Name a Yemen-born, dyslexic, exceedingly funny, British comic who (convincingly) describes himself as a “male lesbian” or, alternately, “a lesbian trapped in a man’s body?”
Need another clue?
He also (again, convincingly) describes himself as an “executive transvestite.”
If your answer is “Eddie Izzard,” you may be excused for the rest of the day; the primary purpose of this post is to introduce the uninitiated to Mr. Izzard. The number of folks who are completely unaware of Mr. Izzard is unaccountably large, especially given that he has performed his standup shows around the world during the past decade, has been on TV and on the stage, has appeared in movies (Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Eleven, The Avengers, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and others), has starred in and won two Emmy Awards for his own HBO special, Dress to Kill, and is, one must admit, rather conspicuous.
This post does include recent updates on his acting career so even if you already know about Eddie, you may want to hang around, but if you do, please don’t ruin things for newcomers by shouting out the answers.
If you couldn’t come up with even one Yemen-born, dyslexic, funny, cross-dressing British comic,1 gather round. You have a treat coming.
Eddie Izzard and Cross-Dressing
While Eddie Izzard is certainly more comfortable in female accoutrements than your average guy, the somewhat disappointing fact is that sex, perversion, kink, and novelty together comprise, by my calculations, approximately 3% of his appeal. The rest originates from above his neck rather than below his belt.
But, just to get it out of the way, Eddie (and this doesn’t seem at all fair) is a handsome man of masculine appearance, who, as it happens, can look quite fetching in full female regalia. Izzard claims that he is heterosexual, which is hardly surprising; Eddie and clinical studies are in agreement that, as Eddie phrases it, “Most transvestites fancy girls.”
The Other 97% Of Eddie’s Appeal
I do have a problem with Mr. Izzard’s cross-dressing.
It’s a too easily available label by which the intellectually slothful (that would be me) and those tempted by histrionic headlines (me again) to identify Eddie Izzard,2 and, in doing so, assign him to a category that is more distracting than revealing – as in “Eddie Izzard. You know, the guy who does his comedy show wearing women’s clothes, No, no, no, he’s not a drag queen. He just does his stand-up routine in a dress or sometimes a nice pantsuit. He has an English accent. Says he likes girls – and girls’ clothes. You know who I mean.”
This problem is exacerbated by the difficulty of describing Eddie’s comedy. I’ve revised this section a dozen times because nothing I’ve written even gives me a clue about his humor — and I already know how funny he is; what are the chances of conveying that concept to someone else? Lord knows I tried. For example, “Well, one of his famous bits is about the Church of England being less punitive than the Roman Catholics so instead of the Spanish Inquisition, the Anglicans threaten heretics with “Cake or Death.” Everyone, of course, selects “cake.” See how funny that is?” (The “Cake or Death” bit is quoted at some length and, one hopes, to greater effect later on.)
Perhaps, however, I can provide an overview.
Hmmm. How to put it? How about this: Eddie Izzard is cleverness personified.
He is sufficiently quick-witted and intelligent to be capable of tying together the latest US governmental goofiness, Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology, contemporary theology, the learning processes of cavemen, British sexual and social mores, the discoveries of Pavlov, Heimlich, and other scientific and clinical folks, and the contrast between the European and American perspectives of history into one continuous, cogent, and comic monologue, interrupted sporadically by Eddie humming or muttering “ummm,” “so … yeah,” and other filler syllables to himself while he sets up his next conversational foray, organically building the entire interchange with the audience (he has the uncanny ability to evoke a conversational sense, even when one is viewing his act on TV) to lead into to an altogether gratifying conclusion at the end of the show.
He adamantly and consistently denies that any of his stand-up performances are scripted, and multiple reviews indicate that no two performances are identical. He also makes a show of pretending to write notes about the audience’s reaction to his lines, especially if the response is bland (e.g., “Never, ever compare Jesus and motorcycles again.”)
He is an inspired role player, and takes on recurring characters such as God, Greeks hiding in the Trojan Horse, Christopher Walken, and, on occasion, a badger armed with a gun.
