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The world has showered many accolades on British comedian Eddie Izzard. The New York Times claims that Izzard’s only competition for sheer comic genius is Chris Rock. John Cleese once said he’s “the lost Python.” Robin Williams called Izzard a “velvet razor...gentle cutting edge.”
But if you ask Izzard to describe himself, he opts for: “Runner. Political campaigner. Fashion icon. Human.”
Izzard’s latest stand-up show is called “Force Majeure." He joined us in-studio in April to talk more about the show, and why he believes we all need to be "forces of nature."
On being identified as a transvestite, or wearing drag:
Eddie Izzard: “I don’t call it drag. I call it clothes. I wear dresses occasionally, I wear heels, I wear makeup. It’s like, women don’t wear drag when they put pants on, yeah? Drag really means costume. I’ve seen it used as an equivalent of costume. When gay men tend to do drag, that is more costume-like. Whereas what I’m trying to land is...I’m running for mayor and I will be wearing makeup and whatever I want to wear or not, just as women do. They have total rights like that, as women do in the United Nations charter, which isn’t actually in there but I say that it is. And so I will be wearing whatever and it’s not drag, it’s just clothes. I’m just wearing dresses, things, heels, makeup, whatever.”
On the “Force Majeure” tour:
EI: “I think it’s a declaration of what everyone needs to be in life. We need to be a force of nature. If life is like a river and we’re paddling in our own little boats, you’ve got to paddle like crazy, mate. You’ve got to either forward paddle or back paddle. I sometimes back-paddle, which is quite interesting. I back-paddled to stop my comedy career rising so that I could do drama, so that I can now do Hannibal and The Riches and Valkyrie and the Oceans movies, to bring that up while I was back-paddling on my comedy career.”
On performing Python-esque comedy and being called the “lost Python”:
EI: “That’s top honor. I asked John, as well, because I wasn’t sure if he had said it. And he said he did say it. And I think he meant — I didn’t ask him what he quite meant and I think it’s that I was just born 20 years too late. I’m very on top of action movies and in ‘The Magnificent Seven,’ Horst Buchholz, actually a German actor, played this other Mexican cowboy who just hangs around. There was a magnificent six, and he just hangs around them until they let him join. Actually, the numbers even work. So if there were six of Python and I was in that age group, I would have hung around like Horst Buchholz’s character in ‘The Magnificent Seven’ until they let me be in Python, even if they might have shot me before that but, I’m just such a fan of the thing.”
On thinking like an American:
EI: “Hollywood doesn’t really exist, obviously it’s a sensibility of making films, but the ‘go do it, go build it’ of America, I loved. And then Watergate happened and I realized there’s a dark side to America, which is not what I’m into. And then it sort of came back when I started going to America maybe during the Clinton era. There is an America that I totally like and there’s a part of America I don’t like. There’s a part of Britain I like and there’s a part of Britain I don’t like. The Thatcher Britain, I didn’t like that at all. So there’s a political thing. But the ‘let’s go build it, let’s go do it,’ which is, in fact, a distillation of the immigrant spirit, that’s what I like. I feel like an immigrant even though I grew up mostly in Britain, even though I was born in Yemen.”
On Eddie’s effort to reconnect with his late mother through his career:
EI: “There’s a documentary called ‘Believe’ and in that there was this bit — Sarah Townsend, she directed it. And she kept shooting to try to find something, because I’m quite blocked off emotionally. And then finally she found this moment where, I didn’t actually know quite what I was saying. It does seem to be true, I do seem to be kind of trying to stack up enough things that could reach through and just bring her back. I didn’t know quite what I was saying. I’d never said it before. It’s a very curious thing. I’m just trying to get my mom to notice from somewhere else. I don’t think she’s ever coming back, it doesn’t seem anyone ever comes back, so I don’t believe in God anymore. Why would he let me live and not let my mother, it doesn’t make any sense. I think it’s all random. I believe in humans, I believe in us. I think there’s more good will than ill will. But I’m going to keep working, because I’ve swapped the affection of my mother for the affection of audiences, and it’s not unconditional, it’s conditional. So you have to do good work, otherwise they give you a medium response. And if you do really good work they give you a very good response.”
- “British comedian Eddie Izzard has been thinking a lot about language (no surprise to anyone who’s heard him riff on monkeys on branches, mice under tables, and cats on chairs).”
- “The comedian Eddie Izzard travelled to Edinburgh to crack jokes and campaign on Friday, and he came flying the British flag. His fingernails were painted and polished to a high shine: with a union jack on one middle finger nail and a European flag on the other.”
This article was originally published on August 26, 2014.
This segment aired on August 26, 2014.
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