EDDIE IZZARD has been stripping for West End theatre-goers, pondering the mysteries of male nipples and comparative religion, and getting into a spin about circles. Dizzy? You will be . . . Words: Hannah McGill
THERE ARE THOSE FOR WHOM A POT OF JAM CAN NEVER again be an innocent household object: for whom bees hum with comic possibilities: for whom the mention of Noah‘s Ark precipitates stifled sniggers. They have shared in Eddie lzzard‘s unique vision of life. and they will never he the same again. Unsurprisingly. an Izzard interview is like mental circuit training; as you‘re tnttlling over his last point. he‘s three steps ahead. alighting with restless interest on more subjects than an internet search engine. It‘s safe to assume his
new stage show will showcase that wearisome agility of
mind yet again. But where will he take tts this time'.’
‘I‘m always a moveable feast. l ad—lib. lt rolls on from the last show. It‘s called Circle. I‘m kind of into circles at the moment: I think they‘re the answer to the universe. Space is curved. attd all the planets are curved. and they all orbit. and all the galaxies are cttrved — everything‘s about circles. They used to think the earth was flat. bttt if you walk in a straight line long enough you‘ll come back to the beginning — you‘ve actually walked in a circle. even though you‘ve walked in a straight line! That‘s how I think the stage works — I‘m really into coming up with cod theories like this.‘
Izzard‘s enthusiasm is relentless and infectious. bttt his garrttlottsness means that he‘s given a lot away itt interviews. Does he ever feel personally vulnerable as a result'.’
‘No. I tend not to say things and then think. “Oh (iod. did that come out of my mouth?" You can think qttite fast as a stand-up. so you can think on your feet. I had to get more information ottt there on transvestism. becattse tttost people
just think it‘s odd. and my job is to knit it into the
mainstream. Gay and lesbian people back in the 50s were considered weird. and now it‘s pressure groups and Sir Ian McKellen and everyone‘s like “hey. no problem!“ People who think that alternative sexuality is ttnsavoury and dirty also tettd to think lit’l(’l'().\'(’.\'ll(l/ sex is ttnsavoury and dirty: they just don‘t want to know abottt any of it! And the fact that they were born iii the first place is a sin and they should never have been born at all! And maybe I agree with them on that . .
The most recent string to [wards bow is West lind stardom. which he recently achieved playing one of his tnost inflttential predecessors. Lenny Bruce. ‘It'miv gave me the chance to do a seriotts dramatic role that was a crossover
'It's actually easier to be naked in front of hundreds of people than in front of one or two' Eddie Izzard
He is. Izzard is the master of serious comedy: his jokes have more social relevance and intellectual insight than Betty Boothroyd bears in a week. ‘I really want to research everything in the world.‘ he says. ‘l.ike comparative religion! I got a Cl) Rom of the lint'ytiii/media Brita/mica. so I can look up anything now. and I found ottt that Islam is actually based on the teachings ofAbraham . . .‘
The lecture continues with Izzard praising the
resourcefulness of religions that handpick the best bits of
belief systems already in place. Before too long he‘s hopscotched onto the fabulousness of American weddings.
where everyone gets to make a speech. The theme of
embracing diversity and experimentation is clear. ‘I think that‘s what society does — the whole idea of human learning is “Hey! why don‘t we try that?" ‘
It has been said that lzzard‘s fascination with that learning process classifies him as more philosopher than comedian.
'l like coming tip with stupid theories. as you can tell. and some of them actually hold water. You can use comedy in that way: you can come tip with political ideas and because they‘re couched in comedic terms. they‘re quite easy pills to take. Especially with the whole sexuality thing — about which I have come to a halt. because men have nipples!‘ He warms to the theme. ‘Which means that we‘re all just human units. and sex just gets coded in. Girls and boys are pretty similar in look. and old men and old women are pretty similar in look. and it‘s just in between that nature says "Right. yott‘d better get some kind of procreation thing going on“ and suddenly it‘s “Oh. we‘re so very different. we‘d better have sex!“ ‘
8 THE “ST 21 Oct—4 Nov 1999
with stand-up. If you do a good theatrical role. you will get better film roles.‘ he says. evidently ambitious to improve upon The xlrmtgvrs. Li'mrv also required him to do full- frontal nudity — ‘It‘s actually easier to be naked in front of hundreds of people than in front of one or two‘ — in the company of Elizabeth Berkley of .S'limrgirls infamy.
‘She‘s too too tall and skinny. that‘s the problem. I thought "Great. I‘m thinner than I have been for years!“ - but she‘s thinner than a rake. so that was no help at all.‘
Although keen to expand his film work. Izzard has no desire to give up on comedy. 'lf rock ‘n‘ roll stars can keep going into their 50s. then comedians definitely can. We‘re not so linked to fashion: it‘sjust speed of mind. so l‘m going to do it forever.‘ Is be conscious. then. of having a speedier mind than other people‘.’ ‘Yeah. I train myself to do that. sort of inadvertently. or maybe. vertently'.’ Advertently'.’ If you
just keep looking for connections. you gradually see them
quicker and quicker. and you learn to talk about other things at the satne time. You have to be able to talk sense about something in the present while. just a few seconds ahead. you‘re editing something else you can bring in and talk about.‘
The sharpest. sweetest. best-dressed philosopher ever won‘t rest until he‘s taken a whistlestop mental tour of the whole planet. taking the oddest of routes to the most logical of points. walking in straight lines that turtt out to be circles. The best we catt do is try to keep up.
Eddie Izzard plays the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Mon 1—Wed 3 Nov.