The lost Python ready to wind up T.O.
Acclaimed British comedian includes four nights at Massey Hall as part of massive international tour
The title of British comedian Eddie Izzard’s globe-trotting tour, Force Majeure, translates from French into something like “superior force” or “act of God.” It’s a reference to the two or three millennia’s worth of deities that Izzard draws upon as inspiration for his show. But when he gets onstage at Massey Hall later this month, the surrealist stand-up may find it’s his jokes about more worldly matters that strike a chord with audiences in this city. Izzard is a well-known comedian, actor and writer who has appeared onstage and on screen in the United Kingdom since the early ’80s. He has appeared in such movies as Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen and Mystery Men, among others.
I meet Izzard in the carefully crafted rustic elegance of Soho House on Adelaide Street. He is dressed in a dark suit, and the only hint of his famous transvestism are his fingernails, which are painted deep red except for one on each hand that bears the flags of Great Britain and the European Union.
Taking in 25 countries, Izzard’s global trek is being billed as the most extensive comedy tour ever. Not that anyone has actually fact-checked that claim. “I go around claiming things until someone disproves me,” he says.
Izzard’s comedy has been compared to that of the 1970s British troupe Monty Python, which he admits has been helpful in connecting with audiences in places such as the United States where he toured in 2011 and played the 17,000-seat Hollywood Bowl. John Cleese once referred to him as the “lost Python,” and Izzard says Python had a major influence on his comedy.
“I’m assuming an intelligence, which is what Python did. So I just stole everything that Python gave to me and I turned that into my standup. I’m really just doing Monty Python.”
In person, Izzard’s manner of speaking is similar to his rambling onstage delivery. He seems to pile words and ideas into sentences until they can take no more, burst at the seams and propel him off on a delightful tangent. He also has a habit of breaking off into French, when the mood takes him, a hangover from his three-month residency at a theatre in Paris, France.
In matters unrelated to grammar, however, Izzard demonstrates an almost terrifying determination to see things through. In 2009, despite his previous sporting experience being largely limited to a passion for London’s Crystal Palace soccer club, he decided to run 43 marathons in 51 days to raise money for Sport Relief, a charity run by the British Broadcasting Corporation. He raised £200,000 (about $330,000) but lost more than a few toenails along the way. His Force Majeure tour appears to be another giant slog. So why do it?
“Ego. Fun. Adventure. Cash, to a certain extent,” he says.
In recent years, Izzard has become increasingly outspoken on politics. A longtime supporter of Britain’s leftleaning Labour party, in September he told the party’s annual conference that he wants to run for mayor of London in 2020.
Although he is currently in what he calls “boy mode,” Izzard is famously open about his transvestism, and success at the ballot box would raise the alluringly surreal possibility of a dude in a dress running one of the world’s greatest cities.
“I feel I have energy. I feel I think in different ways,” he says.
“I did tell everyone I was a transvestite way before it became this very cool thing — actually, it still hasn’t become a cool thing — but, you know, I told everyone because I thought this is the right thing.”
Perhaps, when he is in town, Izzard should consider stopping by City Hall for some campaigning tips from our own convention-defying mayor. It would certainly make for an interesting conversation.
Izzard plays Massey Hall Nov. 13 to 16. Tickets $44.25 to $73.50.
Comedian Eddie Izzard, the future mayor of London?