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City of Angles

Smashing Images

April 02, 2002|GINA PICCALO AND LOUISE ROUG

When Eddie Izzard went to the movie theater recently, he was approached by a teenage girl, much excited to meet him. "Oh my God," she said, "you're George Carlin!"

"No, no, I'm not," protested Izzard.

"Yes you are," the girl continued, with conviction. "Can I have your autograph?"

"Look," Izzard said. "I can't be George Carlin. I'm English, he's American."

Finally, the actor-comedian escaped into the theater. After the movie, the girl was waiting for him outside.

"You're Eddie Izzard," she said. "I'm sorry I got the names mixed up. Can I have your autograph?"

Wearing jeans, a black T-shirt and black leather jacket, Izzard is amused as he sits outside Chateau Marmont on a recent afternoon, recounting his anecdote about fame by proxy.

He is in town to promote "The Cat's Meow," a Peter Bogdanovich movie about the death of director Thomas Ince aboard William Randolph Hearst's yacht, the Oneida, in 1924.

Izzard plays Charlie Chaplin, who was aboard the yacht at the time.

When Izzard saw his first Chaplin film on TV, he was not amused. "I thought it was turgid and unfunny," he says. But after seeing Chaplin on the big screen, he says, he understood his comedy.

It was only that TV was the wrong medium.

Izzard is thoughtful on every medium, having tried several in the course of his life.

Born in Yemen to British parents, he studied accounting at a university in Britain before going into street performance, in his estimation the toughest scene. "You have to shout over the noises ... but it became the center of my confidence," he says.

The streets led to the stage--stand-up comedy, with which he made his name and earned two Emmys in 2000 for his HBO show, "Dress to Kill."

But Izzard's real passion is dramatic acting. After his roles in "Shadow of the Vampire" and "The Cat's Meow," Izzard says he is "just getting up to speed. I'm fascinated by structure," he says. "It's not part of stand-up. There's no character development in stand-up--only a flow of consciousness."

In stand-up, "you play to the laughs," he says. In dramatic acting, "You play to the silence."

Making the transition between stand-up and acting is not always easy. Izzard cites Robin Williams, Steve Martin and Jim Carrey as examples of people who have to overcome the audience expectation that they would do "the crazy stuff."

"You have to smash those previous images," Izzard says. And, he adds, with a grin, "persuade people to give you the parts."

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Connick as Inventor

Singer and composer Harry Connick Jr. can add inventor to his business card, having recently patented a "system and method for coordinating music display among players in an orchestra."

In essence, Connick replaced note sheets with computer displays.

No more page turning, just mouse clicks.

"It makes it a little bit easier for musicians," said Connick, by crackling cell phone from San Francisco. Connick, whose current tour will bring him to the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on Thursday, said he began using computers for his compositions a couple of years ago.

Bringing the computers on stage has so far gone without a hitch. (Extra computers are kept backstage in case of a technical snafu.)

When Connick makes changes to a given piece, by editing or cutting parts, the revisions are automatically transmitted to band members' computers.

"The guys in my band seem to like it," he said. "It's not a cure for cancer," he added. But "it's pretty cool."

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Lampooning Hef

The Harvard Lampoon made Hugh Hefner an honorary member last week, in a party thrown at the Playboy Mansion. As part of the ceremony, Hefner received an award from the magazine naming him "The Best Life-Form in the History of the Universe," a conclusion supported by Jay Phelan, a UCLA professor of evolutionary biology, in a tongue-in cheek-speech. During the celebration, Hef was also presented with a Lampoon bathrobe, a paper crown and a large silver trophy.

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City of Angles runs Tuesday through Friday. E-mail angles@ latimes.com

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