Maybe youve seen British comedian Eddie Izzard in television and movies. Or youve heard he can perform in French and German. Or that hes a cross-dresser (an executive transvestite, he would say) who sometimes takes the stage in makeup and heels.
But the most important thing to know about Izzard is that his surreal standup is some of the funniest comedy around. Picture Darth Vader ordering penne allArrabbiata at the Death Star Canteen. Imagine being forced to choose between death and cake. (Most people choose cake.) Or just go to YouTube and watch these bits. Millions of people have.
On Thursday, Izzard, 52, stops at Belk Theater on his Force Majeure world tour, an ambitious 25-country expedition billed as the most extensive comedy tour ever. Its his first Charlotte performance, and its sold out. In a recent phone interview, Izzard discussed humor, history and wearing makeup.
Q. As you travel the world, youre now doing your show in different languages French and German, and youre planning to branch out to Spanish, Russian and Arabic. How come?
A. I think its putting an open hand out to other cultures and sort of joining them up. We all laugh at the same things, I have found. But only certain groups. Theres a mainstream sense of humor in every country, and a more alternative and Monty Python-esque sense of humor in every country. And thats the audience that I link up with in America or in Russia or in Germany.
Q. You do a great American accent. Was it hard to master?
A. I find as I go from accent to accent that theres one thing that is my Achilles heel, and I have to nail that shot and then Im happy with it. It is Rs in America. America really hits the R. I had a friend, he cooked this thing in the oven, and it melted, and he said it came out like hard, hard tar. And I thought, that is the three words I have to practice. Hard, hard tar. (In England) its haad, haad taa.
Q. Your fans are apt to get a history lesson when they watch your show. The origins of Stonehenge, for instance. Are you a passionate student of history?
A. I wasnt at school. I found the facts interesting, but I found writing essays rather tedious. Not my great skill, comparing and contrasting. But I do find it interesting to cross-reference the whole history of world where we keep repeating stuff. And I started talking about it in standup because I thought it would seem a little bit different. So it just stuck. And no ones really piled into it. Theres not like a huge chunk of people doing history in standup.
Q. I understand youre not performing in drag as much as you used to.
A. I dont call it drag, by the way. If women arent wearing drag when they put on pants, then Im not wearing drag when I put on a skirt.
I do actually wear makeup and I dont wear makeup, and I dont tell anyone what Im going to wear when I wear it, just like a woman wouldnt have to check in. They wouldnt say, Hillary Clinton, are you going to wear a pantsuit today, or are you going to wear a skirt?
If women can wear whatever they want to, then men can wear whatever they want to. It should be built into the United Nations charter. It doesnt matter.
I started wearing whatever I wanted to just be open. And then people thought, Well, thats what the comedys about. And this word drag came in. And I said, Well, no, its not that. Its actually about the comedy.
I will wear more makeup. I will wear less makeup. Gradually, people will get used to it and get bored by it.
Q. Youre considering a 2020 run for mayor of London. If you won, would you still do comedy?
A. No, I couldnt do comedy because Id be obviously an elected politician. I could be somewhat comedic in speeches, probably lay into the other side, the opposition. I could also do comedy gigs as benefits to raise money for the Labor Party or for charity. But I wouldnt be doing it as a business. Id go into hibernation.
Q. And maybe come back later?
A. And maybe come back later. It worked for Schwarzenegger.
Pam Kelley: 704-358-5271
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less