Too Sexie for his Dress
Oregon Live | 08.29.03 | Kyle O'Brien

Eddie Izzard is more than just a bloke in a dress. The British comedian/actor may be a transvestite, wearing women's clothing and plenty of makeup when he performs and in his regular daily existence, but after several minutes of his stand-up act, it's easy to forget that he's in drag at all.

It's that kind of perplexing complexity that has made his career so interesting. He's not only one of the sharpest stand-up comedians to come out of England in some time, but he's also a respected actor, having played in films like "Velvet Goldmine" and receiving a Tony nomination earlier this year for his turn in Broadway's "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg." But it's the women's clothing that gets people talking when his name is mentioned.

Izzard is an astute wit, using a drawn out, tangential storytelling style to convey his often cerebral takes on wide-ranging subjects, ranging from Jesus to Charlton Heston and guns. His shrewd observations and skewed view of reality are peppered with some quick asides and razor-sharp one-liners that keep audiences in stitches. His one-man HBO special, "Dress to Kill," based on his record-breaking off-Broadway show, earned Izzard two Emmy awards and broadened his American fan base. His numerous admirers include Bob Newhart, Jennifer Aniston and Elvis Costello.

Izzard's latest tour is titled "Sexie," and it hits Portland this week for two nearly sold-out shows.

" 'Sexie' doesn't necessarily connect at all with what I'm saying on stage," Izzard said earlier this week in a phone interview. "I was going to call it 'Elbow' but 'Sexie' seemed sexier, while ''Elbow' is more elbowie."

So what is "Sexie?" "It's whatever things are passing through my brain," said the affable Izzard, "from greyhound racing to the Koran . . . I've been reading the Koran lately, because somebody has to. I also bought a DVD of Islam because it saves time. Mohammed seemed like a groovy guy."

No subject is too sensitive to touch on and joke about for Izzard. Indeed, his last stand-up tour, "Circle," which will be released on CD and DVD in September, took jabs at the Crusades, the pope, Jesus and the dinosaurs. "There's ways to talk about any subject."

Izzard said he even discusses ruthless dictators, such as Idi Amin and deposed Liberian dictator Charles Taylor in "Sexie." "They're really charismatic (expletive) artists," he says.

Izzard can be lighter as well. "You never see exasperation on a greyhound's face when they don't catch the bunny. I think to make (racing) more interesting they should have monkeys riding greyhounds with no bunny. I think people would pay to see that."

Izzard is fast becoming a comedy phenomenon. His off-the-cuff remarks, combined with outrageous stage outfits, have vaulted him to rock 'n' roll status. He does admit that as an actor being a transvestite can sometimes be a stumbling block, with directors and producers not seeing through the makeup.

"I've got to work really hard and be the best I can. It's baggage, but I'm happy to carry that baggage."

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