Eddie on Breakfast
with the Arts on A&E
Broadcast 08.10.03 | Transcribed by Karen (thanks!)
(Opens with clip from D2K)
A&E: Eddie thanks so much for being here.
EI: You're very kind.
A&E: You've positioned yourself to where you're kinda hard to peg sometimes.
EI: Had to.
A&E: I think you've made some really interesting choices in that you haven't been overexposed in a way that Oh he's that transvestite comedy stand-up guy. No, he's doing Broadway on stage, no he's in a movie playing a straight guy and that must have been on purpose on your part.
EI: Yeah well if you're alternative sexuality, being gay, lesbian, or transgender then em... it's difficult enough. People, you say you're gay and they say you can only play gay roles from now on. And everyone wants to play everything. You know and have as much choice as they can. I'm a straight transvestite which confuses the hell out of everyone.
A&E: (laughing) A male lesbian, I heard you say.
EI: Male lesbian, absolutely. I'd like to be a woman and I fancy women.
A&E: You like women...and like to dress like them.
EI: And I'm up for liking men, I'd really be up for being gay, I just can't get it working in my head. And so great honor to the gay people and to bisexual people, but, I seem to be a male lesbian. I seem to be a straight guy and if I changed sex then I would still go, have relationships with other women.
A&E: From what point did you kinda think...those dresses would look right on me?
EI: Em... 4, em... 4 or 5 in Northern Ireland, and some kid was the brother of two girls and he was wearing their dresses or whatever or they dressed him up or something and the other boys thought it was very funny. And I think I probably was there going ah ha ha ha...(serious) sounds good to me. (laughing) ah ha ha ha..so I did that kind of lying thing. And as a five year old I was a terrible liar.
And em, so yeah, later on I built my character up so that I could come out at the age of 23. So in the end being transvestite and being open about it I had to be not in the box. And eh, I just did a western last year with a big beard and running around on horses for 5 months (with)Michael Madsen, Juliet Lewis, Vincent Cassell.
A&E: So at what point did you decide that you could make a career out of this or that you wanted to make a career both as dressing up and as doing stand up?
EI: It's been a long curvy route...like em... at 7 I wanted to act and it was just acting, it wasn't comedy. Even though I loved comedy I didn't know you could specialize in that. Em, I wasn't getting parts and em, so I found Python and that you can actually do that so I thought that I'll just do comedy. And when that eventually started taking off which is after doing sketch comedy like Python in the early 80s and street performing in the mid 80s and in the end of it getting into stand up in 1988. That started wrapping up and taking off and I thought eh, well two things.
One, if I hold back my exposure to comedy, don't get too well known, I'll get a dramatic acting agent and I'll just push for just dramatic parts, say no to all comedy. Just dramatic roles. And I've done some roles which like JOE EGG had comedy in it, Lenny Bruce had comedy in it. But it has to be dark comedy or black comedy or something where the dramatic role was key. And I also thought I should tell everyone I'm a transvestite and so I told someone from the Observer of London and that is a serious broad sheet so it goes out there. And they talk about it, journalist, comedy journalist would talk about it for a year when I was perfoming saying 'he said he's a, he talks about it, but I've never seen him wear a dress.' So I thought I better start wearing dresses and make-up if I want to have that freedom. So now I have total freedom to wear anything. And also the comedy relentlessly is just stupid or clever stupid. And I can talk about being a transvestite but it's not the gig. This guy in Wales once said, he said, 'I thought you were gonna be about lipstick comedy or something, but you just talk rubbish.' And yeah, that's it I just talk rubbish. It's just Python influence, Steve Martin influence, er Richard Pryor influence, weird.....
A&E: It's not just always rubbish. I mean you sort of got a real smart take on history for one through out alot of your material.
EI: But I do what Python did. I analyze, that it's , it's kinda like what Python did they would take a serious subject like Proust (this would be Marcel Proust French Novelist) and then say, ok, we gotta summate all of Proust's works in 15 seconds. You know.
A&E: You make it ludicrous insome way.
EI: Or you take something stupid, the upper class twit of the year, and you spend hours having upper class twits do special tricks to try and see who can be the upper class twit of the year. So you take low brow and you talk about it high brow and you take high brow and you talk about it low brow. Those spins are very nice.
