Monday, December 7, 2009

"Thank You, Eddie"

I can’t depart this saga without telling you this story.

On the night of August the 19th, I found myself in serious trouble. More agitated than I’ve maybe ever been in my life, I discovered I was unable to lie down, because every time I did, I became so short of breath, I had to immediately get up again. I became so obsessed about my breathing that, for the first time ever, I borrowed a family member’s asthma inhaler and took an enormous hit. The inhaler helped. Temporarily. But I still couldn’t lie down.

At that point, I decided to go into my office and watch TV until, I believed, I was relaxed enough to fall asleep. But, as I’ve reported elsewhere, it is my view that watching TV merely appears to relax the viewer. In reality, because of its A.D.D. editing, added to many programs’ disturbing content, watching TV actually makes you more jumpy.

Passive maybe. But jumpy.

Remote in hand, I nervously flipped from channel to channel, searching for some soothing entertainment I could fall asleep to. And I couldn’t find any. Every show I turned to merely added to my anxiety. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit – molested children – that’ll carry me to Slumberland. Sean Hannity, polarizing a nation through misrepresentation and distortion – there’s a lullaby for you! Reruns of House – in my condition? – Get me outta here!

I finally flip to HBO. And there’s Eddie Izzard. Performing in concert.

For those who don’t know him, Eddie Izzard is an English comedian who, tangentially –meaning it’s not the core of his comedy – dresses and makes himself up as a female. More importantly, Eddie Izzard is, to me, the greatest history teacher in the world. Blending prepared material with clearly off-the-cuff improvisation, Izzard recounts history’s most significant events in such an honest, clear and hilarious manner, it’s virtually impossible to forget the lesson he’s trying to impart.

Example: (Paraphrased, due to faulty memory.)


A British officer lands on India’s shores, planting the British flag – the Union Jack – in the ground, and claiming India as the latest addition to the British Empire. Suddenly, an indigenous Indian person steps out and asks, “What are you doing?” To which the British officer explains, “I’m claiming this country for the British Empire.” The indigenous Indian person retorts, “You can’t do that. This is our country. We’ve been here for centuries.” To which the British officer superciliously shoots back:

“Do you have a flag?”

That’s what he does.

As I watch Eddie Izzard, confidently entertaining his audience, wearing patent leather boots, a sequined dress and screaming blue eye shadow

I start to laugh

(And marvel at his artistry)

And I immediately calm down.

Thank you, Eddie Izzard. (And thank you, comedy.)

You got me through a scarily difficult night.


Anonymous said...

My sister introduced me to Eddie Izzard's comedy and I agree with you wholeheartedly. He's hilarious and so conversant in history that you hardly realize how much you've learned until he's done with his act. I'm so glad that he was a source of comfort for you. I know I'm a devoted fan now.

Anonymous said...

I love Eddie Izzard's comedy and was already cracking up when I just read the title of your example. It's awesome that you were able to find that at the right time, and I'm glad the long journey that came afterward has come to a so far happy . . . continuance? I'll go with that.

BTW: I tweeted (ask your kids) the link to Eddie (not that I know him), but hopefully he takes the time to check it out.

Max Clarke said...

A wonderful story, the healing power of laughter.

Eddie Izzard is hilarious, if you visit Youtube or Google Video, take a look at his "Death Star Canteen" routine.