REVIEW BY SKYE HUNTINGTON | PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMANDA SEARLE | ANDY HOLLINGWORTH
You may or may not have heard of the comedian/actor Eddie Izzard—but one thing I can guarantee—if you ever do get a chance to see him, you will not see another comedian like Eddie Izzard—he’s a one-of-a-kind, truly. Smart, dry, quick-witted action-hero—No! action-transvestite (that’s a guy who loves makeup commercials, but has a testosterone-filled Old West kind of attitude with balls enough to shout out: “Yippee-aye-ayy—Mother-Fuckers!”). I was lucky enough to witness this eclectic man’s standup when he made a two-night stop at The Pearl Theater at Palms Casino Resort this summer, and his oddly brilliant hilarity was quirky, to say the least. Izzard uses a stream-of-consciousness delivery that jumps between topics. “It’s the oral tradition, he says. “Human beings have been doing it for thousands of years.”
Izzard’s deeply resonating voice is one of his best attributes, and he’s actually quite a good impressionist, using three very distinct voices in most of his one-man shows. For God, he embodies that of the actor James Mason. For Noah, Sean Connery. Then there’s the Scottish clarinet teacher—Mrs. Badcrumble, her voice is unlike any other, but in real life, Mrs. Badcrumble was his piano teacher as a young boy.
The London Sunday Times has described Izzard as:
“The greatest British standup comedian of his generation. The comedian, actor, and transvestite has bewitched the world of comedy with a kitschy, campy, and cunning mix, while adding a bit of British flair to American humor, and it’s brilliant.” —Agreed.
The Force Majeure World Tour is the most extensive comedy tour ever. Launched in March 2013, upon completion, the tour will have been in more than 25 countries on five different continents. From Cardiff to Kathmandu and Moscow to Mumbai, Force Majeure has traveled across Europe, Africa, Russia, the U.K., Canada, India, Nepal, Far East, Australia, New Zealand and America.
Izzard plans to hit all 50 states on his current Force Majeure tour, which stopped for a two-night performance at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas this past June. He will continue in what seems to be an unending tour, by performing in six languages around the world, before laying the groundwork for his 2020 campaign for mayor of London.
The uniquely talented comedian is not only brilliant, but also dyslexic—which certainly hasn’t seemed to slow him down in becoming multilingual. Izzard is touring in 15 French-speaking cities, and he claims that he is 70 percent fluent in French. No English speaker, let alone comedian, has ever toured France in “French.” In the German language, he says he 40 percent fluent, yet plans on touring Germany in their native tongue, as well. But in Spanish, he says: “I’ve only had seven lessons, so I absolutely cannot do that yet, but I will push it and I’m speaking Spanish every day, while touring in Spanish-speaking countries and cities. Then I’ll learn Russian and Arabic. That’s the plan.”
The show’s title could be interpreted as “divine intervention,” or “act of God.” Izzard says he is not making a religious reference with Force Majeure, because he’s an atheist. He instead makes reference to the name of his tour (French for “Major Force”), to mean a major force of nature. “I think we have to be our own forces of nature to get through this world. Life is like a river, and it can be very calm and smooth-going, then it can turn into rapids and be rough-going. Hellish things can happen in life, beautiful things can happen, but you probably need to know how to navigate the river.”
Born in February 1962 in South Yemen, to a mother who was a nurse and an accountant father who was a fifties hippy who wrote essays on communism, Izzard explains: “We moved to Northern Ireland in 1963 and we were there until ‘67 and that was great. British petroleum had a refinery in Belfast, and both my mom and dad worked there. My grandmother used to work in a biscuit factory and cleaned houses and my granddad drove buses, so that was a very working-class background. I’ve gone back and done benefits there. No hot water, no bathroom, baths in front of the fire, an outside loo, that’s what my dad grew up in. I used to cycle around the countryside and went to farms saying, ‘Can I sleep in your field?’ They’d say: ‘Yeah. Here’s a bit of water,’ and I’d get woken up by cows who were just looking into the tent, scaring the shit out of me.”
Eddie has a brother named Mark, who is a couple of years older. “I remember falling down and smashing my front tooth. There was blood and stuff and a lot of yelling, but it was actually quite a neat tooth, with a dunce’s hat-shaped root coming out of the top of it. I kept it, and along with a toenail that I had smashed and lost, turned them into a set of cufflinks from a Plasticraft set, and gave them to Mark as a Christmas present. I remember the horrified expression on my brother’s face. This is how sick I could be.”
Izzard’s mom died of cancer when he was just six, and he and his brother were sent to boarding school quickly thereafter. “I was a hustler at school. I would sell crayons in the schoolyard. ‘You need crayons. What if you get stranded on a desert island? How are you going to write a message?’ We would get to go to church on Sunday. And there was this village playground with a door with a grating in it, which had scary steps going down to a well, where the devil lived, we all thought. You looked down into it and thought: ‘Where the fuck does that go?’ The food was awful at school. Mark was eating Indian food, but I could only eat potatoes. That’s why I wanted to be in the army, because they were always peeling potatoes and I thought, well, I like potatoes, so...”
