Eddie Izzard: Two more tours and I'll be mayor
[gallery] Eddie Izzard is on a world tour. He is standing to be London Mayor in 2020. He is filming movies and a TV series in LA. He is learning Spanish. He has completed more than 40 marathons.
And yet Eddie Izzard considers himself lazy.
"Oh yes, I am very lazy," he tells the Star, overlooking a gloomy Stockholm sky. "There is nothing I like better than watching Foyle's War. In fact, I'm downloading it right now.
"All these things that I'm doing, I have to push myself. But that's what I've been doing since I left university. Malcolm Gladwell spoke about the 10,000 rule that you have to put 10,000 hours of work in to be successful and I believe that."
Eddie, 51, will circle the globe on his Force Majeure tour, visiting 25 countries in total. A daunting idea for someone who, by his own admission, wasn't always a good traveller.
"I used to throw up in every aeroplane I got in, so travel wasn't a big wish. I was born in Yemen and it was always exotic to have that little stamp in your passport but I was never a good traveller.
"It wasn't until I got on jet planes in my late teens or bought my first ever plane ticket by myself to the Edinburgh Festival that I thought 'This is good, you can watch a film, you can have a meal'. That's when travelling came back to me and that's when I was like 'I would love to do this'."
The global tour, the first of its kind for a comedian, came about surprisingly naturally considering its scale– Force Majeure will see Eddie play places as far-flung and varied as New York, Moscow and Johannesburg.
"I was shooting a documentary in Vienna and it was 'Hey I should play Vienna' and I've been promising to do a gig fully in German in Berlin for 10 years so it was 'Hey I should play Berlin" and then someone drove for 23 hours to come and see me in Holland and I remember thinking 'Hmm, maybe I should have gone to them'. Then we found contacts who were professional enough to put on such shows and it snowballed.
"The word 'excited' is overused in Hollywood but it really does apply in this case. I'm genuinely thrilled about this tour.
"Did you know that I'm playing Kathmandu? As I was walking down the street one day, I met a man from Kathmandu – it almost sounds like a Rudyard Kipling poem, doesn't it? – and he said 'Are you that guy who does comedy?', 'Yes', 'I'm a student from Kathmandu', 'Are there other young people in Kathmandu who speak English? Could I do a gig there?', 'Of course'. So we shook hands and I said 'All right, I promise to do a gig there'."
But, by embarking on such an ambitious worldwide tour, is he worried the material will get lost in translation?
"I make some assumptions but the trick is to keep it universal," he says. "Monty Python did it and they get cheers whenever I mention them all over the world. They spoke about some things that are quintessentially British but they also spoke more internationally – there were literary references, strange French kings and the Holy Grail, which is a tale for us all.
"So I cannot talk about what's on Coronation Street or what this footballer is up to, I just can't do that. But I can talk about cats with guns or human sacrifice because they will translate. I have to block off the Britishness but the people who come to see me are not closed-minded so you can talk about Curly Wurlies or the 1970s wrestler Mick McManus on the other side of the world if you explain the terms.
"Comedy is a global art form now. People talk about national senses of humour, but I don't believe in that. Humour is either mainstream, who's winning The X Factor, or it's alternative, like Python or The Simpsons. I'm playing to liberal, radical centrists who are the same all over the world. Similar people will come along in Paris, Berlin or London.The way I'm doing it is supra-national. It's above nationality. My audiences are tolerant, open-minded people who believe in people rather than an invisible God. It's not nasty humour. I'm only laying into fascists – and they deserve it!"
After dates in Geneva, Zurich and Bucharest, Eddie is now returning to these shores and will be playing two nights in the Midlands, at Birmingham's NIA on May 15 and 16. He says the UK will always be special to him following the incredible Sport Relief challenge that saw him run 43 marathons in just 51 days back in 2009.
