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Eddie Izzard

Eddie Izzard (born February 7, 1962 as Edward John Izzard) is a British stand-up comedian and actor. He has a very individual style of rambling, surreal monologue. He has turned his attention to acting as well as maintaining his demanding touring schedule.

Early life

Eddie was born in Aden, Yemen, as the youngest son of John and Ella Izzard. In 1963, shortly before Britain abandoned the capital of Aden, the Izzards moved to Northern Ireland. He lived in Bangor, County Down until 1967, when troubles started brewing there as well, and the family moved to Skewen, Wales, and Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, England. His mother died in March 1968, of cancer.

Campaigning

He has engaged in campaigning work, including opposing the closure of the departments of Drama and of Languages, Linguistics and Translation at the University of East Anglia and supporting the further integration of the UK into the European Union. In May 2005 he appeared on the BBC’s political debate show ‘Question Time’, describing himself as a ‘British European’, comparing it to other cultural identities such as ‘African American’. As part of his integration campaigning, he was one of the first people to spend a Euro in London. This pan-European aspect has influenced his work as well; he regularly performs in French, an acquired language, and occasionally in German in addition to English. In July 2003, he was made an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England for ‘pro-Europe campaigning’, ‘his contribution to promoting modern languages and tolerance of other cultures and lifestyles’ and for having ‘transcended national barriers’ with his humour.

Transvestitism

Izzard describes himself as an ‘executive’ or ‘action’ transvestite and as ‘a male tomboy‘. He regularly cross-dresses both on and off stage and makes it clear that cross-dressing is, for him, not a sexual thing – he simply enjoys wearing make-up and clothing which is traditionally perceived in the West as female-only. He dismisses claims that he is homosexual, saying he is either a straight transvestite or a male lesbian. He has also described himself as “a lesbian trapped in a man’s body”.

Professional development

Eddie found some degree of solace in comedy after the death of his mother. He drew particular comfort from the works of Monty Python, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, and the early Benny Hill. He began to toy with stand-up at college and, after being ingloriously kicked out of school, he took his act to the streets. Having spent a great deal of the 1980s working as a street performer in Europe and the United States, Izzard moved his act into the standup comedy venues in Britain, first appearing at The Comedy Store in London in 1987. He refined his material throughout the ’80s, and in the early ’90s, he finally began earning some measure of recognition, though originally he did not perform in women’s clothing.

His stand-up work brought him British Comedy Awards in 1993 (for Live at the Ambassadors) and 1996 (for Definite Article). After the British leg of the tour, he took “Definite Article” to major cities outside the UK including a successful stint in New York City. However, his US breakthrough did not really come until 1998, when Dress to Kill, which was shown on American television channel HBO, went on to earn Izzard two Emmy Awards in 2000. He only rarely appears on television, as he says it uses up material at too high a rate, whereas stage material can be continually re-used in front of different audiences for several months.

Material

Izzard states that he does not write any of his material down [1]. Running characters and references in his comedy include:

  • An impression of James Mason, often representing a hapless, dithering God or authority figure
  • An impression of Sean Connery, whose character – which has ranged from Noah to Henry VIII – usually interacts with the Mason character
  • The name ‘Jeff’ (for instance as in “Jeff Jeffty-Jeff. Born on the first of Jeff Nineteen-Jeffty-Jeff”, whose computer password is ‘JEFF’, Jeff the God of Biscuits, or Jeff Broccoli)
  • Jam
  • Bees
  • Pigs
  • Banjos
  • ‘mmmmmrmmmmmm’ – the sound of an E-type Jaguar
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Toasters
  • Taps
  • Star Wars references (example – The Death Star Canteen)
  • Azerbaijan
  • the British monarchy

He has a number of mannerisms, such as:

  • Saying “So… yeah…” when thinking what to say next (a fact subtly noted on the back of the ‘Glorious’ video box)
  • Saying “and, uh…” as the audience pictures his bizarre imagery and starts laughing
  • When his stream of consciousness appears to lose the audience, holding up an imaginary pad and pen and writing “Lost them there”.
  • Connecting two totally irrelevant topics and pausing as the audience picks up on it “monkeys covered in jam……..and that’s why the Pope……” (not exact quote)
  • Making fun of his own pantomimes. (describing a hotel room in France) “Avec un vue de la mer.. a view of the sea [pantomimes looking at the ocean], un grand lit… a large bed [pantomimes smoothing the sheets]. Et, avec un douche [pantomimes a shower spraying on his head]… with a spider.” Similarly, a character in Izzard’s sketch may comment on the joke (“no, that’s the wrong punchline, you can’t use that”) or the audience (“they groaned at this point, do you realise that?”).

Critical reception

In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian’s Comedian, Izzard was voted amongst the top 20 greatest comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders.

In Comedy Central’s list of the 100 greatest standups of all time, he was number 75.

External links

Interviews and articles