“I’m now in a forest, walking alone.”
It’s a strange thing Eddie Izzard said to me. It was the last thing he said before he hung up the phone. I don’t know if he meant it metaphorically or if he was literally walking in a forest the entire time we were talking.
I suppose most people would take that statement at face value, as it is fairly straightforward. However, after talking to Izzard—a dynamo standup comedian, deep-thinking author, maniac marathon runner and cross-dressing politico—I thought it might be possible that he may have been referring to his journey through this crazy world, or his upcoming tour (which hits Jacksonville on Oct. 10).
Izzard is an enigma in today’s instant gratification and fast satisfaction culture. He is a deep, deep thinker who peddles in theories about where we are going as a society, whilst his contemporaries smash watermelons and tell fart jokes (both great qualities in their own right). Izzard can wax poetic about the tract of human civilization as comfortably on a stage as a Cambridge professor. He could also run 27 marathons in 27 days as a salute to Nelson Mandela and his fight for freedom. Izzard, an accomplished author, actor, standup comedian and, potentially, future MP (Member of Parliament) recently took time away from, I guess, waltzing through the woods, to talk to us about his love for language, acting opposite Dame Judy Dench and the difference between Boy Mode and Girl Mode.
Folio Weekly: What about the world is funny right now?
Eddie Izzard: That’s an interest question because I don’t think I work that way. What I do is think about what's funny about the future and what's funny about the past. I tend not to go into right-this-very-moment, Trump-this and Boris Johnson-that. I don’t do that because I find it changes too often. I’m very driven and very lazy at the same time, which is kind of weird, but it seems to work for me. My newest show is about the last 100,000 years and where we've been and where we're going [Author's note: Eddie Izzard is the only comedian in the history of the universe to prepared a standup show about the last 100,000 years of human existence. Call Encyclopedia Britannica.]
What have we humans done that's worth taking on tour?
I am interested in civilization. I think the percentage of progressives and regressives has stayed the same. I think we may be heading back toward 1930s politics right now, it's a loop, but I don’t think our brain patterns have changed over time. We aren’t more clever now than we were in the Mesolithic era. It's still the same brain patterns. I find it fascinating that we're moving forward so slowly. From the Enlightenment forward is probably the best time to measure us.
You were great as “Bertie” [future King of England, George VI] in Victoria & Abdul. How was it working with Dame Judy Dench?
I was excited to play opposite Judy Dench. Just going toe-to-toe with her as characters who didn’t get along. When I was seven, I wanted to be an actor. I broke into Pinewood Studios when I was 15. I thought I was going to be doing Monty Python sort of work, but it took me a long time to progress. We shot at Osborne House. Nobody had ever shot there before. It was the palace where Queen Victoria died. We were like naughty schoolchildren running around, being told not to touch anything.
How do you feel when you wear women’s clothing? Do you find people are now more or less tolerant and accepting than they were X number of years ago?
I have to say I try not to give it a label. Women wear trousers and pants and they don’t call it men’s clothing. I think people are better now. I am probably helped by things like the Vanity Fair cover. When I campaign, I do more in Girl Mode than Boy Mode. I'm binary. People seem to be OK with it because I'm comfortable with it. There are, however, some places that aren't as tolerant. Teenagers are the worst. I wanted to be in Special Forces as a kid. Now I think I’m in Civilian Special Forces. The mental strength required to go out can be daunting. If people look at me or say something to me, I've learned to stand my ground. I wore a skirt and heels when I came out in Turkey. I got a round of applause as I came out on stage, but when they realized I had on a skirt and heels, the applause got louder. I think it was a sign of a bit of relief from things becoming more hardline.
What's your next challenge?
I don’t think of them as challenges or things on a list. I love languages. I want to do a show in Spanish. I have developed my next show in German and French. I’d like to add Arabic and Russian after that. I'm running more marathons, and they all have a political edge to them. I'm going to do some sea swimming. I like the Ancient Greek idea of “healthy body/healthy mind.” I’m trying to find the way there. I'm also going into politics at the same time. It's the right time to go into politics.
Why does Girl Mode work better than Boy Mode?
I don’t look particularly “girly,” so maybe the average person must think that someone must’ve fought a bit of a fight to stand here and do this so, f**k it, I might vote for you. It’s like battle armor. It’s my Iron Man suit. I'm in this fight for positivity and humanity. I'm trying to live and run in a world with a positive outlook.
What's Eddie Izzard’s campaign slogan?
“One Life, Live It Well.”
8 p.m. Wed., Oct. 10, Florida Theatre, floridatheatre.com, $49.50-$69.50