Eddie Izzard

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Eddie Izzard
EddieIzzard.jpg
Izzard performing at the Garrick Theatre, 2 December 2008
Birth name Edward John Izzard
Born (1962-02-07) 7 February 1962 (age 52)
Colony of Aden
Nationality British
Years active 1982–present
Genres Surreal humour, improvisational comedy, observational comedy
Influences Monty Python,12 Bill Hicks,3 Billy Connolly,3 Lenny Bruce, Steve Martin,2 Spike Milligan, Jerry Sadowitz2
Influenced Hal Sparks,4 Dara Ó Briain,
Sean Lock, Harry Hill, Rhod Gilbert
Website eddieizzard.com
Emmy Awards

Individual Performance in a Variety Or Music Program
2000 Dress to Kill
Writing in a Variety, Music Or Comedy Program

2000 Dress to Kill
British Comedy Awards

Top Stand-up
1993 Live at the Ambassadors
Best Stand-up

1996 Definite Article

Edward John "Eddie" Izzard5 (/ˈɪzɑrd/; born 7 February 1962) is an English stand-up comedian, actor and writer. His comedy style takes the form of rambling, whimsical monologue and self-referential pantomime. He had a starring role in the television series The Riches as Wayne Malloy and has appeared in many films such as Ocean's Twelve, Ocean's Thirteen, Mystery Men, Shadow of the Vampire, The Cat's Meow, Across the Universe, and Valkyrie. He has also worked as a voice actor, appearing in The Wild, Igor, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, and Cars 2.

Izzard has cited his main comedy role model as Monty Python, and John Cleese once referred to him as the "Lost Python".1 In 2009, he completed 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief in spite of having no prior history of long-distance running.6 He has won numerous awards including a Primetime Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for his comedy special Dress to Kill, in 2000. Izzard's website won the Yahoo People's Choice Award7 and earned the Webby Award.8

On 6 September 2012, Izzard presented the medals to the athletes who had won the 800m T54 race at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. In 2013, Eddie Izzard embarked on a world tour entitled Force Majeure, with dates that run through 2014.9

Early life

Izzard was born in the Colony of Aden (modern day Aden, Yemen and neighbouring area).10 He was the younger son of English parents Dorothy Ella, a midwife and nurse, and Harold John Izzard, an accountant who was working in Aden with British Petroleum.1112 A year after his birth, the family moved to Bangor in Northern Ireland and lived there until he was five.151011 The family then moved to Skewen in Wales, where his mother died of cancer when Izzard was six and his brother Mark was eight.51213

Following his mother's death, Izzard attended boarding schools512 such as St John's School, Porthcawl,2 St. Bede's Prep School,14 and Eastbourne College.15 Izzard has said that he knew he was a transvestite at the age of four, after watching another boy being forced to wear a dress by his sisters, and that he knew he wanted to be an actor at the age of seven.16

Career

Early career

Izzard began to toy with comedy at the University of Sheffield, with student friend Rob Ballard.317 After leaving his accountancy degree course, he and Ballard took their act to the streets,317 often in Covent Garden.21819 After his split with Ballard, Izzard spent a great deal of the early 1980s working as a street performer in Europe and the United States. He then moved his act into the stand-up comedy venues of Britain. His first gig was at the Banana Cabaret in Balham, London.520

In 1987, he made his first stage appearance at the Comedy Store in London.1 He refined his material throughout the 1980s, and in the early 1990s he finally began earning some measure of recognition through his improvisation, in part at his own club "Raging Bull" in Soho.19

Success as a comedian

In 1991, Izzard got a spot on the Fry and Laurie-produced AIDS benefit Hysteria 3, where he did his "Wolves" sketch, which broke him into the mainstream comedy circuit and television. His resultant stand-up work brought him British Comedy Awards in 1993 (for Live at the Ambassadors), a part in "Filth" which was a stand up presentation by left-wing sympathetic comedians in aid of raising money for the Terrence Higgins Trust in 1994, and 1996 (for Definite Article).

In 1996, Izzard had a part in his first United States-produced film, The Secret Agent, where he met and befriended Robin Williams. Williams already knew of Izzard's act and discussed bringing him to the United States. As a result, Izzard took Definite Article on a successful stint to New York in the same year and, as a support act to Williams, took Dress to Kill to San Francisco in 1998. His US breakthrough came in 1999 when Dress to Kill was shown on the American television channel HBO, about a year or so after he performed the show on tour in the US, UK and France. Suddenly, America was aware of Izzard and the show went on to earn him two Emmy Awards in 2000 (for performance and writing).

