Playboy, December 2004, pg 30 (from the EI Live Journal)
From our man in London, a steaming mince pie of mirth and misery.
Santa Claus is more popular than Jesus. This is obviously blasphemy, and in the Bible Belt they should start burning Santa records. Jesus was a fantastic hippie, a sort of 1960s icon way back in the 30s - a guitar playing, I'm-at-Woodstock, hanging-out, switching-off, tuning-up, blowing-up kind of guy. But that's not Christmas. Christmas is a large guy going down an unfeasibly narrow chimney in an impossible way.
Santa Claus never actually worked out that if he just left every kid cash, the kids could buy the presents themselves. I'm sure the kids would be fine with just cash, though it would take some of the magic out of Christmas.
I always wanted to be in school plays, but I never got picked. Then in 1969 there was a flu epidemic, and kids were dropping like flies, but I seemed to be of a sturdier constitution. So maybe it was just because I was alive that I was given a part in the Nativity play put on by the class below me. I was a shepherd - the sharp shepherd - and the other two kids were dozy shepherds who just looked up at the ceiling. You look at these Nativity things and half the kids look like they're on crack, just seem really out of it. I didn't have much to say - just look at the roof, point and then complain about burning sheep. I would have liked to have been Gabriel - he's a bit like the Human Torch because of the head thing - or maybe Joseph and have a fight with the guy at the inn. But Mary's a no-good part. You just sit there. Baby Jee's no good. The three wise men are good, because you can fight, you can jostle for position. It's not too bad.
My family was non-Christian - ostensibly Church of England, but if you're C of E it's basically like saying you like to celebrate the birth of the son of God by watching the telly.
Christmas was nothing for Jesus. He had one good Christmas at the beginning, of course, when he got the gold, frankincense and myrrh - three good presents. Not much good for a baby, but, you know, the parents were probably happy.
I was in New Zealand where they sell actual swords like the ones used in The Lord of the Rings. So I got my brother Bilbo Baggins's sword as a Christmas present. It's lethal. I have to get it ground down, otherwise someone's going to do himself damage. But it's not like you can pop into a supermarket and say, "Could you blunt the edges of my sword, please?" They don't really have that equipment anymore. In the old days they could have done that.
The worst Christmas in history was 1666, in England. The Black Death in London was 1665, and the Great Fire was in 1666. So Christmas 1666 must have been like, "Bloody hell, what's going on here? One year everyone's dying and then everything burns to the ground." I suppose the glass-is-half-full people would celebrate just being alive. And with so many people dead, there would be a lot of job and relationship opportunities. But the glass-is-half-empty people are going, "Who drank half my glass?" Everyone's thinking, What the hell could possibly happen in 1667? And nothing happened in 1667.
Comic Eddie Izzard recently released three DVDs in the US. He also appears in Ocean's Twelve.