A very nice Englishman named Philip introduced us to comedian Eddie Izzard sometime after the video of Glorious turned up in the neighborhood video rental stores and before Dress to Kill came out. Soon I owned them both. I watched them and watched them, and when Circle came out I watched that, too.
Eddie Izzard is who I watch when I’m stressed and I need to chill out. He’s got this favorite uncle telling you silly stories vibe that just brings me back down to earth.
You may be thinking: who is this infinitely rewatchable wonder? Comedy routines don’t usually have that much in the way of legs. (And I happen to think Izzard’s legs are very fine indeed, by the way, especially in fishnet stockings.)
So, yeah. Let’s start there. Eddie Izzard isn’t your average stand-up comedian: he’s a rock star, a surreal improviser… and a professional transvestite. He makes just about everything funny: Greek mythology, The Great Escape, the Crucifixion, pilot fish, and the Pope, to name just sample.
I’d been going to comedy clubs semi-regularly at about this time, and watching a fair amount of stand-up on TV, too, and certain themes tended to arise over and over. From this highly unscientific sample, I offer you the following generalizations: your average male comedian will almost always talk about how weird women are, what it’s like to be dating/married/reproducing with these strange alien creatures, and then maybe take a cruise through current politics or fatherhood. Your average female comedian has a decent chance of getting into how weird men are. They’re also somewhat more likely to give you a cats versus dogs riff, and will sometimes obsess about their weight.
Being a self-proclaimed executive transvestite, Izzard comes with a whole other take on gender. Here he is, talking about his breasts:
Izzard is, simply put, more ambitious. You don’t need a Ph.D. to appreciate him, but he expects more from his audience than rote antagonism toward the opposite sex. He talks about history, religion, language, evolution and culture. He talks about being a transvestite, about puberty, about imperialism and about squirrels. He thinks nothing of doing an encore to an English show in French… and he manages to make it comprehensible.
Seriously. Think about that for a second. Imagine yourself laughing at a comedy routine delivered in a language you don’t frickin’ speak.
When I first saw “Bilingual Encore,” on Dress to Kill, I laughed my butt off. Then I thought Well you know, my French isn’t great but I speak enough, I can follow along especially since he’s helping us out and keeping it simple.
But recently I saw him live and he did it with Latin, of which I know zero, and it still made sense. My jaw, it doth drop.
Eddie is also a terrific actor. He’s been in a ton of British films, and some American ones, usually playing bit roles and very strange people, like Mr. Kite in the whacktastic Across the Universe. If you want to see him at his best-so-far, check him out in a TV show called The Riches.
Finally, Eddie Izzard ran 41 marathons in 51 days last summer to raise money for Sport Relief. It’s admirable, but if you’re like me it makes you want to curl up on the couch and not move a single muscle. So here’s one last plug: if you’re more in the mood for a biopic, think about all the kinda charming superstars you like whose personal beliefs make you shudder, and then go on out and buy Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story with a clear conscience.