In 1999, after complaints that his act recycled jokes appearing on his DVDs, the BBC's consumer programme Watchdog investigated Izzard's live act. Izzard explained that like most comedy performers, he used some of his most successful routines in each show. Nonetheless, Izzard was issued a warning by the Department of Trade and Industry. Much of the problem was caused by the recording and selling of the American leg of his tour on DVD in the UK for the Christmas market before the UK leg of the tour took place. Izzard was greatly upset by early reactions to his UK shows, and the investigation, as he was initially unaware of the show's core material having already been seen. He commented on this debacle in later performances and furiously started to write new tangential material hoping to satisfy audiences. This also led to DVD releases of first the US tour show and later the altered UK version with new and evolved material. Since then, Izzard has rarely performed his stand-up act on television, saying that it uses up material at too high a rate, whereas stage material can be continually re-used in front of different audiences for several months.citation needed

In 2005, Izzard used his rambling style to provide the voice-over for the British government's television advertisements promoting recycling. The tagline of the ads was "Recycle. The possibilities are endless!" Izzard also performed on stage with Scottish musician Midge Ure at Live8 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He played the piano on the song "Vienna".

In January 2006, the US television network FX announced the production of a new drama series called The Riches (formerly Low Life). Izzard and English actress Minnie Driver star as a married couple, Wayne and Dahlia Malloy, who have been part of a caravan of con-artist Irish Travellers swindling their way across the US with their children. After finding another family killed in a car accident, the Malloys assume their identities and start a new life as law-abiding suburbanites in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The youngest son has shown a preference for wearing girls' clothing, leading to some speculation that the role was based upon Izzard's experiences. Izzard has stated in several interviews that the character of Sam had been given transvestite tendencies long before he was cast as Wayne Malloy, but he has contributed his perspective to keep the character believable.

Theatrical, TV and film appearances

In 1994, Izzard made his West End drama debut as the lead in the world premiere of David Mamet's The Cryptogram with Lindsay Duncan, in the production at London's Comedy Theatre. The success of that role led to his second starring role in David Beaird's black comedy 900 Oneonta. In 1995, he portrayed the title character in Christopher Marlowe's Edward II.

In 1998 Izzard appeared briefly on stage with the Monty Python team in The American Film Institute's Tribute to Monty Python (also referred to as Monty Python Live at Aspen). He walked on stage with the five surviving Pythons and he was summarily escorted off by Eric Idle and Michael Palin as he attempted to participate in a discussion about how the group got together.

Izzard portrayed comedian Lenny Bruce in the 1999 production of Julian Barry's 1971 play Lenny. In 2001, he replaced Clive Owen in Peter Nichols' 1967 play A Day in the Death of Joe Egg at the Comedy Theatre. Izzard and Victoria Hamilton then repeated their lead roles when the show was brought to Broadway in 2003, with the Roundabout Theatre Company production. The revival received four Tony Award nominations including Best Revival of a Play, Best Leading Actor and Actress for its stars Izzard and Hamilton in their Broadway debuts, and Best Direction for Laurence Boswell. In June 2010, Izzard replaced James Spader in the role of Jack Lawson in David Mamet's play Race on Broadway.21

Izzard has appeared in numerous films, starting with 1996's The Secret Agent. He has appeared as several real-life individuals, including Charlie Chaplin in The Cat's Meow, actor Gustav von Wangenheim in Shadow of the Vampire and General Erich Fellgiebel in Valkyrie. Other roles have included Mr. Kite in Across the Universe, Lussurioso in Revengers Tragedy and criminal expert Roman Nagel in Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen. Voice work has included the titular It in Five Children and It, Nigel in The Wild and the mouse warrior Reepicheep in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. He said in 2009 that he would not be reprising his role as Reepicheep and the role was ultimately played by Simon Pegg in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Izzard appeared in the 2009 BBC science fiction miniseries The Day of the Triffids based on the 1951 novel, alongside Jason Priestley, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, Dougray Scott and Brian Cox.22

He played Dr. Hatteras, a sceptical psychology professor, in the Showtime series United States of Tara.23

In December 2011, he appeared in the English drama Lost Christmas as Anthony. The film was written by David Logan and John Hay. In January 2012, he appeared as Long John Silver in Sky1's adaptation of Treasure Island alongside Elijah Wood and Philip Glenister among others.

In early 2012, it was announced that Izzard was to play the role of "Grandpa" (aka "Sam Dracula") in the Bryan Singer-directed NBC remake of The Munsters entitled Mockingbird Lane.

