Eddie Izzard

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Eddie Izzard
Eddie Izzard comes to Crouch End.jpg
Izzard in 2015
Born (1962-02-07) 7 February 1962 (age 59)
Aden, Aden Colony (now Aden, Yemen)
Comedy career
Years active1982–present
Genres
Website www.eddieizzard.com/en OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg

Eddie Izzard ( /ˈɪzɑːrd/ ; born 7 February 1962) is an English stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and activist. Her comedic style takes the form of rambling whimsical monologues and self-referential pantomime.

Contents

Her stand-up comedy tours have included Live at the Ambassadors (1993), Definite Article (1996), Glorious (1997), Dress to Kill (1998), Circle (2000), Stripped (2009), and Force Majeure (2013). She starred in the 2007 television series The Riches and has appeared in numerous films including Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen , Shadow of the Vampire , The Cat's Meow , and Valkyrie . She has also worked as a voice actor on films such as Five Children and It , The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian , Abominable , and the Netflix original series Green Eggs and Ham. Among various accolades, Izzard won two Primetime Emmys for Dress to Kill and was nominated for a Tony Award for her Broadway performance in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg .

In 2009, she completed 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief despite having no history of long-distance running. In 2016, she ran 27 marathons in 27 days in South Africa in honour of Nelson Mandela, raising £1.35 million. Regularly performing in French, among other languages, Izzard is an active supporter of Europeanism and the European Union. A dedicated Labour Party activist, she twice ran unsuccessfully for the party's National Executive Committee but temporarily joined as runner-up after Christine Shawcroft resigned in March 2018. Izzard is genderfluid and has said she prefers 'she' and 'her' pronouns, but "[doesn't] mind" 'he' and 'him'. [1] [2]

Early life

Eddie Izzard was born on 7 February 1962 in Aden, Aden Colony (now Aden, Yemen), [3] the child of English parents Dorothy Ella Izzard (1927–1968) and Harold John Michael Izzard (1928–2018). The family name is of French Huguenot origin. [4] Izzard's mother was a midwife and nurse; and her father was an accountant who was working in Aden with British Petroleum at the time of her birth. [5] [6] When she was one year old, the family moved to Northern Ireland, settling in Bangor, County Down, where they lived until Izzard was five. [3] [5] [7] [8] The family then moved to Wales, where they lived in Skewen. Her mother died of cancer when she was six and her brother, Mark, was eight. [6] [7] [9] She and her brother built a model railway to occupy their time while their mother was ill (it was donated to Bexhill Museum in 2016). [10] Following their mother's death, Izzard attended [6] [7] St John's School in Porthcawl, Mid Glamorgan, [11] St Bede's Prep School [12] and Eastbourne College. [13] She has said that she knew she was transgender at the age of four, after watching a boy being forced to wear a dress by his sisters, [14] and knew she wanted to be an actor at the age of seven. [15]

Comedy

Izzard in 2008 EddieIzzard.jpg
Izzard in 2008

Izzard began to toy with comedy at the University of Sheffield with student friend Rob Ballard. [16] [17] After leaving accountancy, Izzard and Ballard took their act to the streets, [16] [17] often in Covent Garden. [11] [18] [19] After splitting with Ballard, she spent a great deal of the early 1980s working as a street performer in Europe and the United States. She says that she developed her comedic voice by talking to the audience while doing solo escape acts. [20] She then moved her act to the stand-up comedy venues of Britain, the first gig being at the Banana Cabaret in Balham, London. [7] [21]

In 1987, she made her first stage appearance at the Comedy Store in London. [8] She refined her comedy material throughout the 1980s, and in the early 1990s began earning recognition through improvisation, in part at her own club, "Raging Bull" in Soho. [19] Izzard's 'big break' came in 1991 after performing her "Raised by Wolves" sketch on the televised "Hysteria 3" AIDS benefit. [22]

In 2000, her comedy special Dress to Kill won Primetime Emmys in the categories of Outstanding Writing and Individual Performance in a variety, music, or comedy program. [23]

She speaks French and has performed stand-up shows in the language; from 2014 she began to perform in German, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic, [24] languages that she did not previously speak. [25]

Style

Izzard uses a stream-of-consciousness delivery that jumps among topics, saying in a 2004 interview with The Guardian , "It's the oral tradition. Human beings have been doing it for thousands of years". [26] Her bent towards the surreal went so far as to produce a sitcom called Cows in 1997 for Channel 4, a live action comedy with actors dressed in cow suits. [27] She has cited Monty Python as her biggest influence, and Python's John Cleese once referred to Izzard as "the lost Python". [8]

