The Great Izzard
Article from Vogue Sept. 1998 by Bob Ickes

Finally, a Brit who's not only beyond the fringe but looks smashing in it.  The transvestite comic Eddie Izzard-John Cleese calls him "the funniest man in England"-grafts Richard Pryor onto Margaret Thatcher, while stealing the best shoes of both.  

In an America newly obsessed with London nightlife, he's won a rabid cult.  Izzard has just ended a four-month gig at New Yorks' Westbeth Theatre Center, the hip downtown home to David Sedaris and Sandra Bernhard. There he delivered Dress to Kill, a stand-up riff on cats, Cats, geopolitics, and Engelbert Humperdink.  Next he takes the show to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Clad in a sarong or Gaultier smock, he's a pudgy Billy Idol, in nail polish and eyeliner, gone to seed in Kansas trailer park. "Look, I fancy women," Izzard reports. "I'm just a transvestitie-a lesbian trapped in a man's body. Women have total clothing rights, so why shouldn't men? I'll wear whatever I want." But Dress to Kill skirts the slap-stick yawn of, say, a Mayor Giuliani in pumps. Izzard's act is both celebral and silly, in the loony tradition of Monty Python and Dame Edna. It's also blissfully free of scatology, screaming and drug-rehab patter.

This month, Izzard zips his lip for The Avengers, Hollywood's take on the English sixties spy sensation. It may just be this cross-dresser's crossover-though, ironically, he settles for topcoat and breeches and says nary a word. "Yeah, I basically stand around chewing gum and snarling," says Izzard, who plays Sean Connery's henchman, In a better world, Izzard, not Uma Thurman, would drag Emma Peel toward the millennium. Though Thurman gets the bodysuit-and Ralph Fiennes-it's Izzard who walks off with the movie.

What picture of Jean Harlow? He's also in trousers for Velvet Goldmine, the oddball surprise of Cannes (set for November). Izzard plays a he-man of a rock agent to Ewan McGregor's Bowie-ish glamster.*** How to explain these leaps of character-and couture? "Beats me," Izzard says, teasing his frosted-blonde locks. "I can tell you that I was born on February 7, 1962, 150 years to the day after Charles Dickens," he adds. "This combined with the fact that Pluto was ascending at the time, means that I tend to put on weight easily. Does that help?"


*** Named McGregor since he's the known name, but Jonathan Rhys Meyer's character is the one Izzard's character was the agent for.