From 2013-2014, he appeared as Dr. Abel Gideon in the television adaptation of Hannibal.

Comic style

Elliott Gould and Eddie Izzard

Izzard's style is heavily influenced by Monty Python, or rather Spike Milligan, especially in his use of a stream-of-consciousness delivery that jumps between topics as he free associates on stage. He does not generally work from a script, owing to his dyslexia. Instead, he interrupts himself with new joke ideas, the characters he portrays turn into other characters, and he nonchalantly leaps from topic to topic. This often results in brief pauses in the routine which he fills with 'so, yeah', and other verbal tics that have become his trademarks. Thinking aloud is also part of Izzard's ongoing attempt to make the process of writing the show itself part of the humour.

As he put it in a 2004 interview with The Guardian, "It's the oral tradition. Human beings have been doing it for thousands of years".24 He frequently notes the reaction to a joke midstream by pretending to write on his hand ("Should be funnier"; "Lost them there"; "They didn't believe me"; "They didn't follow, never do that again"; "Never link those two [references] together ever again.") He asks the audience questions and verbally engages with hecklers.

Among Izzard's comic talents are mimicry and mime. He portrays God as an authority figure using the voice of James Mason and Noah is portrayed by the voice of Sean Connery; these impersonations appear in many of his performances. Izzard also imitates activities such as sawing wood, vacuum cleaning, and mowing the lawn, anthropomorphising the machines with accents and personalities. Successful impressions, such as his Scottish clarinet teacher, Mrs. Badcrumble, become running gags which recur in different shows. He tackles topics both contemporary and historic, including frequent re-imaginings of historical events which result in scenes like 'Cake or Death: Church of England runs the Inquisition', or 'Jesus Ministers to the Dinosaurs'.

Traditionally, Izzard has focused on the creative possibilities of thinking through absurd situations in real time. He also turns much of the attention on himself and his personality, including his cross-dressing ("It is my manifest destiny to wear a dress on all seven continents"). Contemporary popular culture (Harry Potter, Star Wars, etc.) is also a frequent subject, brought up both to critique its weaknesses and to enhance his anecdotes.

His bent towards the surreal even went so far as to produce a sitcom called Cows in 1997 for Channel 4, a live action comedy with actors dressed in cowsuits.25

Personal life

During his Stripped tour, Izzard said he realised he was an atheist. "I was warming the material up in New York, where one night, literally on stage, I realised I didn’t believe in God at all. I just didn’t think there was anyone upstairs."26 He keeps his romantic life private, saying one of the reasons is due to the wishes of his companions not wanting to become content for his show.26 Izzard dated Sarah Townsend, the director of the documentary Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story,18 whom he first met while she was running a Fringe venue at the Edinburgh Festival in 1989.27

Izzard speaks French fluently and has performed stand up in French during his shows.18 He also speaks some German and used it in the 2001 film All the Queen's Men. He supports Crystal Palace F.C.28 and on Monday, 16 July 2012 he became an associate director at the club he has supported since he was seven years old. Izzard is an outspoken supporter of the Labour Party, and in September 2011 declared his ambition to stand for the party in the future as an MP, MEP or as Mayor of London,29 announcing an intention to stand for the London mayoral election in 2020.30 When asked on comedy panel show The Last Leg why he thought he might be elected, Izzard replied "Boris Johnson". He declined to state why he wouldn't run in 2016.31

Transvestism

Izzard started to freely talk about his transvestism in venues like Edinburgh Festival as early as 1992.3233 In his show, Dress to Kill, Izzard describes himself as an "executive", "action" and "professional" transvestite, as "a male tomboy" rather than a drag queen or a "weirdo" transvestite (he cites J. Edgar Hoover and Hermann Göring as examples of the latter). In the past he regularly cross-dressed on and off stage but, since gaining success as a television and film actor, has decided to stay in "boy-mode" for the last several years. While there are those who suspect Izzard's cross-dressing was simply a comedic device, his stance is that cross-dressing is neither part of his performance nor a sexual fetish.citation needed He remarks in his show Unrepeatable, "Women wear what they want and so do I". According to Izzard, "Most transvestites fancy women".34 He dismisses claims that he is a male homosexual, saying he is "a straight transvestite or a male lesbian".35 He has also described himself as "a lesbian trapped in a man's body",36 transgender,32 and "a complete boy plus half girl".35

