In his high-heels, lipstick and earrings, there’s no mistaking Eddie Izzard.
Yes, the 42-year-old British standup comedian is a transvestite, an issue he’s addressed many times during various performances. Discerning between types of cross-dressers (“weirdo” versus “executive”) and asserting that many men in women’s clothing are in fact heterosexual, after 20 years as a comic, film and television star, Izzard is well beyond justifying his looks.
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Not that it matters anyway. Slick, self-assured and quite intellectual, as Izzard delves into his shows, the initially shocking visual aspect quickly evaporates as one becomes enraptured in his alluring ability to regale with engaging tales steeped in history and hilarity.
“I always say I talk about everything there ever was ... with gaps,” he smiles, referring to his penchant for relaying factual situations with a humorous twist. “(Comics) have to talk about something and if you have no point of view on anything, you end up doing dick jokes or mother in-law jokes which is incredibly boring. You have the pressure of talking about something but if you can articulate a point of view, you can talk about absolutely anything. I discovered history which was waiting to be used.”
Taking that modus to its extreme on his latest tour dubbed Stripped, Izzard reveals plans to discuss everything from God — or the lack thereof — to old people dying in their beds, Greeks and Romans, Egyptians, cavemen and more. He notes that the show is yet another wealth of information delivered with sincerity, brevity and most importantly, humour.
“I saw a professor lecture on a subject that I’m interested in and it was incredibly boring. There was too much detail and it was monotone. I break it down: ‘There were these people and they were f—ed up. Then these people came along and they were really f—ed up.’ I cut it down and make it more street-accessible. Hopefully I’m not offering lessons so much as observations, though.”
Still, as any devout Izzard fan knows, despite a general outline, there’s always the potential for Stripped to careen off the rails nightly. Continually succumbing to his own tangents and affection for improvisation, Izzard often becomes so caught up in entertaining unscripted tales he becomes lost. “Where was I?” is as much a fixture of Eddie Izzard shows as his shocking appearance. At that, Izzard reveals that even with a host of items to discuss on Stripped’s Canadian stint, he can’t be sure exactly where it will go.
“Anyone gets bored with doing the same thing over and over again so I ad-lib as much as I can in every show (but) this show is well up to speed. I’ve performed in about 40 or 50 arenas so far, so Canada’s getting it when it’s in good shape ... I’m ready to talk more rubbish.”