Eddie Izzard
Izzard performing at the Lyric Theatre,
2 December 2008
Birth nameEdward John Izzard
Born (1962-02-07) 7 February 1962 (age 62)
Colony of Aden, Aden Protectorate (now Aden, Yemen)
MediumStand-up, television, film
Years active1987–present
GenresImprovisational comedy,
surreal drama
Subject(s)World history, pop culture, religion, language, human sexuality
Notable works and rolesLive at the Ambassadors

Definite Article
Dress to Kill
Lenny Bruce in Lenny
Wayne Malloy/Doug Rich in The Riches
Roman Nagel in Ocean's Thirteen

Mr. Kite in Across the Universe
Template:Infobox comedian awards

Edward John "Eddie" Izzard (born 7 February 1962) is a British[1][2][3] stand-up comedian, actor and voice-over artist. His comedy style takes the form of rambling, whimsical monologue and self-referential pantomime.

Izzard's works include stand-up sets Unrepeatable, Definite Article, Glorious, Dress to Kill, Circle, Sexie and Stripped. He had a starring role in the television series The Riches as Wayne Malloy and has appeared in many motion pictures such as Ocean's Twelve, Ocean's Thirteen, Mystery Men, The Cat's Meow, Across the Universe, and Valkyrie.

He has cited his main comedy role model as Monty Python, and John Cleese once referred to him as the "Lost Python". He is also known for his transvestism.[4]

In 2009 he completed 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief in spite of having no prior history of long distance running.[5]

Early life

Izzard was born in Aden, Yemen, then the Colony of Aden in the Aden Protectorate. He was the youngest son of British parents Dorothy Ella, a midwife and nurse, and Harold John Izzard, an accountant who was working in Aden with British Petroleum.[6][7] A year after his birth, Izzard's family moved to Bangor in Northern Ireland[8] and lived there until Eddie was five. The family then moved to Skewen in South Wales. Eddie's mother became ill and died of cancer in March 1968, when Izzard was only 6 and his brother Mark was 8. After an education at St John's School in Kidderminster, St Bede's Preparatory School and at Eastbourne College.

Early career

Izard began to toy with comedy at the University of Sheffield with partner and friend Rob Ballard. After being ingloriously kicked off his accountancy degree course, they took their act to the streets, often in Covent Garden. After his split with Ballard, Izzard spent a great deal of the early 1980s working as a street performer in Europe and the United States, Izzard moved his act into the stand-up comedy venues of Britain. After his first solo apperance at the Edinburgh Festival in 1987, where he met then partner and actress Sarah Ferguson, in the same year made his first appearance at The Comedy Store, London. He refined his material throughout the 1980s and in the early 1990s, in part at his own club "Raging Bull" in Soho, he finally began earning some measure of recognition through his edgy improvisation.

Success as a comedian

In 1991, he got a spot on the Fry and Laurie produced AID's benefit Hysteria 3, where he did his "Wolves" sketch, which broke him into the mainstream comedy circuit and television. His resultant stand-up work brought him British Comedy Awards in 1993 (for Live at the Ambassadors), a part in "Filth" which was a stand up presentation by left-wing sympathetic comedians in aid of raising money for the Terence Higgins Trust in 1994, and 1996 (for Definite Article).

In 1996, he got a part in his first United States-produced film, The Secret Agent, where he met and befriended Robin Williams. Williams already knew of Izzard's act, and discussed bringing his act to the United States. As a result, Izzard took Definite Article on a successful stint in New York City in the same year, and as a support act to Williams took Dress to Kill to San Francisco in 1998. His U.S. breakthrough came in 1999, when Dress to Kill was shown on the American television channel HBO, about a year or so after he performed the show on tour in the U.S., the U.K. and France. Suddenly, America was aware of Izzard, and the show went on to earn him two Emmy Awards in 2000 (for performance and writing).

To this day, Izzard rarely performs his stand-up act on television, as he says it uses up material at too high a rate, whereas stage material can be continually re-used in front of different audiences for several months.

In 2005, Izzard provided the voice-over (again, in his unique 'rambling' style) for the British government's series of television advertisements promoting recycling. The tagline of the ads was "Recycle. The possibilities are endless!"

In January 2006, the U.S. television network FX announced the production of a new drama series called The Riches (formerly Low Life). Izzard and British actress Minnie Driver star as a married couple, Wayne and Dahlia Malloy, who have been part of a caravan of con-artist Irish travellers swindling their way across the U.S. with their children. After finding another family killed in a car accident, the Malloys assume their identities and start a new life as law-abiding suburbanites in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The youngest son has shown a preference for wearing girls' clothing, leading to some speculation that the role was based upon Izzard's experiences. Izzard has stated in several interviews that the character of Sam had been given transvestite tendencies long before he was cast as Wayne Malloy, but he has contributed his perspective to keep the character believable.

