the British comedian’s encore after an 85-minute performance Friday in the mostly-full MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods. Also an accomplished actor, Izzard’s impression of a menial soldier mentally ticking off the various -us, -um Latin endings — like an awkward schoolboy — as he tries to impart valuable reconnaissance info to his commander, was one of the funniest things I’ve seen.
It’s also fairly typical subject matter for the acutely intelligent Izzard — which is to say, there’s no logical way to write a flowchart for what he might talk about during any given concert. Those familiar know and love his frenetic style: He speaks rapidly in a voice filled with joy and cynical wonder, frequently pausing to act out whatever joke or observation he’s communicating. It’s also a much-anticipated trait that Izzard frequently goes off-topic into new bits or anecdotes.
These are then brought to sudden halts as he realizes how far astray he’s wandered, and are punctuated by one of two catchphrases: “And so anyway,” or “So ... what was I talking about?” Though these are certainly part of the act by this point, it’s also astonishingly obvious that Izzard is frequently ad-libbing new stuff even as it speeds through his brain.
It’s said that Kierkegaard’s greatest frustration was that ideas occurred to him with such dazzling quickness he couldn’t write them down before he forgot them.
Watching Izzard, you get the same impression. His brain is a wasp’s nest of information overload about how odd and frequently moronic our world is — and humor is his therapeutic way of coping. In that spirit, Friday’s performance seemed to be Izzard’s difficulty with the idea of the existence of God.
He managed to tie this theme to myriad and otherwise disassociative topics: why one doesn’t need fingering to play a trumpet; how ironic it would be if a Native American casino was built on a Native American graveyard; human and goat sacrifice; the difficulty of computing fractions in “The Lord of the Rings;” why anything said while smoking a pipe sounds wise; and how sad it is that men with high-pitched voices can never be great leaders ...
... At least until the MGM crowd heard Izzard’s falsetto version of Shakespeare’s “Into the breech” gallantry from “Henry V.” At that point, we’d have followed Eddie anywhere.