"Home to me will always be Britain. I've spent time in Kent, Sussex, Northern Ireland and Wales. I ran the length of the country so the cobbled streets and paved roads of Britain will always be special. I remember when I was running it was like I was in a film, I would find myself in these mad situations with various crazy and brilliant people. Coming back is always coming home.British audiences have seen me grow so the show has got to be good for the UK. That was always the aim. And it still has a British feel to it, the posters are very Avenger-like from the 1960s – but with nail varnish."
Throughout the tour, Eddie – who, as well as his comedy and charity work, has cemented himself as a national treasure with film roles in Valkyrie, The Avengers, Ocean's Twelve and Thirteen and voice parts in The Simpsons, Cars and The Chronicles of Narnia – will be living in one of three buses, and doing his best to avoid planes.
"Travelling does take it out of you. And I am suffering with a cold at the moment which I can't shake off. I am travelling around in a bus, in fact there are three buses in total. I have a double bunk which I can just roll into straight off stage. I was in Helsinki yesterday and am currently looking over a rather gloomy Stockholm. But I'm looking forward to coming back for spring in the UK and playing at venues such as the Eden Project. I'll still be on the bus, I'm trying to avoid flying wherever possible."
For most comics, an international tour would be enough. But not for Eddie, who has already got his sights set on a number of other headline-grabbing, life-changing projects.
"The big sea-change will come in a few years' time when I stand for London Mayor in 2020," he explains. "I will go through Labour nominations in 2019."
"But I have I think two more tours in me before then. There will be one all in German, then more languages and more shows.
"Then there will be more dramatic roles for film and TV. At the minute, I'm working on the Hannibal TV series in the States with Laurence Fishburne. I play a serial killer in direct competition with Hannibal Lecter! It's fantastic so there may be a second series of that to film."
"But then comes the sea-change. I don't like the right wing and they keep on coming back with their extreme ideas. I want to fight that."
"I didn't like Thatcher and that she was best friends with Pinochet or what she said about Nelson Mandela being a terrorist even though he is the greatest person living in the world.
"I am for the majority. I am a radical centrist. I think in the centre we're all pretty 'live and let live' and that's what I'm about."
However, would an outspoken transvestite comedian ever be taken seriously in the world of politics?
"They take Boris Johnson seriously so I don't see why not."
"I come from comedy but I have done difficult things – transvestism, running 43 marathons, selling out the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, these are not easy. I think in a different way, I like people, I like the variety in people, I want to work with this energy."
But for now though, comedy remains at the top of his agenda. And while he is pleased at the number of emerging comics coming through the ranks, the quality of the more mainstream comedians remains in doubt.
There is little doubt however, comedy has never been more rock n roll. Comedians such as Michael McIntyre, Alan Carr and Peter Kay now pack out arenas most pop stars can only dream of - and it was Eddie himself who started it all off back in the early noughties. It seems he's always dreamed bigger, always strived for more.
"We have more and more comics coming through. The way Hamburg was for the Beatles, London is for stand-up comedy.
"I went on an arena tour in 2003 and made comedy more rock n roll and now there are around 10 comedians who can sell out arenas. Michael McIntyre brought comedy to BBC1, it was never like that before. Some people may say the quality is bad but there are people coming through."
"Certain stand-ups can put forward ideas and can create a certain spirituality. I'm a spiritual atheist. I don't believe in God, I believe in the world. I like to link ideas and emotions. I think it is better that we fight for each other rather than with each other."
But, after 25 years in front of that mic, does he still ever get nervous?
"I don't like nerves and I used to get stage fright but I had to get over it to have a career.
"But the only time I would ever feel wobbly on stage was if I didn't feel I had the right material. Sometimes I would think 'That was a bit weak' and panic. But I don't do that anymore, I have 'work in progress' shows. I am much calmer now.
"This tour will bring stand-up to a load of new places. No one has ever done this before. I hope it will make a difference. I think if you have a life, you should try to make a difference with it."
And with that he's off. Back to the tour bus... and another episode of Foyle's War.
&bull: Eddie Izzard is at Birmingham NIA on May 15 and 16. Call 0844 338 8000 for tickets.
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