British comic faces the world with an American attitude

[from stltoday.com]

So now that Eddie Izzard has gotten famous — he’s starred in films, on Broadway, in the recent FX TV series “The Riches” and in arena stand-up shows — have audiences for the politically active and cross-dressing British comedian become a little self-selective?

“Well, I probably don’t get many Nazis coming to the shows, in that self-policing way that things happen,” Izzard says by phone from the French Alps, where he is enjoying his holiday vacation. “I probably get a more democratic-leaning, socially progressive audience. I don’t get many socially and fiscally conservative people. Or if I do, they probably walk out.”

In fact, he says, he once commissioned a research study that revealed that 50 percent of his audience had never seen him before.

“That means they’re being dragged by the other 50 percent. Either dragged happily, or more like ‘Oh, all right, I’ll come,'” says Izzard, whose “Stripped Too: The Big Intimacy Tour” comes to the Fox Theatre on Saturday night.

Those who do show up wind up seeing an erudite and sometime surreal act — Monty Python’s John Cleese has called Izzard “the lost Python” — that is in large part based on Izzard’s passion for world history.

“There must be a history gene in my family,” he says. “I hated history in school because I couldn’t do the essays, but I’m a sucker for inhaling the information.

“I just thought, no one’s doing history. When I started, I hadn’t yet told people I was a transvestite, and as a white male stand-up, you’re looking for something that will set you apart. I thought, ‘If you do history, you’ll seem clever.’ I thought it was a good place to go.”

By the time he arrived in America, Izzard had donned heavy makeup and glitzy dresses that made him stand out plenty. But it also confused audiences.

“I happened to be a transvestite, and I do comedy,” he says. “People thought, ‘Ah, it’s a drag thing and the drag informs the comedy.’ And it doesn’t, actually. I took a lot of (crap).”

Izzard is driven and determined, from the way he conquered America, simply keeping at it till we gave in — “It’s the Japanese car industry’s way of working,” he quips — to his recent obsession with running marathons. He ran 43 of them in 51 days to raise money for the British charity Sport Relief.

“Long-distance running always seemed like, ‘Why the hell would anyone want to do this?'” Izzard says. “But then I said, ‘OK, I’m going to do this.’ And then Sport Relief came along. I thought they’d be in contact with doctors and people who could tell me whether I’m insane or if I could possibly do it. I met a few experts and doctors who said, ‘Have a go.'”

Izzard also has learned to fly a plane (to conquer his fear of flying) and learned enough languages to occasionally perform his show in French, Russian and German.

“I like to say I’m a British European and I think like an American,” Izzard says. “It’s that out-of-the-box-we-can-do-it-we-can-build-it-let’s-go-to-the-moon thing. A lot of American’s don’t actually do that, but it’s built into your DNA. And obviously, it can go wrong. But I love the idea of it.”

Written by Momo in: Interview |

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