Eddie Izzard

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BY Robin Allport

Eddie Izzard has been of the Britains foremost comedians for many years now. My first recollections of him stem back to seeing him do a sketch on TV about French Lessons in school.. and how you only remember pointless phrases from those lessons. "Le Singe et dans l'arbre" (The monkey is in the tree) was Eddie's. Since then he has gone from strength to strength, and is now involved in the One Word Improv show, and had not long come back from a show in New York. We managed to grab a few minutes with him whilst he was in London....

How did you get into comedy?
I was always into comedy, there is a good sense of humour in the family so I always liked it, and in 1981 I took my first shot at the Edinburgh Festival. I tried to do sketch comedy like Monty Python.... I just pushed, I pushed to do sketch comedy, and that didn't work. Then I did street performing from 1985 onwards, and that didn't work... but that was OK, I sort of got my feet and learned how to talk bollocks. But I could talk reams and reams of bollocks, and then I realised that standup was the way to get in as that was leading to stuff. So I did these sort of 5 minute open spot things around London (I started in 1988), and everyone says I was really shit when I started... everyone delights in telling me this, "You we're really shit.", I thought I was quite shit... but they said, "No. You were really shit.".
The open spot things - you can just phone them up and say "I'll do 5 minutes, and you dont pay me.", then they can look at you and see what you are like. This was in March '88... and now it is '97. So, to answer the question.... It was a long process, it did take forever to get into.

Do you think you are influenced by any other comdians?
Yep. Stand up wise, its Richard Prior, Steve Martin and Billy Connoly are the big stand up influences. And Monty Python and The Goons is also where the comedy comes from... the best of Britain and the best of America as well, I like them both... but the stand up comes more from the American side.

What do you think of the current scene, both in the UK and the rest of the world?
I really like it actually. I dunno, I'm quite an optimist so I think it's in a good state. Also, having just gone and played New York and having them say "Hey, this is good stuff.", or.. well.. it sold out. So, umm, I think British Comedy is ready to take over... not take over, that sounds bad.... "Yeah. We're gonna invade China now... I think the Chinese will really dig this kooky sense of British humour." Well, the whole thing about a different country having a different sense of humour is wrong... every country has several different senses of humour. So all you've got to do is go and play these places, like you've just seen... I've gone to Sweden and someone has set up an unoffical web page and he was emailing me... and they have got crazy humour. Their English is great too, the guy in the email said "Could you speak faster", I had slowed down to about three-quarter speed so that I... was... speaking... in... this... kind.... of.... speed, but he said "You can go faster than that!"

Sorry, what was the question?

What do you think of the current scene?
Yeah. I really like Harry Enfield's stuff, and Steve Coogan's and Mrs. Merton's and The Fast Show and Brasseye (Even though I haven't seen Brasseye, I have just seen clips of it... but I just know his stuff from The Day Today, and I have heard what it is like).

So why the fixation with animals?
I've got a toaster talking now. It isn't actually animals... anything can talk, you see humans objectively when other objects start behaving like humans. It is just a truth it seems, that when animals start behaving like humans, then human's see themselves objectively in it and say "That really stupid.. Oh yeah.. we do that!" Richard Prior, all his animals talk, so it's nothing new.

Do you think computers are doorways to the future or just stupid little plastic boxes?
Umm. I think computers are.... I think everyone has wizard envy. This is my theory (which no-one agrees with). Everyone really wants to be a wizard and be able to stand there and go *snaps his fingers* and the lights all change, and a helicopter comes down... and you zoom to the other side of the world in five seconds... that would be an amazing thing which no-one has. So, everyone quite likes this power, especially when you are a kid you want it as you have seemingly no power and thats why cars are nice, cos you do have the power to zoom down somewhere. This is what computers give me... you can do those search things on.... Hairnet! You can get information all the different hairnets in the world.... and it is a power thing. You become a wizard, it's your own wizard's magic wand.

How much comic potential do you think there is on the Internet?
It is a carrier as aposed to a generator. It's the people that come on and use the internet, like television, does television have comic potential? It's the people who do good comedy on the television, that's the potential. Television is just an airwave. So, I see the Internet as a vast messy place to go and get confused on, and have things break down, not be able to download stuff... it just lies to you! Yes, you can download this, press this button now and wait for three years. The one I get really pissed off about, is that one that says "Download : 43 minutes and 50 seconds to go.. then it sits on that number, and it moves up and it moves down... look! What kind of clock is this? Is it some kind of pretend clock?

Do you find it strange that there are large numbers of fans discussing you and writing web pages about you, from all over the world on the Net?
No. I am pleased about that and I like the general quality of the websites, so, I just want the people that are into my stuff to hopefully give a damn, and care about it like I try to care about the stuff I am trying to make. My stuff is kind of wierd as well, it's not big mainstream "Hey, Jimmy went into a pub and...", its not big slapsticky stuff... it's kind of offbeat and wierd. I used to listen to Python obsessively and knew the four yorkshiremen sketch, which isn't even a Python sketch. So, yeah... I am really pleased about it, and I would like my work to be competitive against these guys.

Have you ever thought about doing live broadcasts for your fans over the Net?
I want to do the improv over the net. We do a different show every night... every night it's totally different! I would like to do a tour that goes out every night over the internet. I mean, I'm not sure about pricewise... you would need about a 5 camera shoot on it to be any good, and we would need to get some heavy duty sponsership on it, but I might do this in 1998, when we have the One Word Improv world tour (which I just made up on the top of my head).... I haven't checked the other guys, but, if we do it, then that is when it would happen.

If you had to go to a desert island for a year and could take 5 luxury items, what would they be?
A Dorling Kindersley CD Rom. I'm really into their stuff, because it's really good quality. I'd take the History of the World, but with even more detail than they have got, you just keep running out of detail and you want more... you want all the endless detail in the world. A Bath. A Salad Drier. I didn't know these existed and then we did a scene on One Word Improv where a salad drier was in it, and I had never heard of a Salad Drier.

You could actually dry your clothes in it maybe?
You could get in and go for a spin, if you were very small....
A Bow and Arrow.

Just one arrow?
Just one arrow, and a length of twine that goes with it, to bring it back.
And an Aeroplane.

What do beavers get up to?
They build Dams.

If you got home tonight and your house had been burgled, what would you look for first?
The Burglar.

If the Spice Girls ran for office which roles do you think they'd take in the cabinet?
Mel D would be Minister for Overseas Development. Mel E would be Minister for Underseas Development. The Baby one would be Junior Secretary to the Treasury. The others would be in charge of defense... both of them.

Have you got a message for the people of the Internet?

From IMVS.com