Activism

Izzard has engaged in campaigning work. He is especially well known as a pro-European Union campaigner supporting the further integration of the UK into the EU. In May 2005, he appeared on the BBC's political debate show Question Time, describing himself as a 'British-European', comparing this with other cultural identities such as 'African-American'. As part of his integration campaigning, he was one of the first people to spend a euro in London. This pan-European approach has influenced his work: he regularly performs in French,1923 and occasionally in German,19 in addition to English. In July 2003, Izzard received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, for "pro-Europe campaigning", "his contribution to promoting modern languages and tolerance of other cultures and lifestyles" and for having "transcended national barriers" with his humour.37

He has also campaigned unsuccessfully against the closure of the departments of Drama and Languages, Linguistics and Translation at the University of East Anglia, although the department of Drama was later reprieved. In 1998, Izzard was named in a list of the biggest private financial donors to the Labour Party.38 He appeared in a party political broadcast for the Labour Party in the run up to the 2005 general election. He donated nearly £10,000 to the party in 2008,39 appeared again in a party political broadcast for the 2009 European election and again in a 2010 election video entitled Brilliant Britain. Izzard appeared in literature to support changing the British electoral system from first-past-the-post to alternative vote for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons in the Alternative Vote referendum in 2011.40 In 2011, Eddie Izzard revealed that he had political ambitions and wanted to become an MP, Mayor or MEP by 2020.41

On 20 July 2006, he received an honorary doctorate in Letters from the Faculty of Arts at the University of Sheffield,42 where he spent one year on an Accounting and Financial Management course in the early 1980s. During his time at the university he established the now-defunct Alternative Productions Society in the Union of Students with the aim of promoting fringe-based arts. On 4 March 2010, he was elected as the Honorary President of the University of Sheffield Students' Union.43

On 7 July 2007, Izzard was one of the presenters from the London leg of Live Earth. During an interview for the 2008 Stripped tour, Izzard spoke about becoming more active in European politics as well as running for political office in Europe within the next decade. Izzard added a stop in New Orleans during his 2008 Stripped tour. All proceeds from the performance of 23 June 2008 were donated to Neighbourhood Housing Services of New Orleans.44

On 27 July 2009, with only 5 weeks' training and no significant prior history of running, Izzard began seven weeks of back-to-back marathon runs (with Sundays off) across the UK to raise money for Sport Relief. He ran from London, to Cardiff, to Belfast, to Edinburgh and back to London, carrying flags of England, Scotland or Wales depending on which country he was in, and carried a self-designed green flag bearing a white dove when in Northern Ireland. The blog Eddie Iz Running was a document of his road running marathon, in which he ran 43 marathons in 51 days. He completed the run on 15 September 2009, after having run at least 27 miles each day, 6 days a week for 7 weeks straight, covering more than 1,100 miles across the UK.45 Izzard received a special award at BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2009 for his achievements.46

Izzard ran his final marathon in five hours and 30 seconds, narrowly outside his projected time. However, had he not stopped and waited 20 minutes for his film crew to catch up with him he could have finished well under his target time. In March 2010, Izzard took part in the Sport Relief Mile event.47 Following the completion of the marathon runs, Izzard has started training to take part in an Ironman Triathlon, saying he has become fascinated with fitness "because there's no point in throwing away all that training".48

In March 2014 Izzard began leading a campaign encouraging Scotland not to vote for independence in the upcoming referendum, saying that England would feel a "deep sense of loss" were Scotland to leave the UK.49

Critical reception

On 18 March 2007, Izzard was listed as number 3 of the 100 Greatest British National Comedians (just behind Peter Kay at number 2 and Billy Connolly at number 1) as part of British television station Channel 4's ongoing 100 Greatest..., series. However, in the 2010 updated version of the list he was ranked 5th50 In a 2005 poll to find the Comedians' Comedian, Izzard was voted amongst the top 20 greatest comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders. He was number 75 in Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.

During the 1999 television special It's... the Monty Python Story,51 which Izzard hosted, John Cleese said Izzard was the "Lost Python"; Izzard furthered that idea via his substitution for Graham Chapman in public performance of Python material with the rest of the original members of the troupe. He also made a cameo appearance in the Python reunion interview Monty Python Live at Aspen.

In 2008, Izzard received the James Joyce Award of the Literary and Historical Society of UCD, Dublin, Ireland. In March 2010, Sheffield Students' Union of the University of Sheffield overwhelmingly elected him their honorary President. In 2012 Izzard was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Sunderland.52

On 20 February 2013 Eddie Izzard received the 6th Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism5354 — an award presented at Harvard University each year by the Humanist Community at Harvard,55 the American Humanist Association, and the Harvard Community of Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics.

