Dressed to thrill

'Action transvestite' Eddie Izzard brings his outrageous comedy show to America - and he's not making any apologies.

Born in Yemen to British parents, Eddie Izzard has taken his unique brand of comedy to
Iceland, France and Australia. He's primed to take America by storm.
by: AJ Flick | Tucson Citizen | added 06.29.00

'Action transvestite' Eddie Izzard brings his outrageous comedy show to America - and he's not making any apologies.

There's a British Invasion imminent - and he's wearing high heels.

Comedian/actor/self-proclaimed "action transvestite" Eddie Izzard is poised to conquer the states after a highly successful 1999 HBO special, "Dress to Kill," and a sold-out, eight-city tour of North America, which ended Monday in New York City.

OK, let's get the transvestite issue out of the way. He isn't gay, and he isn't a drag queen. Izzard believes in clothing equality and, because women have a choice of pants and dresses, he thinks men should, too. He sticks to pants for his stage show but often wears makeup, nail polish and, always, outrageous high heels. You think Tina Turner looks good strutting in stilettos? Wait till you see Izzard.

Question his sexuality all you want, Izzard is a comic genius - without exaggeration. In eight years as a mainstage act, having risen from street performer, the 38-year-old Izzard has become a world-class entertainer whose comedy translates into any language as hilarious.

Religion is a favorite theme. He acts out conversations between Jesus and God, with God's voice always an imitation of the great British actor James Mason. During the Los Angeles run of Izzard's latest one-man show, "Circle," his first words as God brought delighted shouts and applause from audiences that included Cher, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Anniston and Elvis Costello.

Izzard's curiosity takes him on imaginative trips back in time, as if Jesus visited Earth to preach to the dinosaurs, or Charlton Heston - a frequent target - were visited by a gun-toting monkey. He's just as likely to wonder about the more mundane mysteries of life.

"Bees make honey," he said in his second standup show, 1994's "Unrepeatable." "Why? Do earwigs make chutney?"

Seemingly incongruous subjects are scattered throughout his act and introduced in a haphazard, blunt manner as if the thought had just crossed his keen mind. In "Circle," major topics included the pope, Heston, the Spanish Inquisition, Elian Gonzalez, the Pinochet scandal, Margaret Thatcher, Jesus, God and dinosaurs. As with his other five shows, "Circle" will be sold on video and, like "Dress to Kill," was taped for HBO.

Watching Izzard in action, for instance acting out boys watching girls play hopscotch as if it were a mysterious religious ritual, it isn't a stretch to see how he made the transition into acting.

His stage roles include the lead in David Mamet's "The Cryptogram" and Lenny Bruce in Julian Barry's "Lenny."

His first big screen role was as a Russian agent in 1996's "The Secret Agent." The heavy seems to be a recurring role for Izzard. In "Mystery Men," he is the leader of the "Disco Boys" who gets offed by Janeane Garofalo's bowling ball. In "The Avengers," his gum-chewing villain is killed by Uma Thurman.

This year finds Izzard in three films: British offerings "The Criminal" and "The Circus" and John Malkovich's upcoming summer film "Shadow of the Vampire."

In July, his autobiography, "Dress to Kill," will be reissued as a paperback.

As Izzard often quips, if you haven't heard of him, that's OK, because he hasn't heard of you, either. That's bound to change very soon.