PEOPLE before ultimately returning to his original point. In Force Majeure he discusses the peculiar sport of dressage – behaviour he believes is inherently unnatural to mammals – shows how moles get lost while searching for gold and demonstrates Jesus using an iPad to allow God to step in and prevent the execution of the old English king Charles I. Izzard also captivates audiences as much with his movement as he does with his jokes, for example when miming the look of an aging lion lagging behind with a pulled muscle during a hunt. Izzard isn’t just stopping at English and German either. He intends to perform his latest work in at least six other languages too. Speaking ahead of his spell at the Club Imperial in Berlin, Izzard said that ultimately he wanted to see “comedy without borders, not borders without comedy”. For him, humour is humour with no need to differentiate between British and French jokes, so for Izzard the most direct way of proving his theory is by doing shows in different languages. He started off performing in French, then German, and in both cases there was laughter from the audience – and at the same points that the English-speaking audience had laughed. Spanish, Russian and Arabic versions are also in his plans and, says Izzard, after taking a deep breath, “maybe I’ll give Chinese a try too. After all, several million children speak Chinese in China – how hard can it be?” The 52-year-old has been on the road with Force Majeure for about a year now. “It may not be the biggest, but it is definitely the most drawn-out comedy tour of all time,” the comedian notes, adding that there are a total of 25 countries on the list for him to visit. This is not the first time that Izzard has sought a challenge that has left even his biggest fans with some doubts about his ability to pull it off. In 2009, Izzard devised a plan to run 43 marathons in 51 days for the charity Sport Relief. At the age of 47 and having completed no previous training, he gave himself and his medical team six weeks to get him into shape and allowed himself to be accompanied by a BBC film crew as if there wasn’t enough pressure already. “Before you can do something, you have to believe that you can do it,” he says, explaining the preparations for his insane undertaking. These could be exactly the sort of nice but ultimately empty sentiments that somebody who has achieved a great deal in life with a fair amount of luck might use to explain their actions, but Izzard’s angle seems different. He chooses his words carefully and heeds his own advice. He comes across as a man truly trying to get to grips with his own madness. Asked why he always throws himself head over heels into adventures that sound as absurd as his comedy I’m a bit like a steamroller. If I sit there, nothing can make me move. Nothing. But once I get going, I really am a force to be reckoned with sketches, the comedian protests that, in reality, he plans each and every step. “Hasty actions are not my thing – I build plans up bit by bit. That said, I do always seek out the most exhausting route to my goal. I picture myself like Clint Eastwood in The Eiger Sanction, constantly trying to conquer the north face.” And the thinking behind this approach? Anyone who has each hook firmly anchored in position will not fall. Izzard is convinced he can allow himself to pursue many of his ideas as he knows that, through his many appearances on stage, he has built up such a strong relationship with his fans that they will support him through every adventure. One of these adventures came at the start of the 1990s, when Izzard was finally given the chance to perform in front of a large audience. He had been working as a street performer for over ten years and managed to make a name for himself in small bars but back then, there was no sign he would ever achieve any serious success. Nevertheless, he used his first major appearance in London’s West End as an opportunity to publicly come out as a cross-dresser, or “action transvestite” as he puts it. “I knew that in all probability it would mark the end of my career,” he says. “But this female side of me is part of who I am – so I decided to ‘man-up’ and take to the stage in a dress.” Izzard discovered his penchant for women’s clothes at an early age. At four years old he was already dressing up in secret. But it wasn’t until his mid-20s that he first dared to take to the streets in high heels, false breasts and make-up. When you ask him now 54 j THE PERFORMANCE ISSUE
For more information about Eddie and his Force Majeure Tour visit his website eddieizzard.com where he gets the courage to perform in foreign languages or run across England and Scotland in his late 40s, his answer is simple: “After hitting the New York subway as a man wearing high heels, you’re no longer afraid of anything.” By this stage, he had already overcome his biggest fear – what his father would say when he told him his son was “a male lesbian”. On returning home from a playing field together one afternoon, Izzard finally plucked up his courage and said: “Dad, I’m a transvestite”. His father shrugged and said, “So what?” “So what?” is also the response Izzard receives from his audience when he walks on stage today sporting long pointed nails and high-heeled shoes. There was some degree of commotion among critics after Izzard made his first appearance on the West End stage, but the focus was less on the fact that he was wearing a dress and more on the fact that he had chosen to wear such an ugly example of one. Over the last few years, Izzard has worn a dress in public on only a handful of occasions. His aim is to make people see that it does not matter to them what he looks like. In any case, outrageous outfits are not really a good fit with his latest plan – to run for London Mayor in the 2020 election. It’s another example of an ‘Izzard idea’ that as soon as he clears one hurdle, he places another, bigger one in front of himself. As a member of the Labour Party, Izzard sums up his position with a quick glance at his nails, which are painted red, save for a British and European flag: “This is making three statements in one: I am proud of my country, I am proud of my continent and I am proud to be a transvestite.” With plans for his candidacy in the mayoral elections in the distant pipeline, Izzard is relying on time pressure now when it comes to learning languages. Case in point, when preparing for the German-language version of his show, he gave himself just two weeks before taking to the stage for the first time. It begs the question: why put yourself under such crazy pressure? He does not hesitate with his answer. “Because I’m lazy.” Surely this is merely self-deprecation? “Not at all,” he responds. “In terms of me and discipline, I’m a bit like a steamroller. If I just sit there, nothing can make me move. Nothing. But once I get going, I really am a force to be reckoned with.” THE PERFORMANCE ISSUE j 55
Jaguar Magazine celebrates creativity in all its forms, with exclusive features that inspire sensory excitement, from beautiful design to cutting-edge technology.
In this issue, we explore the art of creativity from the Brazilian masters who devised the graceful art of Capoeira, to the Irish artists mixing new culture with old. You will also discover the creative line that links Victorian wallpaper to the iPhone. While the multi-talented actor and performer, Riz Ahmed, explains why it is the right time to reveal his true self to the world.
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