The lzzard King
If it’s August, it must be Edinburgh. The never- ending epic that is Eddie Izzard’s touring schedule has made him the new king of comedy. ‘We believe in ourselves,’ he tells Craig McLean.
The night before, the second show in his twelfth Fringe, Eddie lzzard had a showdown with a heckler. ‘Poof !' the heckler shouted cunningly. ‘Fuck off,‘ he added. For twenty minutes. Finally lzzard took him on, told him to stand up and get out. The heckler wavered, not just because he was drunk. The crowd were on lzzard‘s side. The heckler left. lzzard won.
The hour before, someone approached him in the street. ‘Are you a bisexual‘?‘
‘No, I‘m a transvestite.‘
‘Huh, that’s even worse.‘
The someone, who was in fact a nobody, slunk off.
It‘s tough at the top, but not as tough as it might be. lzzard doesn‘t mind the casual abuse. What he would mind would be ﬁnding himself splashed all over the TV. Not because he would be recognised more, be the victim of more walk-by slaggings, but because it would be too easy. Keep it live, keep doing upwards of 150 gigs a year, and the edge never goes.
‘You have to keep being good,‘ he declares. ‘It keeps you much leaner. The quality is better. I knew i could do it from street performing. If people like it they will go and get their friends. So l‘ve just resolutely stayed on that. Done about three or four hits of telly and that‘s about it. Just kept building up and building up.’
Eddie lzzard is driven. He has a Grand Plan, a mapped-out route that stretches backwards and forwards, from obscurity to opportunity to success. and always on his own terms. He remembers all his years in Edinburgh, from bad Pythonesque comedy-drama with a group from Sheffield University (he studied, or was meant to, accounting and maths) from 1981 to
1983; how he was pissed off with Edinburgh and didn‘t come in 1984; the street performing in Parliament Square and The Mound from 1985 to 1989; the stand-up of the latter years. A couple of years ago four people came to see him at one Fringe gig. A few months ago 26,000 people came to see him in the course of a three-month run in London‘s West End that is already almost legendary. Then he did two weeks in Canada. Then he came here. Then he‘ll do a massive 52-date tour of Britain. Then the West End again. slightly bigger theatre this time, in February 1994. Then Canada again. Then the big push in America, where no Brit comic has gone before without the prior push from television. ‘lt‘s
competing with myself as opposed to cruising,‘ is how he rationalises his punishing schedule.
All of which is at odds with his stand- up style. lzzard rambles, makes a virtue of his inability to link material and general air of laid-back chaos. His show this year has James Mason and Sean Connery playing cows, non- sequitur musings on lard, washing powder and Dracula. He has a dodgy New Romantic haircut, all dyed blonde ﬂops. His clothes — leggings. blouse thing. 70s sports jacket — seem random, and not just because they are part ‘women‘s‘, part ‘men‘s‘. From these disparate elements comes winning charm and blinding comedy.
‘1 have a very childlike quality that goes through all of it,‘ he says of his material and his style. ‘1 don't know why this is. My mum died when l was six and 1 think that locked something in, a childlike thing that 1 don‘t want to let go of.‘
Now Eddie lzzard is 31 and is writing a sitcom called The Cows which he‘ll also produce (‘lt‘s sort of like Gary Larson‘s The Far Side,‘ he says, mentioning a world where sentient bovines live and work in the community). He co-owns Ella Communications (who manage an indie band. The Wasp Factory, run a record label. make TV programmes and run their own gigs). Just like he dithers brilliantly on stage, he entrepreneurs brilliantly off stage.
So Eddie, you’re a transvestite to boot. What‘s that all about.
‘lt‘s essentially a state of grooviness,‘ he says coolly from the stage of George Square Theatre. Hecklers don‘t stand a chance.
I Eddie lzzard (Fringe) George Square Theatre (Venue 37) 650 2001, until 21 Aug, 10pm, £8 (£6).
liadio stars Armando lannucci and llave Sclrnelder have tuned in to the Fringe to perform a double one-man shew. Stephen Chester checks out the
Considering radio is a reputedly dead medium it seems to be spawning an awful lot of new comics. A flick tluough the Fringe programme is enough to confirm that most comedlus and comedy writers have cut their teeth on, or are still working in, radio. Onewonderswhatlordlielth weuld have thought when he founded a term of light entertal—ent which, several decades later, would give rise to Alan Putter.
it’s interesting to consider the m of radio comedy between these two points, for In doing so you realise that the constant desire for anmchlc invention has been its most prenennced feature. From ‘liound The llern’ to '0- The lloer’, the tuning of thedialcanstill leadtosome sbeckbg ad surreal worlds. Armando luuccl has been a producer on
several radio comedy progranunes, and suggests the inventiveness of the medium springs from its flexibility; “it’s a good place to try out ideas and to take risks because it's not terribly costly. So people who are cutting their teeth are encouraged to try out new stuff rather than copy the stuff that has already done well two or three
lannucci’s own series of comedy documentaries, ‘In Excess’ are currently being broadcast on Saturday mornings. in each programme he sets out to investigate subjects such as sex or gadgetry, and blends genuine interviews with a hilariously wry commentary.lt’sthesarnesortofpo- laced piss-tare take he uses in the stage show, which features the
deranged talents of Ken Theft, The Slightly Disturbed Comedian. Ken’s speciality is irnpersonatlng Scottish Second Division football teams and telling jokes like, ‘l’rn not saying my wife’s fat.’ lie shares the billing, and occasionally the stage, with llave Schneider, a colleague from “On The llour’ and “Knowing Me, Knowing You’. Schneider’s material is much more physical and includes an amazing wrestling match with a table - something that wouldn’t have worked very well on the radio.
it’s interesting to note that while these performers have both created edgy, inventive radio, their live show remains blandly traditional - and on a few occasions edges dangerously close to that Comedy of The Crlnge personified by Mervyn Stutter. Would it be too nasty to hope they don’t go the way of The Mary Whitehouse Experience and end up massive and shite? Schneider and Iannuccl (Fringe) Cave Schneider and Armando iannuccl, Assembly llooms (Venue 3) 226 2428, until 4 Sept, “him, 550/750 (ism/6.50). Comedy Writing Workshop (Fringe) BBC lladio 4, Fringe Club (Venue 2) 226 5257/9, 24 Aug, 1.30pm, free.
54 The List 20—26 August 1993