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Eddie Izzard works in 'boy mode'

The comedian enjoys turning past turbulence into present comedy, but for this tour, no cross dressing allowed.

January 24, 2010|By James C. Taylor

Eleven years after his breakthrough in the U.S., Izzard insists that neither his success on Broadway (a Tony nomination for his turn in Peter Nichols' "Joe Egg"), on television (his Emmy-winning HBO special "Dress to Kill," the FX series "The Riches") and films (the "Ocean's Eleven" sequels, the "Narnia" films) nor his current preference to dress in boy mode has altered his view of comedy. "I don't feel I've changed," he says, "I might have gotten better at doing it, better at feeling stupid juxtapositions."

Izzard is insistent, though, that the history he juxtaposes has to be well in the past. Though Izzard certainly follows recent history like Tony Blair, Obama, Palin, Bush -- the day we spoke, he couldn't believe Pat Robertson's comments on Haiti -- he says he steers away from inserting recent history and politics into his act.

"It doesn't record well. A year later people say, 'Who's this?' Anything that's going to date is like, 'I don't want it,' " he says. "I try to focus on history that stays when the sieve comes. Only some bits stay. Hannibal crossing the mountains with elephants for some reason stayed."

At the Garden, Izzard did break this rule once or twice. But his biggest laughs came from Moses, dinosaurs getting pulled over for speeding and vomiting as a five-act grand opera.

In the brief, riotous history of Eddie Izzard, has anything besides his wardrobe changed? "I used to be specific with dates," Izzard says, "the whole reason I got into history was you're looking for things that make you stand out -- I hadn't told anyone I was a transvestite at that point -- and I thought, 'No one's doing history, I just go into the history thing,' but a good stand-up comedian friend, an Irishman, said, 'Don't bother about the dates, don't be so precise,' just be loose about it."

He affects a "Masterpiece Theatre"-high British tone, "In seventeen hundred and something -- huzzah, hmmm," with a very big smile replacing the imprecise years.

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