Most of the time I’m behind on things, but once in a while I hear about something before it gets big. And that’s what happened when a friend introduced me to a brilliant young comedian named Eddie Izzard, whose birthday is today. Several years later I’d see him live at the Ryman Auditorium, which was interesting given that it’s a former church. And maybe he realized that because he seemed to want to challenge the audience, to make us angry by provoking us on the topic of religion. Izzard’s clearly a guy who loves a challenge–in 2009 he ran 43 marathons in 51 days. In his book Dress To Kill, a loose autobiography, he says, “I like things that work, even in difficult circumstances. I like doing gigs even when I’m fucking dying.” Although interestingly he dropped out of the military because he was passed over for promotions. He felt the system was arbitrary and lost interest. The world of comedy–and entertainment–is better for it.
What was strange about seeing him live, though, is that he couldn’t seem to get the pushback from the audience he wanted, and that’s not surprising. He was facing people with t-shirts that read “Cake or death?” and all he had to do was a few lines in a James Mason voice to elicit cheers. In the taped performance of his Dress To Kill show you can tell he loves it when a heckler yells, “Move on!” And if you listen to some of his earlier shows–even Glorious, which is his best performance so far–it takes him a bit to warm up the audience. In the show at the Ryman he got a standing ovation as soon as he came out and couldn’t have gotten heckled if he’d begged for it.
So, yeah. Here’s to many more challenges to come. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite Izzard bit, but here’s a great one. If you’re unfamiliar with his work be sure to turn up your speakers really loud and gather your children or co-workers around.*
The video won’t play for me – says not available when I hit play. This just adds to my feelings that the world is out to get me. I just know everyone else can see the video except me. Aside from that, I was really pleased to hear of a fellow Eddie fan because I love him like a sister. He has to be one of the most attractive men on the planet, along with Ricky Gervais who I would marry tomorrow if I wasn’t already married and Ricky was willing which is doubtful because I am 60. Any hoo – Eddie is a one off – still so masculine even in his nail polish. Fantastic actor too with many films under his belt. I especially loved him in Lost Christmas. So yes – happy birthday Eddie and thank you freethinker for this post.
I’m so glad you mentioned his acting career. This was one of the first “Happy Birthday” posts I wrote–I wrote the original draft nearly a year ago when I first thought of doing these and it could have easily been 10,000 words of gushing praise, but I chose to narrow the focus. He had a TV series here, The Riches, that was fun but also terrifying. Looking back it seems very prescient–before Don Draper or Walter White there was Wayne Malloy.
I think it was a bit too ahead of its time, though, which is why it was so short-lived.
I love Eddie Izzard, Chris, and so does my son Aaron. We saw him in Boston at one of the biggest venues in town (which I sort-of blogged about). We had a similar reaction to you about seeing him live. He’s always fuckin’ amazing, though. Happy birthday, Eddie!
That must have been amazing to see him at a big venue in Boston. Some comedians are really at their best in small rooms, but he’s such a character he can really fill a huge space.
I love these birthday posts.
I stumbled into an Eddie Izzard show in Montreal (Just For Laughs) a few years ago. He was great.
Wow. Was that when he was just starting out or was he an established comic at the time? I know the Just For Laughs festival is one that draws many aspiring performers.
I adore Eddie Izzard! I first saw him on “The Riches” (WHY did that show get cancelled?!) and have followed him ever since. When you did your Hail & Farewell for Alan Rickman I felt a little guilty while watching the video you included. Because, while Rickman was the only one who quite impressively never laughed, Izzard was the one who made *me* laugh the hardest.
I’m pretty sure Alan Rickman would say you should never feel guilty for laughing at Eddie Izzard. And I loved “The Riches” too even though it was exhausting wondering if and when they were going to get caught. I loved it too that there was a subtext that everybody was a con artist in some way or another but the show never got too heavy-handed about it.