Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The week you'll laugh until your ribs hurt at the Burt

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You could call it a stiff-lipped standup showdown; a Brit-wit summit; maybe even a clash of the tea-tans. Or tartans. Take your pick.

Or, perhaps, how 'bout this for a poster slogan?: EDDIE -- BHOY: PRAIRIE PUNCH-LINE PUNCH-UP.

However you choose to describe it, this week brings a killer combo of across-the-pond comedians to the Burton Cummings Theatre -- on Monday, actor-comedian Eddie Izzard brings his first full-on western Canadian tour to town, and on Wednesday, fast-rising Just For Laughs headliner Danny Bhoy imports his Scots-accented act for the Winnipeg comedy crowd.

Two comedians. Two nights. One venue. One big British-flavoured frenzy of fun.

Here, to help you sort out the about-to-be-unleashed flurry of comedy haymakers, is a comparative analysis that we'll call the Tale of the Jape:

 

EDDIE IZZARD

Born: Edward John Izzard, Feb. 7, 1962, Aden, Yemen

Influenced by: Monty Python (John Cleese has referred to him as "the lost Python").

Standup roots: after starting out as a street performer, focused his attention on standup and began doing comedy in the late 1980s in London.

Comedy style: storytelling, mimicry; random astute observations with an emphasis on history, politics and technology ("My comedy is not very hateful or angry -- I hate Nazis, but that's about it -- so I can take on pretty heavy subjects and the audience will go with me. ... I assume the intelligence of my audience, and I do 'dumbing up' as opposed to 'dumbing down'").

Sample snippet: "If there was a God, don't you think he would have flicked Hitler's head off? Don't you think? ... And then the Nazis would have gone, 'Wow! What other leader could do THAT? Oh, maybe that wasn't supposed to happen. Maybe we should just go ...'"

Path to stardom: gained notoriety not just for his comic brilliance but also for his transvestite tendencies; won British Comedy Awards in 1993; made breakthrough in U.S. in 1999 when his concert special Dress to Kill aired on HBO. Recently performed sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden and travelled to South Africa earlier this year to perform six shows in support of Nelson Mandela charitable organizations.

Also an accomplished actor on stage, screen and TV (credits include Ocean's Twelve, Ocean's Thirteen and the cable-TV drama The Riches); committed to charity work (runs marathons for charity; in 2009, ran 43 marathons in 51 days in support of Sport Relief).

Long-term plan: more theatre and film/TV ("Drama is my first love") but will not abandon standup; plans to run for political office in the U.K. in 2020.

 

DANNY BHOY

Born: Danni Chaudhry, Jan. 17, 1974, Moffat, Scotland

Influenced by: Billy Connolly ("I grew up listening to his stuff; for me, he was the voice of comedy").

Standup roots: began doing standup in 1998 at an open-mike night in Edinburgh, largely on a whim ("Comedy was sort of on my bucket list of things to do ... and the common theme to every job I'd ever been fired from was, 'He mucks around too much and he's far too concerned with making people laugh,' so the signs were there").

Comedy style: rambling stories punctuated by long, whimsical digressions that always eventually return to the original topic ("That's what my comedy is all about, that sort of branching off and coming back; on a good night, when I say, 'Oh, what was I talking about?,' it's a genuine thing because there really is a degree of spontaneity about it").

Sample snippet: "I don't look Scottish; I know that. I'm half Scottish, half Indian ... which means, unlike most Scots, I don't get sunburned watching fireworks."

Path to stardom: after that first open-mike night in Edinburgh, the club manager called and asked him to come back the next week, and he hasn't looked back; made a triumphant debut at Just For Laughs in 2005 and in 2007 did 10 sold-out nights during the Montreal festival; has also done sold-out tours of Australia and New Zealand and was the first standup comic to do English-language shows in India. Recently released his first comedy DVD, Danny Bhoy: Subject to Change, which was recorded in Montreal.

Long-term plan: still focused on perfecting his comedy craft; professes no ambitions to make the oft-attempted shift from standup to acting ("I really enjoy doing live comedy; I didn't really get into this to do acting, which I consider to be a totally different job; in America, where I've been for the last couple of months, you say that and your agent just shrivels up").

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 8, 2010 C1

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