Eddie Izzard talks comedy, political ambitions

[from sfgate.com]

Five Clicks to Jesus is an Internet game in which players start on a randomly selected Wikipedia article – the entry for Kevin Bacon, perhaps – and then must navigate their way to the entry for Jesus by clicking five or fewer hyperlinks.

Eddie Izzard’s comedy is kind of like that. An Izzard joke that starts as a riff on the Heimlich maneuver can end up as a jab at the National Rifle Association. Chiropractor satire evolves into a routine about Scrabble. Discussions of human evolution segue into the lyrics from “I Can See Clearly Now.” Naturally.

This Saturday, Izzard will take a break from his dramatic roles, political ambitions, foreign-language gigs and marathon running to bring his scatterbrained stand-up shtick to the Shoreline in a show called “Stripped on the Shore.”

Q: What makes history funny to you? Were you a really good history student?

A: I was a not-good history student. The idea of arguing very lengthy things – like in the U.K. you seem to see the question “Why did the First World War start?” endlessly debated – always kind of floored me. I don’t think I find history funny, but I noticed that no one was doing it. And so I consciously pushed into it because I thought, that’s a good place to go and live. It’s more interesting than saying “men are like this, women are like this,” or talking about things on television programs.

Q: You’re just wrapping up a string of 21 gigs in Paris, performed in French. Does your sense of humor change when you do your routine in a foreign language?

A: No. This is my big theory: Senses of humor are exactly the same, but there are several senses of humor in each country. In the last 15 years, I’ve taken out all my references to local products in Britain or America. But I always start off by talking about the place I’m in. Like, after 13 weeks in Paris, I was talking about the sex shops on the Boulevard de Clichy. But I can’t use that anywhere else. I think the sense of humor is the same. I just plug into the people who like stuff like Monty Python in France, and off I go.

Q: You recently ran 43 marathons over the span of 52 days. What exactly compelled you to do that?

A: It’s just something I wanted to do. And I did it for a charity called Sport Relief. I was running with the English flag, then the Welsh flag, then a Northern Ireland flag which I invented, then a Scottish flag. I’m going into politics in nine years, and it sort of said, “We are totally different people, but we’re also exactly the same, and we are a United Kingdom.” We used to kill each other, and now there’s an Englishman running with a Scottish flag. It was beautiful. And we raised about $2.7 million. Hopefully some kid somewhere will think, “Oh, here’s a transvestite who runs marathons, does gigs in French, plays Shoreline and the Hollywood Bowl. Sure, I’ll do that.” It’s a good thing to put out.

Q: It sounds like you’re pretty certain that you’ll go into politics. Do you have an exact plan?

A: Well, it was 10 years last year. Now it’s a year later, so I’m saying nine years. I’m going to try to pull an Al Franken. As opposed to an Al Sharpton, I guess.

Q: Will you be running for Parliament?

A: Probably mayor of London or Parliament. I am very positive on the European Union, so maybe the European Parliament would also appeal. I’m being advised that you can get a bit lost out there. The British press pays no attention to what they do.

Q: Are there any projects you’re working on that people don’t know about yet?

A: I’m doing a “Treasure Island” drama which is coming out next year in America. “Pirates of the Caribbean” had a sort of swashbuckling tone. We did a real down-and-dirty version. And a film called “Lost Christmas: An Urban Fairytale,” where I play a curious, somewhat mystical figure who seems to find things that people have lost. And apart from that I’ve got gigs to do in German, Russian and Arabic.

Q: Have you done shows in those languages before?

A: No. I don’t speak any Russian or Arabic. I do feel like now is the time that people from Europe should be reaching out to the Arabic people. It’s sort of my duty, in a way. I’d love to go back to Aden, Yemen, where I was born, and do a gig in Arabic.

Q: You played a part in David Mamet’s play “Race” recently. What do you think about his recent shift to the political right wing?

A: Well, I wish David wouldn’t be shifting. We had big arguments about football, of all things. The World Cup was on at the same time as we were rehearsing for “Race,” and I said that soccer can save the world. He scoffed at that. What I feel that soccer can do is redistribute dignity around the world. Teams from smaller countries go and win. It’s amazing. They don’t have to go to war. They don’t have to come up with a GDP that blows everyone out of the water.

Q: Have you planned your wardrobe for the San Francisco show yet?

A: I have. I’m not in girly mode at the moment. I’m in boy mode. I argue with people when they say, “You have to wear these clothes.” No. I don’t have to do anything. I can wear what I want.

Eddie Izzard: “Stripped on the Shore.” 8 p.m. Sat. Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View. $25.50-$131. www.livenation.com.

Written by Momo in: Interview,Tour |

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