Alternative Press, April 2000, Issue #141
Written by Jason Pettigrew
|Introducing Eddie Izzard, the man who would be the
queen of comedy.
British Comedian Eddie Izzard has conquered his homeland with routine sell outs at Wembley Arena, delivered a special for HBO, appeared in London's West End as comic genius Lenny Bruce, pinch-hit for the late Graham Chapman during the Monty Python's Flying Circus reunion at the 1998 Aspen Comedy Festival, and dabbled in motion pictures (The Avengers, Velvet Goldmine, Mystery Men,) -all without smearing his lipstick. The man with the transvestite eyes returns to America in March with his new one-man show, Circle, whilst carefully avoiding any cosmetics pitched by Shania Twain.
So what topics are you addressing in Circle?
It isn't actually finished. I tend to do work-in-progress touring. At the beginning of a tour, I start with (material from) the old show and then roll them over with new material. I only deliver new material as I'm ad-libbing it. I'm going into weird things about whales, the beef war in Great Britian with the mad cow disease, the bizarre war between the French and the English...I'm trying to look for the circle in the universe.
In your experience, do you find that certain countries have tougher audiences to crack?
Hmmm...That's an impossible question to answer, really. People say that there is a French sense of humor, an American sense of humor, a German sense of humor - which is said not to exsist. In Britian, there's this joke that Americans don't understand irony. And that's not true; it's just that middle America doesn't understand irony, just like middle Britian or middle France or middle Guatemala.
Which is why you tour the East and West coasts of America, but never the middle.
In a way. But I sense that middle America is an attitude that can easily exsist on Bleecker Street in New York City. You can play Kansas, and you'll inevitably met somebody who wants to get out (of the state).
Most American's first exposure to British Comedy was via the absurd Monty Python or the lecherous Benny Hill. As a rugged transvestite, how do you think you're perceived in the States?
I'm not sure about that either. I tend to be publicized as a bloke wearing make-up, and the response is usually "Oh this must be a gay thing." It's not a gay thing, it's a transvaestite thing that has something to do with the comedy. I think the initial percaeption is one thing - which is wrong - and then it's based on what information people get. I'm not trying for the mainstream audience; they're not going to go for it.
Are there any comics that can make you double over in hysteria?
Comedy does become a bit of a science and it gets difficult to release myself to fall about laughing. I tend to admire it and think, "That's a nice bit of comedy." It's kind of a pain in the ass if you do comedy professionally, because you have to adjust your balance of what you laugh at so you don't laugh anymore. I've become a sullen bastard, actually.
Are comedians - and audiences - prone to burn-out?
I think (a career in) comedy isn't as difficult as rock'n'roll. A career in comedy goes up slow and goes down slow. In rock'n'roll you go up like a rocket, and come down like a rocket.
And usually in lots of pieces. You stay fresh because you do a lot of things. Is that a basic work ethic or do you get bored easily?
I get bored very easily and I feel it's good to do things in different directions.
You've completed work on a couple new films, including Shadow of The Vampire, which is about the making of the horror classic Nosferatu. What character did you play?
I played a stupid guy with a big ass. The character is Gustav Von Wagenheim, the estate agent they send off to see the vampire. If you see the original, you'll see he has a rather large behind, which is really not needed.
Was your ass padded?
No. I decided to play the character with a slim and pert ass. It's the only part of my body I'm comfortable with. Willem Dafoe was the vampire. He was really good. He was there (on the set) in all the make-up, not talking to anybody while everybody was eating. I thought, "God, he looks completely weird, he's probably doing that in-character method-acting stuff." He wasn't - he was just waiting for some tea.
You've played an evil henchman (The Avengers), a disco-loving villian (Mystery Men), a tough rock manager (Velvet Goldmine), a psychotic bookie (in the unreleased Circus) and a forensic scientist (The Criminal). Does Hollywood beckon?
In my head, it sort of waves in an interesated way like, "Hello, I'm over here." In Hollywood's head, it waves with a hand down like, "Shoo, shoo, don't come here." They don't know how to plug me in. I say, "I don't want to do comedy," and they say "We understand that, so how about this: It's a comedy and you're in it."
Sounds like business as usual. Heard any good music lately?
When I was in France, I listened to a lot of MC Solaar and Air. I've been listening to Garbarge at home. We've got boy band/girl band-itis over in England.
Wow. 51st State Of America. You're familiar with Shania Twain, right?
I believe. She feels like a woman. I think she does.
Exactly. I was wondering if you tried the Revlon Liquid Lips lip-liner she's plugging on American television?
I don't think they've brought it over here yet. (Sighs) Everything that happened in the 60's has been wasted. It's only the big-selling people who are going to (plug) Revlon lipstick. Over here, the Spice Girls sold cameras and crisps last year, and they still had careers after it. It makes you very ill.
What would you pitch?
Oh I'd make my own make-up. I'd say, "This is me. You can eat it as well."
You could call it "Eddie".
(Laughs) That would be imaginative! Call it Shania Twain's Other Lipstick. I should come out with a single, "I Feel Like A Transvestite."
A friend wanted to know if you own any Mando Blahnik shoes.
No, I don't. I do have a fantastic pair of knee boots by Versace though.
Do you have to go to a big-girls shop to buy clothes?
(Fakes miffed tone) No, I don't! I'm too small for that. I go to Not Too Large A Girl At All Thank You Very Much shops.
Last question: What should the best comedy do?
The best comedy should make you forget that you're watching comedy. And at the end, it should make you think, "God is that over? It was only ten minutes," when actually it was nine hours, or something.
© 1999, 2000 auntie momo
"stealing is bad. don't make me come after you."