Eddie Izzard has always been an outspoken comic voice, only now he can be outspoken in four languages — with more on the way. He brings his well-honed live show to Foxwoods this weekend, and you should catch him while you can, as he has a strict deadline on when he's taking on a life in politics. Also, he has some interesting advice for Muslim extremists in light of the Charlie Hedbo attack.
How has your show evolved over the last few years?
The show is just more honed. I've played 25 countries now, I've done the show in onto my fourth language, so I like to think that it's the redux version of the show. It's just got down to a perfect form. I can't quite put my finger on exactly how different it is, but I do verbal sculpture, I think, where I just re-sculpt and re-sculpt and re-sculpt the show and drive it toward an ultimate conclusion. And trying to put a structure into either a rock and roll show or a stand-up show is really difficult because we deal on a different thing than a normal story-based show, but this one almost has a structure, which I'm quite pleased about.
You've been working with a director, Sarah Townsend, as well. How has that changed things?
It's what I needed. I sort of realized that the only way to get to that level is to have someone arguing with me. It also helps me get writing. I've got about four scripts in my head that I've got to get at least two of into films before I go into politics in five years. Patrick Marber, the guy who did "Closer," offered to direct me years ago, and I didn't take him up on it at that stage. But I got to this point where I realized I'm an inherently lazy person. I feel like I'm a big s---, and once I get going I tend to keep going, but once I stop I can't get going again. I have a double-sided momentum. If I don't get going, I just don't do things, so it's great to have someone to bounce off.
These screenplays you want to write, do you have plans to direct any of them as well?
It would be writing and producing, maybe directing, but I'd rather clear one thing at a time. I know writing does go hand-in-hand with directing, that there is a logic to that, but I don't think that I would, full stop. I would like the collaboration of the director to say, "Actually, this story isn't grabbing me at all right here." So I think later I would direct. I've always wanted to make films, and I haven't made my own film yet. And it kind of annoys me that some 16-year-olds have made their films or whatever. I just knew that I didn't want to do one that is rubbish.
What is your take on the recent attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices and the response in Paris and worldwide?
I haven't seen the latest response, but what I do believe is that Muhammad, or the prophet Muhammad, was a very intelligent and wise person, and I believe that he said, "Don't draw images of me, don't make images of me" because he didn't want to be taken as a god. That's why he called himself a prophet, to make sure that he was not put into a godlike place, which he'd seen happen with Yeshua, what the Greeks call Jesus, and he did talk to the elders of the churches of Christianity and Judaism before Islam came from his mind. So I feel he's like a modernizer — like I feel a bit the Jesus person was — who was trying to get spiritual religion onto a better track. So he said, "Don't do this, because otherwise the future generations are going to put me into this godlike place, which we don't want to see happen." And that turned into extremist saying, "Murder people who draw a picture," and that's so not what he was saying. It is not part of Islam, as moderate Imams have been saying. Murder is just not a part of Islam, so as soon as you're doing that you are not going to Heaven. There are no virgins, it is just not happening. It is pure murder. I wrote it in my tweet: This is not Islam, this just murder. They are scared of ideas.
That's sort of sadly ironic, then.
Yes. But hopefully we can move forward, over decades if not centuries. We've got to do it quicker this time, we've got to get to a place where the entire world feels like we're on a level playing field. No politician is heading in that direction. It's too difficult to do. If you get elected by a country, you're putting forward viewpoints that in the end are good for your country, and it's so difficult to get to a place where everyone in the world feels like they have a fair deal, because all wars are about economics. And I suppose, in the end, all terrorism must be about economics.
Does that influence your own plans to go into politics?
No, no. I'm going into politics because I hate the extremists. Religious or political, they are wrong. May 2020, there's a general election in the U.K. and there's a mayor's election in London at the same time. I will hopefully be going for Mayor of London, or if not a member of Parliament. I don't mind either, I'm just going to do that. But meanwhile I've got touring France in French, touring Germany in German, Spain and South America in Spanish, and then Russian and Arabic to learn.
Emmy® nominee Eddie Izzard headlines The Grand Theater at Foxwoods January 17.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick