Eddie Izzard has backed and co-produced Yacine Belhousse’s Edinburgh Fringe run, but he’s clearly also had a big influence on the Parisian comic. Belhousse’s show is full of Izzardisms – his scatty delivery, gangly mannerisms and surreal tangents are uncannily similar to the British arena-filler’s.
But Belhousse is no tribute act, he holds his own, and he has some inventive material in ‘Made in France’. ‘My English isn’t perfect,’ he admits, having mainly taught himself by watching American movies. This is his first attempt at stand-up in his second language, and his struggles with English provide a good chunk of his material. He’s adorably pleased with himself when he correctly uses the word ‘flabbergasted’, and his nifty workaround to learning past participles is a particularly funny highlight. But there are only so many times he can mine laughs from celebrating his lingual achievements, and he pushes his luck as the show progresses.
When Belhousse moves away from language-barrier jokes he shares Izzard’s sense of the surreal – he takes everyday scenarios and runs with them down absurd paths. He wonders why there are so few French superheroes, explains his fascination with Britain’s ‘exotic’ wildlife and questions whether Paris’s reputation as the most romantic city in the world is justified. It’s all light, fluffy stuff, but there are no big belly laugh moments, and his long, closing story about a ‘magic cheeseburger’ just feels like whimsy for whimsy’s sake.
But there’s plenty of promise here, and although it’s difficult to see past the Izzardisms, Belhousse clearly has a smart comic mind and an eye for the absurd. Bonne chance to him.