Eddie Izzard isn’t your average comedian.
The 53-year-old British performer is as well-known for his work on Broadway and London’s West End (“Lenny,” “Edward II,” “Race”) as his stand-up shows, and is also an accomplished TV and film actor (“The Riches,” “Ocean’s Twelve [and Thirteen],” “Across the Universe,” “Cars 2” and the upcoming HBO Salem Witch Trial drama “The Devil You Know”).
He once ran 43 full marathons in 51 days to benefit the BBC charity Sport Relief, despite having no previous long-distance running experience and training for only five weeks.
He is a transvestite.
He plans to run for Mayor of London in 2020.
His latest tour, “Force Majeure,” which hits the Fillmore Miami Beach on Saturday, is the longest comedy tour ever, having kicked off in Bucharest in March 2013, more than two and a half years ago. Izzard has performed the show entirely in French and German, and plans to present it in Russian, Arabic and Spanish as well (he’ll be speaking English in Miami).
The comedic force of nature talked to the Miami Herald about the show, Caitlyn Jenner and what possessed him to put his body through the torture of marathon running.
“Force Majeure” is a pretty powerful term. What inspired you to choose it for your tour?
It’s French, but it means something in English – contractors use “force majeure” as “force of nature” or “act of God,” but I don’t believe in God, so I think force of nature. And I’ve just toured France, selling over 5,200 seats, so I wanted this two-language thing going on, and also I also think we all have to be our own forces of nature in this world to try and drive through the river of life. Life’s like a river – it could throw you into the rocks, it could give you a fine ride, and it is kind of a roll of the dice how that works. But it’s better to learn how to paddle and try and steer yourself through, so I encourage people to be their own forces of nature as I have had to be.
Are you fluent in French and German, or just learning how to do the show in those languages?
I’m about 75 percent fluent in French and about 40 percent fluent in German. So I learned the show first, like a play, and then I work on the language.
Do you feel like sometimes you’re not sure exactly what you’re saying?
No, I do know exactly what I’m saying, but what I don’t know is how to take those individual words out of sentences, particularly in German, Spanish and Russian. I can’t necessarily take them out and put them into other sentences.
What can we expect from the show?
You can expect human sacrifice, ancient medieval kings, gods fighting Darth Vader over spaghetti carbonara, chickens with guns, moles digging for gold, and it all ends up with a “Lord of the Rings” kind of salute. So, somewhere between Monty Python and Richard Pryor.
How will you be dressed?
Mainly clothes [laughs]. I have no idea, but I’m in “boy mode” at the moment, as you can see on the poster – a Savile Row suit thing.
When did you first realize that you loved wearing women’s clothing?
Well, I think the terminology there is all wrong – I mean, you see Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox of “Orange is the New Black.” Of the boy genetics and girl genetics, I seem to have been given both of them – everyone gets these genetic cards when they’re born, and I was honest about it 30 years ago now. And I wish to express the female genetics in myself that I’ve been given, and so I just do that: Women are allowed to do this – so am I. Women can wear pants any time they want, they can wear makeup or no makeup, they have total clothing rights, and I claim those rights, too, and so I just express myself.
But it’s got nothing to do with the comedy. People merge it into the comedy, saying, “Ahh, the comedy’s just going to be talking about makeup for two hours.” And that’s not how it works: My comedy is Monty Python, it’s Richard Pryor, it’s Robin Williams. It’s sort of surreal and crazy, intelligent but quite silly.
You mentioned Caitlyn Jenner – what do you think of her public journey?
Well, it’s a difficult journey. I know because I came out 30 years ago, and it was tough, tough, tough back then. And some people say [Jenner’s situation] was a lot of publicity and all that stuff, but then there’s a positive thing that people are learning to know. There was a big interview [with Diane Sawyer] and a Vanity Fair piece, so maybe people are reading about it and finding out what transgender is all about. It’s not a choice, like you sit there and choose to be odd.
So we’re saying no, we’ve been given these genetics and we’re just expressing them. And if you’ve got a problem, take it up with the United Nations. That’s how I feel, and I’m running for political office in four and a half years, so we’ll see what happens then.
You also mentioned Monty Python, and John Cleese called you the “Lost Python.” How did that make you feel?
Well, fantastic! I mean, I wasn’t sure whether he’d actually said it, so when I saw his show and met him backstage, I said, “John, did you actually say that?” And he said yes, he did. But I didn’t quite ask him what he meant by it, and I think he meant “lost in time,” because I’m almost exactly 20 years behind the Pythons, and so if I’d been born around the same time as them, I would have loved the comedy just like they did.
It’s a wonderful thing – they are my comedy gods up on Mount Olympus.
What made you think running marathons would be a good idea, having had no real training?
Well, the idea was, it was supposed to get me healthy and regain the health of my youth, maybe raise some money – and we raised $2.7 million – and maybe inspire someone else, to say, “Hey, maybe you could do this, too.” I think we can all do more than we think we can do. So it had a number of things going on with it. But the gift to myself – I was going to change my body shape and become the fit young person I was when I was a kid, like a lot of us are when we were kids.
It was an adventure, it was tough, and I wanted to go into Special Forces when I was a kid, and that was kind of me trying to do selection for Special Forces.
Was there a point when you thought, “I can’t do this”?
No. I did think, though, that if I ever thought that idea in my head that it would immediately stop – it was that fine. I talked to a Special Forces guy, and they said that actually they recruit mental stamina as opposed to physical stamina, because mental stamina will control the physical. If I was ever thinking for a split second that, “Ooh, I could never do this,” or “Ooh, I should stop,” it would stop. So I never considered that idea.
How did you feel physically each night?
After a short while, I felt like I was running on empty, like the batteries were drained, and I never really recharged. It was weird – when I was running, I never knew what I was running on. Will power and stamina and determination, because I just wanted to sleep, and I just had to keep going. But then I got stronger as it went on – after 10 marathons, it got easier. That’s the odd thing: The brain gets used to it.