Theatre, film and television

In 1994, Izzard made her 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 a second starring role, in David Beaird's black comedy 900 Oneonta. In 1995, she portrayed the title character in Christopher Marlowe's Edward II . [28]

Izzard at the 2013 British Academy Awards Eddie Izzard 2013 (cropped).jpg
Izzard at the 2013 British Academy Awards

In 1998, she appeared briefly on stage with Monty Python in The American Film Institute's Tribute to Monty Python (also referred to as Monty Python Live at Aspen ). As part of an inside joke, she walked on stage with the five surviving Pythons and was summarily escorted off by Eric Idle and Michael Palin when attempting to participate in a discussion about how the group got together. [29] In July 2014, she appeared on stage with Monty Python during their live show Monty Python Live (Mostly) as the special guest in their "Blackmail" sketch. [30] John Cleese once called Izzard as "the lost Python". [8]

She portrayed comedian Lenny Bruce in the 1999 production of Julian Barry's 1971 play Lenny. In 2001, she replaced Clive Owen in Peter Nichols' 1967 play A Day in the Death of Joe Egg at the Comedy Theatre. Izzard and Victoria Hamilton repeated their lead roles when the show was brought to Broadway in 2003 in the Roundabout Theatre Company production. The revival received four Tony Award nominations, including Best Revival of a Play, Best Leading Actor, and Best Leading Actress for its stars Izzard and Hamilton in their Broadway debuts, and Best Direction for Laurence Boswell. In June 2010, she replaced James Spader in the role of Jack Lawson in David Mamet's play Race on Broadway. [31]

She has appeared in numerous films, starting with 1996's The Secret Agent , and has appeared as several real-life individuals, including Charlie Chaplin in The Cat's Meow, actor Gustav von Wangenheim in Shadow of the Vampire, General Erich Fellgiebel in Valkyrie and wartime pioneer of radar Robert Watson-Watt in the BBC drama film Castles in the Sky . 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. Her 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 . Izzard declined to reprise the role as Reepicheep, a role understudied by Simon Pegg in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader . She has stated that she felt she learned to act while working on the film Circus . [32]

She 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. [33] She played Dr. Hatteras, a skeptical psychology professor, in the Showtime series United States of Tara [34] and appeared in six episodes of the 2013–15 American psychological horror television series Hannibal as Dr. Abel Gideon. [35]

At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Izzard presented the medals to the athletes who had won the 800m T54 race, including gold medalist David Weir. [36]

She has appeared on a number of episodes of BBC One's Have I Got News for You , as well as a guest on The Daily Show . [37] In 2017, she read excerpts from her autobiography Believe Me for BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week in 2017. [38]

Marathon running

On 27 July 2009, with only 5 weeks' training and no significant prior running experience, Izzard began seven weeks of back-to-back marathon runs (with Sundays off) across the UK to raise money for Sport Relief. [39] She ran from London to Cardiff to Belfast to Edinburgh and back to London, carrying the flag of the country—England, Scotland, or Wales—in which she was running. In Northern Ireland, she carried a self-designed green flag bearing a white dove. The blog Eddie Iz Running documented the 43 marathons in 51 days, covering at least 27 miles per day (totalling more than 1,100 miles), ending on 15 September 2009. [40] Izzard received a special award at BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2009 for these achievements. [41] In March 2010, she took part in the Sport Relief Mile event. [42]

On 16 February 2016, the BBC announced that Izzard would attempt to run 27 marathons in 27 days through South Africa for Sport Relief. [43] The significance of the number 27 came from the number of years Nelson Mandela was held in prison. In total, she would aim to run more than 700 miles in temperatures of up to 40 °C. Izzard had attempted such a project in South Africa in 2012, but withdrew due to health concerns. [44] She completed the first marathon on 23 February 2016, completing the marathon challenge on 20 March 2016 at the statue of Mandela in front of the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Because she had spent a day in hospital, she had to run two consecutive marathons on this last day. She raised more than £1.35M for Sport Relief. [45] A BBC documentary detailing the feat was broadcast on 28 March. [46]

On 8 December 2020, Izzard announced [47] that she would attempt to run 31 marathons, and perform 31 stand-up gigs, in the 31 days of January 2021 to raise money for a range of charities including Fareshare, Walking With The Wounded, Care International, United to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases, and Covenant House. [48] The series of marathons raised in excess of £275,000. [49]

