Eddie Izzard proves an irresistible force on tour


Special To The Japan Times

To many fans of comedy, the first thing that comes to mind when you mention Eddie Izzard is his cross-dressing. However, if you dig deeper you will find one of Britain’s most intelligent comedians.

Born to British parents in the colony of Aden (now Yemen) in 1962, Izzard says he didn’t start cross-dressing until he was in his teens. With a flair for the theatrical, he dropped out of university and became a street performer before moving into stand-up comedy. His special “Dress to Kill” (1998) won an Emmy award and exposed him to a new audience in North America.

Izzard, 55, is more than just a comedian, though. He has appeared in more than a few films, including “Valkyrie,” “Ocean’s Twelve” and “Ocean’s Thirteen.”

An avid runner, last year he completed 27 marathons in 27 days in South Africa — representing the number of years Nelson Mandela spent in prison. He is a supporter for the Labour Party in the U.K., and says he plans on running for Parliament eventually.

For now, however, Izzard’s too busy with his Force Majeure tour, which brings his surreal comedy style to Tokyo.

On his comedic style:

It’s heavily influenced by Monty Python. I talk about human sacrifice. There are ancient medieval kings — oh, and an argument between God and Darth Vader in a canteen that the head of catering comes in and breaks up. It’s surreal and very silly.

On exporting his show overseas:

Just as Hollywood filmmakers don’t change content when they go abroad, I don’t adapt my act. I know this show will work in Tokyo just as it did in Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur and at the Hollywood Bowl. My humor’s universal. Jokes about human sacrifice are funny wherever you go. Mainstream Japan won’t get it … just as mainstream Britain or America doesn’t. You’ve got to use your imagination.

On performing in different languages:

German and French are both up and running so now I’m focusing on Spanish. I’ve managed to do 35 minutes, which I’m happy about. I haven’t learned any Japanese yet, but it’d be nice to incorporate some for the show. This will be the 35th country of the tour and my first time in Tokyo. I’m excited.

On what he could offer if he were to run for public office:

I think differently to others and have lots of energy. I’ve run more than 70 marathons, raising over £4 million (¥568 million) for various groups. I’m not afraid to take risks and this attitude has brought me success.

In the future I want to put my ideas across so everyone else can do well for themselves. If I get elected I’ll stop acting and touring professionally, though I should be able to continue performing at Labour Party events or charity gigs. It’ll be tough, but entertainers like (U.K. politician) Glenda Jackson and (U.S. Sen.) Al Franken have shown it can be done.

On Brexit:

Running and hiding from Europe is no way to improve the world. We’ve done the 1930s and know it doesn’t work. For countries like Germany and France, this is a great opportunity to take business away from the U.K. Multinationals are going to think, “Why do we have that base in Britain where we’ve got to do separate trade deals?” Let’s move out. Inflation’s coming back, the pound is tanking and you know that Scotland is just waiting to call another referendum to pull away from Britain.

What have we gained from this? The day after the result (Brexit supporter) Nigel Farage admitted that the leave side had lied about the millions promised for the National Health Service. The public were conned, but it’s not over yet. Brex-hate, Trump hate; the fight goes on.

On discrimination against transgender individuals:

I was verbally attacked at the FA Cup final last year, and outside my house when someone called me a “poofter” and threatened to “do” my home. This sort of thing’s been happening for generations and I’d just had enough. I fought my corner and then went to the police.

I believe the world’s much more civilized now than it was when I was growing up, but it doesn’t surprise me when people behave like that, especially after a few drinks. It’s important to show minorities that we don’t have to put up with any kind of abuse.

On “Victoria and Abdul”:

It’s a Stephen Frears film starring Dame Judi Dench as Queen Victoria and Ali Fazal as her attendant, Abdul Karim. I play her eldest son, Bertie, the Prince of Wales (later known as Edward VII after he became king). It was just a great production to be involved in and I’m really looking forward to seeing the full version. It’s due out in September.

Eddie Izzard’s Force Majeure tour takes place at Tamagawa Kuminkaikan Hall in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, on Feb. 25 (7 p.m. start; ¥6,500-¥8,000). For more information, visit www.tokyocomedy.com/eddie_izzard.