PETA HELLARD | 13jul03 | The Sunday Mail | thanks Peggy

EDDIE Izzard stresses that high-maintenance glamour isn't always his cup of tea.

While stilettos and full make-up are generally the look of choice for the 41-year-old transvestite, the comedian/actor says there are plenty of days when he can't be bothered.

"Just like a woman I might say, 'I won't wear make-up today, I'll just put on some moisturiser and shove on jeans'," he says on the phone from New York, where he has just finished an award-winning Broadway run of Peter Nichols' contentious play, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg.

But factors other than mood – most notably his desire to add more serious film and theatre roles to his already impressive screen and stage CV – often play a deciding role in Izzard's choice of garb.

"I went to the Tonys (Awards, for live performance on Broadway) in blokey mode because I was playing a blokey role," Izzard says of his recent nomination for the role of Brian, a teacher and father of a mentally and physically disabled daughter.

"I do wear blokey clothes a lot of the time because I'm trying to mix it up and not get pigeonholed – so that people will see me as an actor and not as just a transvestite and I can get the opportunity to do blokey roles in theatre or film.

"In the end, professionally speaking, the only time I can wear what the hell I want is when I'm doing stand-up (comedy)."

It will be back to vertiginous Prada heels and loud lipstick this week as Izzard embarks on a world tour, beginning in Melbourne, for his new stand-up show, Sexie.

While Izzard, who likes to develop shows while he tours, will be using Australians to road-test the show, he says he doesn't want Aussies to think they are getting anything less than the full Izzard experience.

"I'm coming down because I wanted to practise and twist and jump around and develop the new show, which will roll through into America and then into Britain," he says.

"I have no idea what the show is going to be about yet. I could have called it Banana, but Sexie sounded more interesting."

The misspelling is a homage to his childhood, when dyslexia saw Izzard struggling at school.

"It was difficult for me. I was really bad at spelling and literature's always intimidated me.

"While being dyslexic is not great for straight-up-and-down logic stuff, it's handy for being creative because it makes you irreverent with words, which is great for stand-up.

"As a stand-up, there are no rules and you just say a bunch of stuff and if it gets laughs, you're winning."

Izzard, who grew up with dreams of being a soccer player, was four when he first realised a desire to wear women's clothing.

"I saw a kid in the street and he was wearing a dress and make-up and all the other boys were laughing at him," he said.

"I think I probably joined in the ha-ha-ing, but was inwardly thinking 'I'd like to try that'. My feelings haven't changed since then, so I think it's genetic. It's not a choice. It would be so much easier to choose not to be."

While Izzard, who recently topped the list of British women's favourite comics, has received overwhelming acceptance since "coming out" as a transvestite 18 years ago, he still often faces scathing responses.

"I sometimes get crap on the street and there are places where people would kick my head in, so I just don't go there," he says.

Being a transvestite has also sometimes made his love life difficult.

"When I came out, I was celibate for three years because I just thought women couldn't deal with it," he said.

"It can be an issue because certain women feel, 'If you're trying to be feminine, what the hell am I supposed to be?'

"So there is a difficulty there. But some women have been very positive about it and just kind of like it. I didn't expect it to be so positive."

Izzard says he did not set out to become a poster boy for alternative sexuality.

"I don't actually know a hell of a lot of transvestites, but if me being in the public eye helps anyone else then that's great.

"Hopefully, if loads of people come out as transvestites over the next 50 years then it will be such a boring thing that no one will even question it."

• Eddie Izzard's Sexie, Concert Hall, QPAC, South Bank, Brisbane, August 2. Bookings: 13 62 46.

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