MONTREAL - Eddie Izzard has often joked about superheroes in his stand-up routine, but lately, the comedian’s resumé is starting to read more and more like that of a caped freedom fighter. Having recently become the first non-native speaker to complete a comedy tour of France in French, he’s currently working on his German and is planning to pick up Spanish, Russian and Arabic as well. He ran 43 marathons in 51 days to support Sport Relief, and he’s planning to run for mayor of London in 2020.
“It’s kind of a full life,” he agrees. “But you have one life, so you might as well live it.”
No one could argue that Izzard’s doing anything but. The Yemeni-born, British-dwelling performer, who has been referred to by John Cleese as the Lost Python, is currently on what he calls “the biggest comedy world tour ever.” Kicking off in Austria in March, he’s performed from Belgrade to St. Petersburg over the last months, as well as the 20,000-capacity 02 Stadium in London. But the two weren’t as different as you might think.
“Audiences in Belgrade and Bucharest were very fast, very quick to react,” Izzard says. “In Russia they probably have less English, but they had great reactions — I had to slow down maybe a little bit. Berlin was huge, Istanbul was great, Vienna, too.”
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as Izzard’s international impact is concerned. Earlier this month, as a UNICEF ambassador, he visited a Syrian refugee camp in Iraq. He is involved in and outspoken about human rights, and to him, that’s just a part of the larger philosophy that encompasses both his humanitarian work and his day job.
“If I go to a place where people are living in tents, and they have very little, there’s a logic that could say that you have to live in a tent. I’d like everyone not to live in tents. I’d like everyone in the world to have security in their country, and enough disposable cash so that they can come watch a gig, and start a business, and go on holiday, and make a comment about their government. I’d like there to be a democratic government in Syria, and I’d like to play Damascus one day, in Arabic or English.”
Of course, there’s humanitarian work, and then there’s giving it all up to become mayor of London. Is he afraid of losing his stride as a comic and actor if he goes into politics?
“I have to do this. There are right-wingers who keep coming, who have extreme ideas, who are hating people, who are going from casual racism to full-blown racism and I disagree with that. I have this energy, and I feel I have to do this.”
We may have to get our Izzard fix while we can. Eddie Izzard is hosting the United Nations of Comedy gala as part of Just for Laughs on Thursday, July 25, with special guest Gad Elmaleh (see story below), one of France’s shining comedic stars. Izzard also hopes to do an impromptu show in French at the festival.
“We keep crossing borders,” he says. “This is going to be beautiful.”
Eddie Izzard hosts the Just for Laughs United Nations of Comedy gala, Thursday at 10 p.m. at Salle Wilfrid Pelletier of Place des Arts. For tickets and more information, visit hahaha.com.
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