For decades, Eddie Izzard has earned recognition globally as one of the most influential and consistently funny comedians working. This far reach can be closely attributed to Izzard’s ability to connect with audiences from many cultures, as he is able to translate his material into four different languages. By keeping his topics universal and generally aiming to tackle subjects throughout history as well as broad, daily-life absurdities, Izzard realized early on that with that approach he would not lose his audience due to tiny cultural differences.
"I’ve spent a lot of time trying to communicate and put over ideas in a grab-able way, as opposed to a highfalutin way." - Eddie Izzard
Eddie Izzard. Photo: Amanda Searle
“I realized that if you talk about comedians, sports stars, politicians, brand names in your supermarket and stuff on television, then take that to the next country over, even America to Canada or Canada to America, it’s not going to work,” explained Izzard over the phone. “All you’ve got to do is like, human sacrifice [for example]. You take the subjects which are good. Human sacrifice, you go anywhere in the world and say, ‘The weather’s bad, the gods hate us, the crops have failed, so we’re gonna kill Steve, and then once we’ve killed Steve in a bizarrely violent way, everything’s gonna really pick up, I’m sure.’ And everyone just taps into that and goes, ‘This is insane. Why did we do that? What on Earth were we on about?’”
By all accounts, Izzard had a very rough way of finding out ways to deliver his brand of comedy from the very start. Coming out as a transvestite early on in his career, the British comedian feels as though he had to think on his feet — in some cases, in glamorous heels —in order to win over the mass audience that he has at this point in his career.
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“I think that everything stems back to coming out as transgender — transvestite, transgender — back in ’85,” says Izzard. “It was so long ago there was no one that — well, they helped me, but I just knew that I had to work it all out myself, and it’s a thinking-out-of-the-box thing that I did then, and that I have sort of applied to everything I’ve done since then.”
Izzard is currently in the midst of his massive “Wunderbar” world tour, which will hit the Beacon Theatre next week for five shows. On top of this huge tour that will take him all around the world, Izzard is also set to hit the Broadway stage opposite Laurie Metcalf in a revival of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” next year. But, as busy as his show business is at the moment, Izzard may be putting a pause on everything to chase on something he is truly passionate about: running for a seat in British Parliament. So does leaving the stage for politics feel at all bittersweet for one of the world’s most renowned performers?
“I will be going away. I hadn’t called it ‘bittersweet,’ but it is. But I feel I have to do it,” explains Izzard. “Comedy does not actually help a political career, political ability. I think you have to have three things in politics. You have to have a vision for the future, which I’ve talked about and tried to lay out in my comedy shows, so that helps me get that out and people generally know. Communication. You need to be able to communicate, and I suppose having done a lot of performing does help me. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to communicate and put over ideas in a grab-able way, as opposed to a highfalutin way. You can use a language which is so complex that it loses people, and historians do this, I think, a lot. Even just talking about the 12th century, the 15th century, that immediately slows down your average person ’cause they go, ‘Now, is that 15 years or 15 centuries or 1500s? I know it’s not the same.’ Just say the 1500s or 1400s. Do that, and immediately you’ve just saved yourself a complicated thing. And the final thing is, you’ve got to be able to look at systems and analyze what is a good system. What system we invented doesn’t work and needs to be changed? You’ve got to be able to do that and be able to put that into effect.”
Eddie Izzard will begin his run at the Beacon Theatre on Tuesday, May 21, and perform each night until his final performance on Saturday, May 25. For tickets, head to eddieizzard.com.