ABOVE: EDDIE IZZARD AT B BAR & GRILL IN NEW YORK, MAY 2014.
Lunch with Eddie Izzard is a unique experience for several reasons; not only does the comedian and actor have a razor-sharp intellect and an iconoclastic sense of the world, he’s also very cordial. Complementing his dapper black sports jacket and jeans were his long pointy nails, painted a deep scarlet with a British flag drawn on his right ring finger.
Currently, Izzard is on a world tour of his Force Majeure standup show. Although raised in Britain, Izzard performs the show in three languages—English, French, and German—and is looking to add a fourth (Spanish). Thus far, he’s traveled all over Europe, Canada, and South Africa, and is currently making his way around the U.S. Last week, Izzard performed to packed houses over five nights in New York City at the Beacon Theater. Aside from Force Majeure, Izzard acts in the NBC drama Hannibal, and recently finished filming Boy Choir Dustin Hoffman. His long-term plan is to run for mayor of London in 2020.
GERRY VISCO: So, Eddie, you’re going to so many locations on your world tour.
EDDIE IZZARD: It’s about 32 cities in America, but I’m planning on going to all 50 states. This is the 24th country on the world tour.
VISCO: You like to do things in big way.
IZZARD: Well, yes. If you’re trying to get a bit of attention, you can smash up your hotel room or spend all your time going to openings or doing the gossip column thing. I just decided to do gigs in French, German, Spanish, and in America.
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VISCO: Did you do the whole Berlin show in German?
IZZARD: Yes. Alles auf Deutsch. That’s what I was just learning.
VISCO: Is it true you’re dyslexic?
VISCO: You seem like such a linguist.
IZZARD: Linguistics has nothing to do with reading.
VISCO: I found your many references to the Greeks and the Romans interesting.
IZZARD: I find all history interesting because I’m going into politics. If you study the repeats of humanity, we keep fucking up in the same way, and maybe we keep succeeding in the same way. If you can factor those out, then you can look forward and see where we might be going, and where we might fall down, and give [yourself] a good guide to where humanity is going to go in the next 100, 200, and 1,000 years. It’s going to get easier and easier to do.
VISCO: Do you change your show at all for American versus European audiences, or is it pretty much the same?
IZZARD: On D-Day, on the 6th of June, I’m going to leave this tour to go to the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy. I’m going to attend some of the ceremonies, and then at seven o’ clock in the evening I’m going do three shows in three languages in three hours. I’m going to do seven o’ clock in German, eight o’clock in English, and nine o’clock in French.
All the money for those shows is going to five charities, an American, Canadian, German, French, and a British one. When you have a 70th anniversary, you’re looking backwards. But the Germans can’t always be the bad guys—not before ’33, and not since ’45.
VISCO: So you don’t dumb it down for us Americans, do you?
IZZARD: No, I dumb it up. I assume the intelligence of the audience. I start with human sacrifice, it doesn’t affect anyone at the moment, but why the hell do we do it? I believe it was the birth of fascism, of extremism, of people saying “We have to murder these people because the gods really would like that.” Why the hell would they like that? It’s illogical! You’ve got Medieval kings and ghosts and then there’s God and Darth Vader fighting over stuff, and you go to any country in the world, and I don’t change it at all—they can all figure it out.
VISCO: That’s why you’re calling the show Force Majeure?
IZZARD: Well, people take it to mean “act of God,” but I don’t believe in God, so I think it means “force of nature.” If you can be your own force of nature and have a positive heart, then you can actually do something good in the world.
VISCO: Have your shows evolved in a different fashion or do you think it’s been a steady path?
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IZZARD: The tricky thing is that you tend to be fascinated by certain things, so you dive into those, but you don’t necessarily become fascinated with something completely different 10 years later. So it’s trying not to repeat and go into different areas. I know I have to go into darker areas because my comedy is intelligent and very silly, and if I talk about human sacrifice then that’s a great place to go. What the fuck is that about? Why has no god ever come down from any religion? Not one god has ever come to Earth and said, “Hey, how’s it going? I’ve set you guys up, just wanted to check how it’s going.”
VISCO: So you don’t believe in god…
IZZARD: No, because he never comes down, never does anything. Six million Jewish people died and 50 million total in World War II. At any point he could have stepped in. Even before the last person was shot and the last bullet fired in the Second World War he could have said “Hey, I’m God. I know 50 million people have died, but I’m gonna save this last one.” He didn’t do that. So if he is there, he doesn’t give a shit. He, she, flying sandwich, whatever.
VISCO: But do you feel that there may be spirits or ghosts?
IZZARD: Maybe so, but they don’t help. Anyone who helps, fine.
VISCO: I was intrigued by your marathon running. You started in 2009 and you just immediately started running. Didn’t your body ache?
IZZARD: Yes, 2009. It did. The first 10 were very rough, but after 10 it got easier. The first three days were okay—between three and seven were rough. I did ice baths every night—15 minutes in 10-degree Celsius water. It rebuilds the corpuscles in the legs. All the top sports stars do it.
VISCO: When you’re on tour, do you have time to run?
IZZARD: Yes, they’re not quite as long runs, they’re not all-day runs. But I need to do two four-hours runs every week. At the moment, it’s New York, so there’s a lot of stuff going on.
VISCO: So while you’re here, you’re just going doing the show?
IZZARD: I like going to see certain sites from the Civil War, so we just checked out Gettysburg; we had a guy show us around the place and how the battle broke down. I know a lot of military history.
VISCO: Speaking of history, I was disappointed you didn’t wear high heels in the show. You’re not doing that as much, right? Well, you did have boots on, I guess, but according to what I was reading, you don’t do the drag so much anymore.
IZZARD: My heels were high, but how high do they have to be? I wear whatever I want whenever I want. I don’t call it drag; I don’t even call it cross-dressing. It’s just wearing a dress.
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VISCO: Do you call it transvestitism?
IZZARD: No, I just call it wearing makeup. No woman would say of another woman, “Oh, she’s wearing pants, what’s up with that?” Drag for me is costume, and what I’m trying to do is, sometimes I’ll go around and wear makeup in the streets, turn up to the gig, take the makeup off, do the show, and then put the makeup back on. It’s the inverse of drag. It’s not about artifice. It’s about me just expressing myself. So when I’m campaigning in London for politics, I campaign with makeup on and the nails. It’s just what I have on, like any woman.
VISCO: Do you model yourself on Margaret Thatcher?
IZZARD: I definitely do not model myself on Margaret Thatcher…
VISCO: But you have to admit, she had a look.
IZZARD: I know, but it wasn’t a good look. For me to put a look together, if it’s going to be a boy look or a girl look or whatever, is quite a tricky thing to do. I’m not doing drag because drag is seen in a certain way and my comedy has got zero to do with what I’m wearing. I could wear an elephant suit and say the same thing.
VISCO: Do you ever wear an elephant suit?
IZZARD: I very rarely wear an elephant suit.
VISCO: You’ve worn cow suits, I think, right?
IZZARD: No, I wrote a show called “Cows,” and other people did.
VISCO: I was watching the DVD of you in New York in 2000 and you were wearing leather pants and makeup but it was cool—it reminded me of a Velvet Goldmine outfit. It wasn’t any particular gender.
IZZARD: I have a lot of boy stuff going on in me, and then I have the girly thing, so I’m trying to express that in the most honest way I can.
VISCO: Do you consider it a fetish, something sexual?
IZZARD: No, it’s a genetic gift that people have been given. Everyone gets cards at the beginning of life. I don’t believe in a god, so we just seem to get given these cards, and then some people will hide from them in the LGBT area. I am transgender, I decided to be honest and tell everyone about it, and that’s it.
VISCO: Did you get any feedback about it from the LGBT scene?
IZZARD: People I encounter have been very positive. You’re being yourself, standing your ground.
VISCO: Do you go to gay bars?
IZZARD: No, I just go to bars. I don’t seek out anything. I will just go places. I think when LGBT gets really boring then we’ve made it, because it shouldn’t be, “You’re gay? Oh my god! You’re transgender? Oh my god!” It should just be, “You’re LGBT? Fine. Are you any good at what you do—accounting, photography, playing the banjo? How are you at that?” Our sexuality should be a thing that’s there, but not the front signpost.
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VISCO: Did you first start wearing dresses as a teenager?
IZZARD: I knew when I was four.
VISCO: When you first actually started going around…
IZZARD: When I first started going out, I was about 23.
VISCO: Did you feel like you encountered ridicule or opposition?
IZZARD: Oh yeah. Tons of it.
VISCO: And how did you deal with that?
IZZARD: Just ignored it.
VISCO: Did your family give you a hard time?
IZZARD: Nope, my family was good.
VISCO: Eddie, you do so much. Would you say you’re superhuman?
IZZARD: Not superhuman. Actually, it’s that all humans can do more than they think they can do. So I think we can all actually be more superhuman than we think we can.
EDDIE IZZARD IS CURRENTLY TOURING FORCE MAJEURE THROUGHOUT THE U.S. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT HIS WEBSITE.
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