Political views and activism

Izzard is a vocal proponent of Europeanism and European integration, and has campaigned in support of the European Union. In May 2005, she appeared on the BBC's political debate show Question Time , describing herself as a "British-European", comparing this with other cultural identities such as "African-American". As part of her campaigning, Izzard was one of the first people to spend a euro in London. This pan-European approach has influenced her work, regularly performing in French [18] [34] and occasionally in German. [19] On 16 June 2017, on the "Overtime" segment of HBO political talk show Real Time with Bill Maher , she claimed to be working in English, French, Spanish, and German.[ citation needed ]

She campaigned in favour of replacing first-past-the-post with the alternative vote as a system for electing MPs in a 2011 referendum [50] [51] and is a supporter of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform. She is also a republican, believing that Britain should have a democratically elected head of state. [52] She has stated that she is a social democrat, not a socialist. [53] In 2014 Scottish independence referendum, Izzard led a campaign encouraging Scottish people not to vote for independence, and said the rest of the UK would feel a "deep sense of loss" if Scotland were to leave. [54]

She 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. [55]

Labour Party

Izzard was named on a list of the biggest private donors to the Labour Party in 1998; [56] in 2008, she donated nearly £10,000. [57] She has appeared in party political broadcasts for the Labour Party in the run-up to the 2005 general election and 2009 European election, as well as a 2010 election video entitled Brilliant Britain. During the 2015 general election, she attended a rally with fellow comedian Ben Elton and actor Sally Lindsay. [58] Expressing support for Labour in the 2017 UK general election, she said that Jeremy Corbyn "believes in what he says." [59]

Izzard has at various times said she would run for Mayor of London in 2020. [60] [61] Asked on a comedy panel show, The Last Leg , why she would be elected, Izzard replied, "Boris Johnson". [62] She unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party in 2016 and 2018. [63] [64] [65] After Christine Shawcroft resigned in March 2018, Izzard replaced her as the next runner-up, but failed to secure re-election that summer. [66] [67]

Personal life

During the 2008 Stripped tour, Izzard said she realised she was an atheist. She said, "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." [68] Izzard has since described herself as a spiritual atheist, saying, "I don't believe in the guy upstairs, I believe in us." [69]

Izzard keeps her romantic life private, citing the wishes of her companions not wanting to become content for her show. [68] Izzard dated Sarah Townsend, who later directed the documentary Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story, [18] and whom Izzard first met while running a Fringe venue at the Edinburgh Festival in 1989. [70]

Izzard supports Crystal Palace F.C. and became an associate director at the club on 16 July 2012. [71]

Izzard is genderfluid [72] [73] and calls herself "somewhat boy-ish and somewhat girl-ish". [14] She uses "transgender" as an umbrella term. [74] When asked in 2019 what pronouns she preferred, Izzard said, "either 'he' or 'she'", explaining, "If I am in boy mode, then 'he' or girl mode 'she'". [75] In 2020, she requested she/her pronouns for an appearance on the TV show Portrait Artist of the Year. [76]

In the past, Izzard identified as a transvestite, and has also called herself "a lesbian trapped in a man's body" [77] and "a complete boy plus half girl". [78] According to her memoir Believe Me, Izzard first cross-dressed in public at the age of 23 with the help of a lesbian friend, an experience which ended in a verbal confrontation with three 13-year-old girls who had followed Izzard home from a public toilet. [79] She started to publicly identify as transvestite in venues such as the Edinburgh Festival as early as 1992. [80] [81] Her stance is that the way she dresses is neither part of her performance nor a sexual fetish. Izzard said "I don't call it drag; I don't even call it cross-dressing. It's just wearing a dress. ... It's not about artifice. It's about me just expressing myself." [82] She remarks in Unrepeatable that "women wear what they want and so do I". She has expressed a personal conviction that being transgender is caused by genetics and that someday this will be scientifically proven, having gone so far as to have her own genome sequenced. [83]

Honours

In 2003, Izzard received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of East Anglia, Norwich, for her work promoting "modern languages and tolerance of other cultures and lifestyles", and for having "transcended national barriers" with humour. [55] [84] She has also received honorary doctorates from the University of Sunderland in 2012, [85] York St John University in 2018, [86] and the University of Sheffield in 2006, [87] where she had spent a year on an Accounting and Financial Management course in the early 1980s and established the now-defunct Alternative Productions Society in the Union of Students with the aim of promoting fringe-based arts. She was elected Honorary President of Sheffield's Students' Union in 2010. [88]

Izzard's website won the Yahoo People's Choice Award in 2004 and a Webby Award in 2005. [89] [90]

In 2007, Izzard was listed as number 3 of the 100 Greatest British National Comedians (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, and was ranked 5th in 2010. [91]

In 2013, Izzard received the 6th Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism, [92] [93] which is presented at Harvard University each year by the Humanist Community at Harvard, [94] the American Humanist Association, and the Harvard Community of Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics.

