Izzard Conditions: Cross-dressing, throught-provoking comic storms into Hub

[from bostonherald.com]

Eddie Izzard will hit the stage carefully when he plays TD Garden on Wednesday. No running full tilt for him – he’ll likely be wearing a pair of high heels and, who knows, maybe a cute little red dress with sequins.

The cross-dressing Brit comic has certainly gotten some yuks because of his outfits. But his topics and delivery are what make people think and laugh. Whatever it takes, Izzard, 47, has wanted to entertain since he was 7.

“I saw a play then and was transfixed by this guy who was getting a good reaction from the audience by being funny, and dramatic as well,” Izzard said by phone from a hotel in the Alps. “And I just thought, ‘God, I have got to do this.’ So I started quite actively trying to work my way into things and not being very successful at it for quite a long time.”

Ten years later and failing at drama – but by then under the spell of Benny Hill, Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and the Monty Python troupe – Izzard opted for comedy.

When he brings his very chatty Big Intimacy Tour Stripped Too to the Garden, Izzard plans to cover a rather wide spectrum of topics.

“What I talk about goes from the beginning of the Earth right up to now,” he said. “I’m talking about everything that’s ever happened – with gaps. With various influence from ‘Monty Python,’ Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, the History Channel and the Discovery Channel.”

And he’s happy to be playing Boston Garden.

“It’s great because I used to play (London’s) Covent Garden, which we call the Garden,” Izzard said. “So I’m going all the way from the Garden to the Garden. It’s quite a journey.”

It’s also quite a journey from his early days as a street performer.

“I realized when I was doing street that I started developing my own voice,” Izzard said. “British people play characters well, but I was watching Americans like Eddie Murphy and Bill Murray sort of playing themselves. So I started developing that in the street. Then I thought I needed to take that indoors and do it as stand-up.”

It was shortly after Izzard turned 30 and did an AIDS benefit that he realized people were saying, “Who is this guy? Where did he come from?” Soon he was playing in clubs and theaters (he’s performed locally at both the Charles Street Playhouse and the Colonial Theatre over the years) and had an HBO special, “Dress to Kill,” in 1999. It was only six years ago that Izzard did his first arena tour.

“I’d done two gigs in arenas before that,” he said. “But I knew the only way to get good at playing arenas was to do something like a hundred of them. If you do a hundred of them, you can’t help but get good at it. Or give it in, shoot yourself in the head, forget it, goodbye.

“The trick is to let the (video) screens do their job,” he added. “Barack Obama proved this. When he had just become president, he was playing to a hundred thousand, and he really didn’t do anything different. He just talked and the screens would carry the vision and the sound. We’ve just got to start using the equipment that rock ’n’ roll has been using for some time.”

Izzard has another trick, too – one he makes use of just in case American audiences aren’t hip enough to, say, British politics.

“I make all my material universal,” he said. “If I wanted to talk about Gordon Brown, I would go into Boston and say, ‘So, the head of our country, that’s the prime minister – he was Tony Blair and now he’s Gordon Brown – said this recently.’ And people would get that. I would explain my terms and then they’d get the hang of it.

“But I tend to say something like, ‘What were the Romans doing? The Greeks did this, or the cavemen did that.’ And people in Boston and New Zealand and Iceland and Paris would get that, if they’re socially progressive audiences. If they’re a bunch of Nazis, they’re really not gonna like my show.”

Written by Momo in: Interview |

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