Izzard performed in various stage plays and skits throughout his early childhood and teenage years. In 1980, Izzard went to Sheffield University for an Accounting and Financial Management with Mathematics degree, but comedy was fueling his fire. In 1984, Izzard left college, moved to London, and performed street-side shows with a friend. He came-out a year later. Eddie Izzard was a transvestite. In three years time, Izzard was hot on the London Club circuit. He’d performed his first show in a dress in 1992 and was enjoying his stint in makeup. His 1998 HBO comedy special and mini-American tour for “Dress to Kill” was a critical hit in the U.S.
The comedy impact of Monty Python had a significant influence on Izzard’s style of comedy. The British surreal comedy group that was conceived, written and performed by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, created forty-five episodes of Monty Python, which was broadcast by the BBC between 1969 and 1974. A devoted fan of the group, Izzard even occasionally stood in for an absent member. In 1999, Izzard hosted The Life of Python, and appeared with them at a festival in Aspen, Colorado.
Izzard said that he knew he was a transvestite at the age of four, after watching another boy being forced to wear a dress by his sisters. Starting to talk freely about his transvestism as early as 1992, his stance is that cross-dressing is neither part of his performance, nor a sexual fetish. “Women wear what they want and so do I,” says Izzard. And added: “Most transvestites fancy women.” He identifies as “a straight transvestite or a male lesbian.” He has also described himself as “a lesbian trapped in a man’s body,” a transgender and “a complete boy, plus half-girl.”
ON THE DANGERS OF CELEBRITY ISOLATIONISM and ROCK DOG
Eddie Izzard visited Cannes recently to promote the new animated movie, Rock Dog, at the Cannes Film Festival, which is going to be released on October 1, 2015 in China. The story is about a Tibetan Mastiff, who has dreams of becoming a musician, and not a guard dog like his father wants him to be. Izzard is the voice of Angus, a paranoid guitar-hero cat who, because of his celebrity, left him a virtual prisoner in his lavish mansions. It takes the mastiff to reintroduce him to life’s simple pleasures. For Angus, he tried for a voice cocktail of Bowie and Jagger. The storyline of Rock Dog is very important to Izzard, as he fights to not fall into that trap. While in Cannes, Izzard bought some prosciutto. He says that shopping is a point of principal wherever he is in the world. “I’ve always wanted to be able to go into any corner shop in the world and say: ‘Packet of crisps, please.’ If you lose that, it’s not good. Some of your soul has gone and some of your creativity, that essential spark and hunger. You’ve got to feel joined up with people.”
FAVORITE FUCKING WORD
Touring the world and speaking in various languages, the one favorite word that Izzard plans to incorporate into his nightly performance is ‘Fuck,’ stating that it’s the one word that crosses language barriers and simply cannot be translated in any other way, like in German: “Wunder-fucking-bar!”. In French: “Absolut-fucking-ment!” In Spanish: “Fantásti-fucking-o!”
ON BEING AN ATHEIST
“There was no religion in my life growing up. Did God invent us or did we invent God?” Izzard suddenly realized one night on stage during his Stripped tour, that he was an atheist. “I realized I didn’t believe in God at all. I just didn’t think there was anyone upstairs. And I think that if God did exist, he had many children. I think Jesus proves this. Jesus must be the seventh son of God. A-sus, B-sus, C-sus, D-sus, E-sus, F-sus, G-sus. That’s just logic. That’s just mathematical.”
Eddie Izzard’s nails are manicured long and painted a bright burgundy red, (apart from one nail painted in a Union Jack and another that’s painted the European flag). He calls them his “political nails.”
“ Caesar—did he ever think he’d end up as a salad?”
In 2009, Eddie ran 43 different marathons in 51 days, running across the U.K. to raise money for Sport Relief. He ran 27 miles a day, six days a week, over seven weeks, covering more than 1,110 miles of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. He received a special award as BBC Sports Personality of the Year for his achievements.
FILM, TELEVISION AND VOICEOVER
With his fascination for film and gift for imitating voices of Hollywood stars, it makes sense that Izzard not only acts in both movies and television, but also performs as the voices of characters in many other films, like as the character Reepicheep in the Disney film, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, and as Sir Miles Axlerod in the Disney/Pixar film, Cars 2. But it was the darkly deceptive dual character of Wayne Malloy/Doug Rich in the 2007/2008 TV series, “The Riches”, in which Izzard was perfectly cast, portraying the head of his family of slick and devious crooks, who assume the identity of an upper-middle-class suburban clan in the Deep South.