His act also benefits from his expertise in the field of (and there must be a more elegant term for this) funny sounds, including but definitely not limited to sawing, bees buzzing, dentists’ drills drilling, horses and zebras galloping, raspberries (of the Bronx cheer variety), and, of course, explosions caused by inflatable breasts at high altitudes, thunderbolts hitting medicine cabinets, people, buttocks, and pilot fish.
He is sardonic without being mean-spirited and, most importantly, understands his audience, himself, and the relationship that connects him and the ticket-holders.
Favorite Izzard Lines
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people, and monkeys do too (if they have a gun).
I grew up in Europe, where the history comes from.
Pol Pot killed one point seven million Cambodians, died under house arrest, well done there. Stalin killed many millions, died in his bed, aged seventy-two, well done indeed. And the reason we let them get away with it is they killed their own people. And we’re sort of fine with that. Hitler killed people next door. Oh, stupid man. After a couple of years we won’t stand for that, will we?
We have two hundred languages in Europe. Two hundred languages! Count them! I know you won’t!
Squirrels always eat nuts with two hands, always two hands, “arararar”, and occasionally, they stop and go, oh, uh, ah, as if they’re going, “Did I leave the gas on? No! I’m, no I’m a f**king squirrel!” And occasionally they go, “F**king nuts! Fed up with them always. I long for a grapefruit.”
I like my coffee like I like my women…in a plastic cup.
There’s no Church of England fundamentalism. We can’t have Church of England fundamentalism. You know like they have Islamic fundamentalism. Jihad! …Ah ha… Church of England fundamentalism is impossible because you can’t have: “You must have tea and cake with the vicar or you die!” Tea and cake or death! Students with beards, “Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!” Ca – you know, ’cause, “Cake or death?” That’s a pretty easy question. Everybody – anyone could answer that. “Cake or death?” “Uhh, cake please.” “Very well! Give him cake!” “Oh, thanks very much. It’s very nice!” “You! Cake or death?” “Uh, cake for me, too, please!” “Very well! Give him cake, too! We’re gonna run out of cake at this rate. You! Cake or death?” “Uh, death, please. No, cake! Cake! Cake, sorry. Sorry…” “You said death first, ah-ha, ah-ha, death first!” “Well I meant cake!” “Oh, all right. You’re lucky I’m Church of England! Cake or death?” “Uh, cake please.” “Well, we’re out of cake! We only had three bits and we didn’t expect such a rush! So what’ll it be?” “What, so my choice is ‘or death?’ Well, then I’ll have the chicken, please.””
What? … the Carthaginians are attacking? God, I knew they’d do that. What? … They are attacking over the Alps? Damn, I knew they’d do that. What? … They’re coming on Elephants? … Where’d they get the Elephants? There aren’t any Elephants in Europe. This I got to see… Are you sure? … its not just a typo mistake? Perhaps, The Carthaginians are attacking over the alps and they are in their element? Kind of upbeat you know. They’re coming on fucking elephants, huh.”
Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver have been signed for the lead roles in Lowlife, a new TV series produced by the creators of Nip/Tuck. They play a husband and wife who are con-artists traveling through America. FX Networks president John Landgraf describes the marriage as “very complicated.”
Izzard has also signed on to play a villainous sort on season six of Fox TV’s “24.”
Embedded video players, preloaded with the clips indicated below, can be found on a single web page at Media: A Lesbian Trapped In A Man’s Body
Links to the videos are provided below; clicking on them will take you to Youtube or Google Video where the clips are available.
There is a lot-o-Eddie on YouTube. Try this search
Eddie On YouTube
- If your answer was something other than “Eddie Izzard” or “I dunno,” do email me; I certainly want to keep my listings of Yemen-born, dyslexic, funny, cross-dressing British comics complete. [↩]
- My excuses for taking the easy way out are that (1) clearly, Mr. Izzard uses the transvestism as part of his schtick and if it’s good enough for Eddie, it’s good enough for me and (2) hey, I’ve got deadlines too, ya know. [↩]