A Conversation with Eddie Izzard

A Conversation with Eddie Izzard
Courtesy Photo Eddie Izzard will be hitting up Ft. Smith during his worldwide Force Majeure comedy tour at the ArcBest Performing Arts Center Dec. 15.

Courtesy Photo
Eddie Izzard will be hitting up Ft. Smith during his worldwide Force Majeure comedy tour at the ArcBest Performing Arts Center Dec. 15.

Eddie Izzard is well on his way to holding the all-time record for most comedy shows performed, or at least the most number of countries performed in.

Izzard, who hails from Aden, England, is a longtime comedian, actor and writer known for his extensive Broadway work and roles in such films as “Ocean’s Twelve” and “Ocean’s Thirteen,” “Across The Universe” and “Valkyrie.” He started out as a street performer, and eventually moved to comedy clubs to running his own club and eventually catching his break after performing his first one man show at the Ambassador’s Theatre in London’s West End.

Izzard’s ambitious Force Majeure tour (French for “greater force”) started in March of 2013, and it will eventually take him through 28 countries on five continents and all 50 of the United States of America. Ranging from such locales as Kathmandu, Moscow, Mumbai and Sydney, the show’s tour is ambitious to say the least.

In preview of his Dec. 15 show in Ft. Smith at the ArcBest Performing Arts Center, 55 South Seventh Street, we were able to get a hold of Izzard while he was hanging out in Anchorage, Alaska. Tickets range from $35 to $45 and can be bought at www.itickets.com/events/352499.html

Check out our Q&A with the witty, philosophical Izzard here:

TFW: Ever been to Arkansas to before? I can’t think of the last time we were included in such a big world tour.

IZZARD: No, this will be the first time in Arkansas. I planned on this tour doing as many countries as I could, which I think I’m at the world’s comedy record at 28 now, but to also play in every single state in America. This may be the only time I’ll do that. I think it’s a wonderful thing. I know quite a lot about the history of America.

I’m in Anchorage, Alaska at the moment. I’m going up to Fairbanks later. We might see the northern lights. You are a very large land mass. Even though we have 5oo million people in the European Union, I think you’re still about twice as big as us in land mass. We gain something from being squashed together.

I do like it here. One of the first gigs I ever did here was a street performing gig in Memphis. I remember having someone coming up who was from Arkansas. He told me to talk British to him. I said I can’t, I’m just talking. He wanted to hear the very posh English accent.

My accent is kind of a southern boarding school one. It’s been slightly more squashed. Mine is more flatter and wider. I’ve tried to get away from an overtly posh accent. It does help me though. I could be understood in more countries with this kind of accent.

TFW: What are some of the topics you’ll be taking on in this tour?

IZZARD: This is what Arkansas is going to get from me. We start with human sacrifice, and all the comedy within that. Then I go into Medieval English kings and the development of modern English. Then I talk about God fighting Darth Vader over a spaghetti carbonara. Then I go into a thing about ancient gods, Buddhism, moles digging for gold. I have how to be a ghost, and the logic of it. The Kraken, Clash of the Titans, how I wanted to be in special forces but ended up stealing makeup from shops and ended up with a whole Lord of the Rings extravaganza involving the Kraken, moles digging for gold, and Genghis Khan as Gandalf the Gray wizard. There you go, a pretty standard comedy set.

TFW: Yeah, that’s an impressive list of topics. What’s your process for coming up with material?

IZZARD: Well, you’ve got to talk about something. So I discovered no one was doing history. I sort of used that all over the place. I realized I could go through our entire history, and the material sort of formed from the research. With most comedians, most of us start off with airplanes and say “Hey those are kind of weird.” You do things that are at your fingertips. It’s a crazy idea, really. A lot of my material stems from my fascination of human beings and the world. I look for ideas that stimulate me. I’m in Alaska looking out through my window at a mountain vista. It’s kind of fascinating being here. It’s -16 degrees Celsius. So, I may open the show asking about how they deal with the cold, and once I sort of feel that out I’ll go talk about something else. That’s what I do now. I use everything that’s ever happened. It’s quite a large pallet to pull from.

Courtesy Photo Eddie Izzard has performed his show in France performing entirely in French, Berlin performing entirely in German and plans to learn and perform the show in Spanish, Russian and Arabic.

Courtesy Photo
Eddie Izzard has performed his show in France performing entirely in French, Berlin performing entirely in German and plans to learn and perform the show in Spanish, Russian and Arabic.

TFW: Comedians in some ways serve a dual purpose as philosopher and entertainer. You’re lauded as an intellectual comic. What fascinates you about people and human nature?

IZZARD: What I find fascinating is that the human brain and sensibility that we have now is the same as what we had 1,000 years ago with the Roman empire. Y’know, even 5,000 years ago at the Stone Age, or when we were sitting in the caves and our conversations consisted of “Hey, let’s go kill some animals.” It was the same brain. We had the same abilities to have humor as we do now. That I find fascinating.

I’ve become a student of humanity. I think it’s bizarre how we’ve come to be in modern society, how we’ve lost the animal within. There’s also the fact we keep repeating certain bad things. All these things we do over and over again, and the reason people do these things. They fascinate me. We can drop the bad sometimes, just like there is no elected government in the world today that is putting forward slavery. The last one I could think that wanted that was the Nazis, and we beat them to death.

Y’know there’s the case of terrorism and religious extremists in the Middle East. That’s curious, why did that happen? Maybe they’re feeding on the despair that the Arab people feel they’ve been oppressed for so long. The reason the people did the Arab uprising, the Spring Revolution, that was moderate people trying to say there’s got to be a better way than this. It got slightly lost in the wash, but that’s where is came from.

So, I’m fascinated to see if we can make this world continue. If we don’t have a free and fair world for everyone by the end of the century, I don’t think the world is gonna make it.

TFW: What’s it like to travel this much on such an ambitious world tour? Do you get time to breathe and take in the sights?

IZZARD: It’s tricky. I always ask for a room with a view. I go on and on about it, I’ve had huge arguments with the front desk, I got put somewhere on the first floor once. Now, I think everyone’s got the hang of it and I’m sitting here in Anchorage on the 16 floor. I’m looking out through two windows, I can see the clouds that are coming down the mountains with the sunshine behind it in this Alaskan snowy landscape. This is one way I can take it in, but meanwhile I’m doing all these gigs and move quite fast. There’s only two things I can do to try and get a bit of the town or the city. Every morning we try and go out and find a local eatery for breakfast, instead of at the hotel, and I do this with my makeup artist and trainer and we go out and scout for places.

Today we went out in the -17 Celsius weather all wrapped up to find this White City Cafe. It’s not a huge thing, but you do what you can. The other thing is I can go out and go running in the towns and cities. That’s what I normally do. I just try to get a little bit of the area into my experience. I do like that. You can’t really inhale the whole area, but you do what you can. It takes a lot of energy out of you doing a gig. But yes, breakfast this morning was fun.

Eddie Izzard’s Force Majeure

Where: ArcBest Performing Arts Center, 55 South Seventh Street, Ft. Smith, AR 72901

When: Tuesday, Dec. 15 at 8 p.m.

Tickets: $35-$45

Categories: Cover Story