In 2015, Izzard was chosen, by readers of The Guardian as their 2014 public language champion. The award was announced at the Guardian and British Academy 2014 Schools Language Awards as part of the annual Language Festival. [95]

Books

Discography

DateTitle
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
15 January 2011Live at Madison Square Garden [97]
18 November 2013 Force Majeure

Filmography

Film

YearTitleRoleNotes
1995The Oncoming StormLuthor 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
2004 Alien Invasion Brik
2004 Blueberry Prosit
2004 Five Children and It It (voice)
2004 Ocean's Twelve Roman Nagel
2005 Romance & Cigarettes Gene Vincent
2005 The Aristocrats HerselfDocumentary
2006 The Wild Nigel (voice)
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)
2008 Igor Dr. Schadenfreude (voice)
2008 Valkyrie Erich Fellgiebel
2009 Rage Tiny Diamonds
2009Believe: The Eddie Izzard StoryHerselfDocumentary
2010 Every Day Garrett
2011 Cars 2 Sir Miles Axlerod (voice)
2011 Lost Christmas AnthonyAlso executive producer
2014 Boychoir Drake
2015 Absolutely Anything Headmaster
2015 Day Out of Days Dag
2016 Whisky Galore! Captain Wagget
2016 Rock Dog Angus Scattergood (voice)
2017 The Lego Batman Movie Voldemort (voice)
2017 Victoria & Abdul Bertie, Prince of Wales
2019 Get Duked! The Duke
2019 Abominable Burnish (voice)
2019 The Song of Names BBC Radio Announcer (voice)
2020 The High Note Dan Deakins
2020 Six Minutes to Midnight Thomas MillerAlso writer and executive producer

Television

YearTitleRoleNotes
1991 Barf Bites Back HerselfTelevision special
1994 Open Fire RichTelevision film
1995Aristophanes: The Gods are Laughing Socrates Television film
1996 Tales from the Crypt EvansEpisode: "Confession"
1998 Rex the Runt Melting Blob Man / Easter Island Head Aliens (voices)2 episodes
1999 Python Night – 30 Years of Monty Python HerselfTelevision special
2002 Mongrel Nation HerselfTelevision documentary
2002 A Day in the Death of Joe Egg BriTelevision film
200340Ralph Outen3 episodes
2006 The Secret Policeman's Ball HerselfTelevision special
2007KitchenNick Malone2-part series
2007–2008 The Riches Wayne Malloy / Doug Rich20 episodes
2008 The Secret Policeman's Ball HerselfTelevision special
2009 The Day of the Triffids Torrence2 episodes
2010Eddie Izzard: Marathon ManHerselfTelevision special
2010 The Simpsons Nigel Bakerbutcher / Elizabeth II / Prince Charles (voices)Episode: "To Surveil with Love"
2011 United States of Tara Dr. Hattarras8 episodes
2011 The Good Wife James ThrushEpisode: "The Death Zone"
2012 The Secret Policeman's Ball HerselfTelevision special
2012 Treasure Island Long John Silver Television miniseries
2012 Bullet in the Face Johann Tannhäuser6 episodes
2012 Mockingbird Lane Grandpa Television film
2013 Meet the Izzards HerselfTwo episode documentary
2013–2015 Hannibal Dr. Abel Gideon6 episodes
2014 Castles in the Sky Robert Watson-Watt Television film
2015 Powers "Big Bad" Wolfe10 episodes
2015The Devil You KnowThomas PutnamPilot
2016 The Big Fat Quiz of Everything HerselfEpisode #1.3
2018 Travel Man HerselfEpisode: "48 Hours in Ljubljana"
2019 The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Cadia (voice)3 episodes
2019 Green Eggs and Ham Hervnick Z. Snerz (voice)13 episodes
TBA Stay Close Harry Netflix original

Theatre

Video games

YearTitleVoice roleNotes
2000 102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue Sgt. Tibbs
2011 Cars 2 Sir Miles Axlerod

See also

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Further reading