“How do you think it went?” Eddie Izzard asked us in a dark basement of Mother New York’s new West Side Highway office Sunday night. “It went okay, right?”
We were at the after party for Amnesty International’s Secret Policeman’s Ball, being held for the first time on American soil at Radio City Music Hall. The show had run three hours without intermission, and had diplomatically featured every major British and American comedy star for approximately three minutes.
It was great, we assured the English comedian. Sure, some parts dragged, and we were surprised by what worked–smaller names like Hannibal Buress and Jack Whitehall absolutely killed with their sets–and what really didn’t work–Tim Roth bombing on stand-up; a weird sketch involving an Anonymous meeting and Richard Branson; a should-have-been-hilarious fake band with Fred Armisen, Kristin Wiig, The Office‘s Catherine Tate, and The IT Crowd‘s Matt Berry–but we wanted to be diplomatic.
After all, the SPB is a big deal in London, where it’s been a staple of the pre-Live Aid performance/philanthropy culture for 50 years, and is as synonymous with comedy as its celeb supporters, like Sting and the remaining Monty Pythons.
“Do you think American audiences were receptive to the British humor?” We asked Mr. Izzard.
“Are we on record?”
We assured him that he didn’t have to be.
“No, I want to be on record with this. Look: I’ve been touring all over Europe, and the one thing I can tell you is that comedy is universal. The jokes work across every culture. Okay, maybe some specific pop references get lost, but you know, they’re still obsessed with Friends over in Germany and France.”
“The biggest issue in bringing British comedy to America, and vice-versa, is not the audience. It’s the producers and the backers. They’re the ones saying ‘Oh, Americans won’t get the original Office. But what we’re seeing now is that British comedy and American comedy can really make the cultural jump, in both directions.”
“And hey, everyone loves Coldplay,” we joked. Chris Martin’s band’s performance had been the definitive highlight of the show. In fact, gauging the audiences’ response to the rest of the night, it was the main reason for shelling out $500-a-seat. Plus, who better to personify the mainstream success of pond-hoppers than Gwyneth Paltrow and her GOOPy husband?
Click through the slide show to find out more pre-and-post-show details!