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Force Majeure—The Man And The Tour—Interview with Eddie Izzard

By Marielle Shaw in Arts & Entertainment on May 29, 2014 7:00PM

Photo Credit: Andy Hollingworth

Call him Glorious. Maybe Dressed to Kill. But when you’re talking about Eddie Izzard, one word that comes to mind is unstoppable. Izzard is someone who isn’t content to let the world pass by—he wants to study it, influence it, and make everyone laugh while he’s at it. He’s already played in 24 countries in his recent journeys, and the Force Majeure tour is coming to the Chicago Theatre June 7-9. We talked with Eddie about his tour, history, Chicago and the power of a good power nap, and have a great time of it.

CHICAGOIST: Hello Eddie. Thanks so much for talking with us. We’re excited to have you.

EDDIE IZZARD: Excellent to talk to you.

"(T)he people who mistrust or dislike or hate other people are going to be voting for mistrust and hate. And it’s just leaning us back towards the 30s and 40s again."
C: We‘ve always admired your courage to be exactly who you are. Sometimes we think you rock a heel better than most women ever could! You’ve inspired a lot of people to just be who they are, and we wondered, is there someone who did that for you, starting out? Is there someone that inspired you that way?

EDDIE IZZARD: It's a very good point. I think I have a genetic determination thing. I always wanted to be brave, I wanted to be in the army… you know, D-Day, the Second World War that was coming up, I would have been there. You can never tell if you’ll be a coward or you’ll be someone useful in that situation, but I wanted to do that. I suppose this is part of testing me throughout my life, to see if I’m brave enough to do this stuff, in a positive way. I think my father, though, gave me the confidence, along with whatever I had built in genetically. He always said ‘as long as you’re happy’ and he set it up for me and my brother so that we had a sound basis of confidence to work from. He worked his way up from being very working class to middle class lifestyle. He just made everything very secure. From that basis… he didn’t do the crazy stuff that I’ve done, but from that basis, he just made it so that I could leapfrog off that and take more chances. I discussed this with him and I think that’s true, He put the confidence down and I could build off of that.

C: What’s been your favorite thing about the Force Majeure tour so far? Any favorite moments?

EDDIE IZZARD: Well, I’m starting off [The US Tour], but this is the 24th country I play in. So,it’s great to be back in America, and I’m hopefully planning to play all 50 states of America. That’s just a fun idea, the idea that I could get to everywhere. I don’t think many American comedians have been to all 50 states on a tour. So that’s good. I’m also playing the 24th country I've played in on Force Majeure. I did 2 months in Germany—Berlin, all in German, and then I went to Hamburg as well, so that’s very exciting. Those things. And just before I play Chicago, I’m going to zip off to the D-Day beaches in Normandy and play Caen, the big city there, on the 6th of June, and then Chicago on the 7th.

C: We’d heard about that show- that’s for charity? What’s the charity it’s supporting?

EDDIE IZZARD: Well, it’s going to be five or six charities around the world, one American, one Canadian…we’re working out what the perfect one is. I’ll tell you what the German one is, because I’m doing it at 7:00 on the evening of the sixth in German, 8:00 in English and 9:00 in French, because those are the languages that would have been spoken on that day 70 years ago. I’m including German in because it’s for people who fought for democracy and freedom in WWII and since WWII to include Germany in there, who I’ve invited to the commemoration. It’s a very positive place that Germany has got to.

Hitler said “you can’t have a country…democracy doesn’t work.” and Germany has proved in a very strong way that democracy does work with their very strong economy. So a salute to them. The German charity is called Stolpersteine. A German artist has gone around and all the houses where the Nazis removed people from and took them off and murdered them, and he puts a brass stone into the house in front and puts their name on it so that they will be remembered for all time as someone who lived there.

C: Oh wow. That’s great.

2014_5_23ChicagoistEddie Izzard - Force Majeure Color 2.jpg
Photo Credit: Amande Searle
EDDIE IZZARD: It’s a wonderful charity. Stolpersteine is what it’s called- stepping stone is the English translation. And so that’s the German one. I thought “Well I should do it in French and English. No, I should do it in German, French and English, and really say 70 years off, we have moved forward.“

C: Is that [unity] the goal of that show? You talk a lot about unity in comedy, and comedy as universal…

EDDIE IZZARD: Yes. I think the goal is to remember people—what we went through before. Because you have your extremist parties in your country, we have extremist parties in our country. It seems like the people who mistrust or dislike or hate other people are going to be voting for mistrust and hate. And it’s just leaning us back towards the 30s and 40s again.

I want to remind people—I’m very positive on Europe—we have to learn to work together in Europe in some shape or form. That’s what I believe in. I’m showing people, “remember what happened before” and this is where we are now. That’s the big thing that I’m showing—We are all the same. I do the same show, the same idea, the same comedy jokes, in German then in English then in French. Force Majeure three times in three languages in three hours.“

C:That sounds like it’s going to be quite a challenge, especially coming back to Chicago the next day. Do you have any plans on how to beat the jet lag?

EDDIE IZZARD: Well the jet lag coming back will be fine. I’m going for two days. I stay in American time, I stay in Chicago time…The crunch is going backwards, isn’t it? I’ll be a little bit all over the place when I’m there, I’ll just have to grab whatever sleep I can. Power naps—they do work. Up to 45 minutes you can do them and you don’t go into REM sleep."

"The fact that we have a war on drugs now when prohibition didn’t work when it did is just ... you could have worked that out just by looking at that."
C: As a history buff, do you have a favorite bit of Chicago history or something that you find interesting about the city historically?

EDDIE IZZARD: Well, there’s a lot of immigrants coming into Chicago. I remember seeing on Who Do You Think You Are, people coming in on boats through the Great Lakes System from the Hudson on down through Lake Erie, I was thinking about this, how did that work? I find that fascinating. I mean, Chicago was the West initially, and then the fact that gangland stuff took over because of the bad idea of prohibition which turned into the war on drugs. The fact that we have a war on drugs now when prohibition didn’t work when it did is just ... you could have worked that out just by looking at that. But Chicago has a long and amazing history. The history of comedy as well, in Chicago. There’s a huge history of people who came out of Chicago.

C: So what’s next? Are you going to pursue the languages you’ve learned for Force Majeure? Achieve fluency in those languages?

EDDIE IZZARD: Well, the ones I’ve mentioned I’m trying to get. Getting perfectly fluent is tricky. In French I’m about 70% fluent; I’d like to get to 80%. I think that’s pretty good. So French, German, Spanish, Russian and Arabic are the ones I’m looking at before I go into politics. So that’s enough to have on my plate at the moment.

C: What’s your goal after this tour is over?

EDDIE IZZARD: After the tour is over…Hmm… I spose relaxing would be a nice idea, wouldn’t it? I’m going into doing my next drama series, hopefully that comes up in about August, we’re just waiting on finalizing that. Before this I was doing a film with Dustin Hoffman and Kathy Bates called Boychoir, so I go from that to doing a drama. From drama to comedy to drama to comedy, that’s my journey.

Tickets are still available for Eddie Izzard's Chicago shows. Don't miss out. Learn more here.