A&E: Let's talk about your new show you're about to go out on tour. SEXIE. (shows pic of SEXIE poster on motorcycle)
A&E: What will people see?
EI: Well, I eh, in the end it's stand up, it's em, so I will be talking alot of rubbish again. Em, I never pre-write a show, so I never quite, em, I have to come up with a title and then book it and then tickets and then people have got to (smiling).
A&E: I have read that you literally never write anything down.
EI: Because I think a number of people do it (looks serious) but I don't know if Richard Pryor ever did that, em,er, Billy Connelly, who was a huge influence of mine, a Scottish comedian, I don't think he does. I think, I've talked to them and em, er, yeah, well you might eh write notes down like what about twists on this idea. A bit like sort of a set list or something, just little ideas. But then I try them out in front of the audience .'Cause that's the perfect script editor. Em, and so every gig is, is like a rehearsal.
A&E: So every performance on the tour will probably be slightly different.
EI: Be slightly different. It's not huge... I mean even Lenny Bruce, when I played him, I read and listened to some of his private tapes, he said 5 minutes is what he did per show and that's kind of what you end up doing. It's NOT and hour. The most I've ever done is half an hour of improvised...off the bat....But you need to give the audience a decent show. So you can't, em you can end up really waffling. HEY Chickens...they're fun, cause they cluck (makes wing gestures) and what else do they do? ( rolls eyes like thinking about it) They got beaks (raises hand to face like a beak) And you know, you might not be hitting anything and people goinig 'Eww this is a bit lame'. (smiling)
A&E: Let's go to the stuff that works.
EI: Yeah, so you need to have, it's like you have the road route, the road map route, the straight motorway and then you come off and go on side roads and then you come back on the motorway. (all the while using his hands to show the motorway and side roads)
A&E: If I were to do a short history of you and chart this a little bit, you became a HUGE SUCCESS in England, I mean you play, how big of places do you play there?
EI: (Looking uncomfortable with the compliment) Well, I'm playing Whembley Arena which is ten thousand.
A&E: Right, and then you came to America and one of the first places that you went to was like PS122, you were playing to 70 or 80 people to sort of, was it to start small and sort of get the buzz going? Or how does that...
EI: That's absolutely it! I mean I looked at sort of getting, like sort of analyze this whole thing. Em, cause you know you use your instinctive and your analytical and that way people do that in all important business and life and relegion. And so having worked out how to get ahead in London, and Britian, after ages, I looked at America I thought if I go try get into films, you know, no one's gonna want to open the door. Try to get into television, again, not gonna want to open the door. They're gonna say, well, British comedy, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. We're not really interested. Who are you? We don't know you from Adam. So it's no point starting there even though alot of people have tried that route. Um, and then there's the club circuit. Which is more logical, but then there's alot of clubs. They're all over America. And eh, you could just get lost in the number and none are gonna flag up in particular. And in Britian I was playing in small theaters. Because we have alternative comedy since 1979.
Very Python kind of influence type , you know, surreal.
A&E: Is there a distinction either here or there between comedy and performance art?
EI: Yes, oh, absolutely. In Britian. I mean well the alternative comedy is the big definition. Alternative comedy in America is seen as experimental comedy. Alternative comedy now in Britian is seen as almost the main stream of comedy. It's taken over the alternative channels which are BBC2 and Channel 4 and it's bled into like Absolutely Fabulous. And they were alternative comedians. They probably wouldn't even use that title now. And that's just a definitionary. Because there people before that have been of that kind of mind set. But, coming to America...New York I had to play cause that's the taste maker. You are the gate keeper. In New York. And it is cause the New York Times. New York Times basically had to say YES. And when they did, Canada started paying attention. I couldn't get anything going in Canada. But because of New York Times I went back to Toronto and suddenly all the press was talking to me. And I believe that's the power of New York in North America.
A&E: Eddie Izzard thanks so much for being here.
EI: Thank you much.
A&E: SEXIE performed by Eddie Izzard begins it's North American tour in August. For touring dates and ticket information log onto Eddie Izzard's home page... EddieIzzard.com (pic of Eddie in fairy outfit with wand)