Discography

Date Title
15 November 1993 Live at the Ambassadors
14 March 1994 Unrepeatable
21 October 1996 Definite Article
17 November 1997 Glorious
9 November 1998 Dress to Kill
18 November 2002 Circle
26 November 2003 Sexie
23 November 2009 Stripped
18 November 2013 Force Majeure

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1995 The Oncoming Storm Luthor Keeton
1996 The Secret Agent Vladimir
1998 Velvet Goldmine Jerry Devine
1998 The Avengers Bailey
1999 Mystery Men Tony P
1999 The Criminal Peter Hume
2000 Circus Troy
2000 Shadow of the Vampire Gustav von Wangenheim
2001 The Cat's Meow Charlie Chaplin
2001 All the Queen's Men Tony Parker
2002 Revengers Tragedy Lussurioso
2003 Alien Invasion Brik
2004 Blueberry Prosit
2004 Five Children and It It Voice only
2004 Romance & Cigarettes Gene Vincent
2004 Ocean's Twelve Roman Nagel
2005 The Aristocrats Himself
2006 The Wild Nigel Voice only
2006 My Super Ex-Girlfriend Professor Bedlam
2007 Ocean's Thirteen Roman Nagel
2007 Across the Universe Mr. Kite
2008 The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Reepicheep Voice only
2008 Igor Dr. Schadenfreude Voice only
2008 Valkyrie Erich Fellgiebel
2009 Rage Tiny Diamonds
2009 Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story Himself
2010 Every Day Garrett
2011 The Other Side Dean Bellamy
2011 Cars 2 Miles Axelrod Voice only
2015 Boychoir Drake Filming
2015 Absolutely Anything Headmaster Filming

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1991 Barf Bites Back Himself
1994 Open Fire Rich
1995 Aristophanes: The Gods are Laughing Socrates
1996 Tales from the Crypt Evans
1998 Rex the Runt Melting Blob Man
Easter Island Head Aliens
1999 Python Night – 30 Years of Monty Python Himself
2002 Mongrel Nation Himself
2002 A Day in the Death of Joe Egg Bri
2006 The Secret Policeman's Ball Himself
2007-2008 The Riches Wayne Malloy / Doug Rich 20 Episodes
2008 The Secret Policeman's Ball Himself
2009 The Day of the Triffids Torrence
2010 Eddie Izzard: Marathon Man Himself
2010 The Simpsons Nigel Bakerbutcher
Elizabeth II
Prince Charles
Episode; To Surveil with Love
2011 Lost Christmas Anthony
2011 United States of Tara Dr. Hattarras 8 Episodes
2011 The Good Wife James Thrush
2012 The Secret Policeman's Ball Himself
2012 Treasure Island Long John Silver
2012 Bullet in the Face Johann Tannhäuser 6 Episodes
2012 Mockingbird Lane Grandpa
2013-2014 Hannibal Dr. Abel Gideon 4 Episodes
2014 Castles in the Sky Robert Watson Watt

Theatre

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
2000 102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue Sgt. Tibbs Voice only
2011 Cars 2: The Video Game Sir Miles Axlerod Voice only

See also

References

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  2. ^ a b c d e Brownfield, Paul (11 June 2000). "Where He'll Stop, Nobody Knows". articles.latimes.com. Retrieved 10 May 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Appleyard, Bryan (18 July 1999). "The King of Comedy". The Sunday Times (Culture 2). 
  4. ^ "Hal Sparks » FAQ". halsparks.com. Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Ann Low, Lenny (20 January 2009). "Not just a pretty face". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  6. ^ Heald, Claire (15 September 2009). "Run, Izzard, run and run again". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  7. ^ "Izzard beats bus shelter website to award". Izzard beats bus shelter website to award (London). 16 January 2004. 
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  18. ^ a b c Burrell, Ian (16 December 2010). "Tears are never far from ruining the make-up of Eddie Izzard". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 10 May 2011. 
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  33. ^ Lister, David (26 August 1992). "It's never too late in Edinburgh: David Lister stays up well past his bedtime to rub shoulders with the stars and crack jokes with the comics on a tour of festival night-spots". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 6 May 2011. "Eddie Izzard, one of the hottest names on the circuit, is chatting freely about his transvestitism. 'People ask me why I wear women's dresses. But I keep telling them, they're not women's dresses. They're my dresses.'" 
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  38. ^ "'Luvvies' for Labour". BBC News. 30 August 1998. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
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