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Comedian Eddie Izzard tackles universal truths with humour – Calgary Herald

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The idea that comedy doesn’t translate well simply doesn’t apply when it comes to Eddie Izzard.
The English comedian has performed in multiple languages including on her latest tour Wunderbar where she has done shows in German, French, Spanish and, of course, English.
The tour stops overseas have been a big success. And now, Canadian audiences will get to see Izzard in action as the multi-hyphenate — comedian-actor-writer-philanthropist-marathon runner — tours Wunderbar in Canada beginning Nov. 2 in Halifax. She plays the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium on Nov. 20
The key to comedy travelling well, says Izzard, is to keep it universal. Keep it about shared human experiences. And this tour touches on all the big ones: life, love, world history and even a theory of the universe.
“I’ve trained myself to love the similarities,” said Izzard during a recent Zoom interview from Toronto where she was wrapping up the shooting of the new TV series, The Lost Symbol. “That’s what I believe will save the world.”
Izzard’s comedy is very much extended riffing. Notes and “little headlines” are put into a phone to be used later in front of a live audience.
“That’s what I do on stage, I just muck about,” said Izzard, before explaining further using an example of Easter Island and how it ended up with almost 900 stone heads across its landscape.
“I just write that down, Easter Island 887 heads then I try and do all the meetings they had,” said Izzard, who proceeds to do a bit about the discussion the Easter Islanders might have had each time someone suggested more heads.
And yes, it was funny.
“It has to be universal,” said Izzard, who lives in London and Los Angeles. “If you are doing wordplay, that won’t transfer but all the references have to be familiar. Human sacrifices translate, haircuts translate, going to the supermarket. Ninety per cent of things are universal. Think about it.”
Izzard has said this latest tour will likely be her last for a while as she considers entering politics in British. Her main concern is combating the current cynical climate where truth takes a backseat to taking sides.
“I think the problem that has happened recently is the extreme right has rediscovered lying, just bald-faced lying. Out and out untruths,” said Izzard. “They are trying to appeal to certain people who want permission. Certain people are racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-LGBTQ — and they want permission to be that again,” said Izzard.
Politics is a messy game these days as civility is at an all-time low. Izzard though feels three-plus decades as an out trans person has prepared her for the slings and arrows of political life.
“I don’t listen to negative things,” she said. “You know Trump tried to push back on trans people. Down through the centuries, people have tried to push back on trans. I came out in ’85. I have had a whole heap of negative. I am going into politics and I have realized in politics there is not one thing anyone can say to me that is worse than people have said to me for being trans. Coming out as trans is battle armour.”
With over three decades in show business, Izzard, whose latest film Six Minutes to Midnight she also co-wrote, is busier than ever.
In January 2021, she ran 32 marathons in 31 days. A stand-up gig followed each of those. She also did a daily podcast during that time. TV and film jobs have rolled in and she found time to do a one-woman Dickens show and is currently preparing for another solo show — this time her version of Hamlet.
While discussing new projects and old jokes generates laughs, the talk returns to the current state of international affairs and what big picture Izzard the performer, future politician and thoughtful human sees.
“I call the 21st century the coming of age of humanity,” said Izzard. “This century we have to make it so everyone has a fair chance in life — all of 7.8 billion people in the world.
“And if we don’t do that, I don’t think humanity is going to make it.”
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