The surreal life


There’s something quite fetching about Eddie Izzard when he applies ruby-red lipstick, mascara and black eyeliner and wears hosiery, sequins and pumps.

Just don’t call him a drag queen.

“It’s not drag!” Izzard says. “It’s a costume! For me, I’m just wearing a dress. Women don’t say, ‘I’m wearing drag today.'”

Then, the British comedian John Cleese once dubbed the “Lost Python” and who mainstream American audiences think is just a little bit queer said, “Whether you are gay, bisexual, trans – you don’t choose it. Me, I’m a straight girl-boy. I realized the girly thing when I was four years old. And that’s my gift.”

Izzard may be famed for his transvestism on and off the stage, but you won’t find him dolled up and working the boards on his current month-long cross-Canada Stripped Too tour that brings the stream-of-consciousness surrealist to Montreal next week.

“This tour is all about going back to basics,” Izzard says. “I’m not playing Madison Square Garden.”

And thank God for that. But if you still really want to see Izzard on a video screen, then check out his acting chops in the FX television series The Riches (in which he and Minnie Driver head a travelling family of con artists and thieves) or in such big-budget Hollywood flicks as Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen.

Personally, with his mug, I always thought Izzard looked more like a manager for a ’60s British rock group, kind of like an Andrew Loog Oldham, or Runaways’ svengali Kim Fowley.
Of course, Izzard’s played one too, the manipulative Jerry Divine in Todd Haynes’ magnificent glittery 1998 film Velvet Goldmine with the drop-dead gorgeous Jonathan Rhys-Meyers.

“I always wanted to act,” says Izzard, who made his West End drama debut as the lead in the world premiere of David Mamet’s The Cryptogram in 1994.

Still, Izzard, now 48, remains best known for his stand-up act in which he really rambles and segues and doubles back again. It’s pretty surreal stuff. Much like the man, whose life has also just been captured – warts and all – in the new documentary film Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story.

“Nothing was off-limits,” Izzard says. “I didn’t want a puff piece. Though there were times I said, ‘I would like that to be shown.’ But that’s pure vanity. I look like a complete mess in some scenes.”

Kind of like the day back in 1990 when a then-mostly unknown Izzard (he was a street performer in Europe in the 1980s and honed his act in the comedy clubs of Britain in the early-1990s) was hired to warm up a TV audience at a London studio taping. “I wanted to be on TV. And warm-up looks like hosting a show and I was used to doing that. But my material is too surreal. I just died on stage.”

Not that he regrets it.

So I tell Izzard the only thing I regret about my past is the length of it.

He laughs. “Good point! Regret is a useless emotion. You can’t change anything. I have learned from mistakes but I have no regrets.”

Still, there is one thing more that Izzard would love to do in Montreal one day.

“I’d really like to do a show up there in French,” Izzard says. “But I think I’d have to be sober.”

Eddie Izzard headlines Théâtre St-Denis on May 25.

Written by Momo in: Tour |

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