Izzard also performed with Scottish musician Midge Ure at Live8 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He played the piano accompaniment for the song "Vienna".

Theatrical, TV and film appearances

In 1994, Izzard made his West End drama debut as the lead in the world premiere of David Mamet's The Cryptogram with Lindsay Duncan, in the production at London's Comedy Theatre. The success of that role led to his second starring role in David Beaird's black comedy 900 Oneonta. In 1995, he portrayed the title character in Christopher Marlowe's Edward II.

In 1998 Izzard appeared briefly on stage with the Monty Python team in The American Film Institute's Tribute to Monty Python (also referred to as Monty Python Live at Aspen). He walked on stage with the five surviving Pythons and he was summarily escorted off by Eric Idle and Michael Palin as he attempted to participate in a discussion about how the group got together.

Izzard portrayed comedian Lenny Bruce in the 1999 production of Julian Barry's 1971 play Lenny. In 2001, he replaced Clive Owen in Peter Nichols' 1967 play A Day in the Death of Joe Egg at the Comedy Theatre. Izzard and Victoria Hamilton then repeated their lead roles when the show was brought to Broadway in 2003, with The Roundabout Theatre Company production. The revival received four Tony Award nominations including Best Revival of a Play, Best Leading Actor and Actress for its stars Izzard and Hamilton in their Broadway debuts, and Best Direction for Laurence Boswell.

Izzard has appeared in numerous films, starting with 1996's The Secret Agent. He has appeared as several real-life individuals, including Charlie Chaplin in The Cat's Meow, actor Gustav von Wangenheim in Shadow of the Vampire and General Erich Fellgiebel in Valkyrie. Other roles have included Mr. Kite in Across the Universe, Lussurioso in Revengers Tragedy and criminal expert Roman Nagel in Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen. Voice work has included the titular It in Five Children and It, Nigel in The Wild and the mouse warrior Reepicheep in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. He said in 2009 that he would not be reprising his role as Reepicheep and the role was ultimately played by Simon Pegg in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Izzard appeared in the BBC science fiction miniseries The Day of the Triffids based on the 1951 novel, alongside Jason Priestley, Vanessa Redgrave, Joely Richardson, Dougray Scott and Brian Cox.[9]

In June 2010, Izzard is replacing actor James Spader in David Mamet's new play "RACE", on Broadway.

In the fall of 2010, Izzard will join Showtime's United States of Tara. He will play the role of a brilliant psychology professor sceptical about a disease.[10]

Comic style

Izzard's style is heavily influenced by Monty Python, especially in his use of a stream-of-consciousness delivery that jumps between topics as he free associates on stage. He does not generally work from a script, owing to his dyslexia. Instead, he interrupts himself with new joke ideas, the characters he portrays turn into other characters, and he nonchalantly leaps from historical analysis to musings about household appliances. This often results in brief pauses in the routine which he fills with 'so, yeah', and other verbal tics that have become his trademarks. Thinking aloud is also part of Izzard's ongoing attempt to make the process of writing the show itself part of the humour. As he put it in a 2004 interview with The Guardian, "It's the oral tradition. Human beings have been doing it for thousands of years".[11] He frequently notes the reaction to a joke midstream by pretending to write on his hand ("Should be funnier"; "Lost them there"; "They didn't believe me"; "They didn't follow, never do that again"), asks the audience questions, and verbally engages with hecklers.

Among Izzard's comic talents are mimicry and mime. He portrays God as an authority figure using the voice of James Mason and casts Sean Connery as Noah; these impersonations appear in many of his performances. Izzard also imitates activities such as sawing wood, vacuum cleaning, and mowing the lawn, anthropomorphising the machines with accents and personalities. Successful impressions, such as his Scottish clarinet teacher, Mrs. Badcrumble, become running gags which recur in different shows. He tackles topics both contemporary and historic, including frequent re-imaginings of historical events which result in scenes like 'Cake or Death: Church of England runs the Inquisition', or 'Jesus Ministers to the Dinosaurs'.

When asked about his comedy style by George Stroumboulopoulos, host of CBC Television's talk show, The Hour, Izzard described his use of history by saying,

"I just talk complete bullshit. The history, the politics, I noticed that no one was using history, so there's a lot of history lying about the place, and it's all free, and it's on Wikipedia! You know, I use Wikipedia like a crazy idiot, now. Then I take all this stuff, and I regurgitate it into a weird angle".[12]

In 2008, in his Stripped tour, Izzard began using Wikipedia itself as part of his stand-up act, reading from a live copy of an article (via an iPhone) and mocking Wikipedia's self-referential editorial style.

Traditionally, Izzard has focused on the creative possibilities of thinking through absurd situations in real time. He also turns much of the attention on himself and his personality, including his cross-dressing ("It is my manifest destiny to wear a dress on all seven continents"). Contemporary pop culture (Harry Potter, Star Wars, etc.) is also a frequent subject, brought up both to critique its weaknesses and to enhance his anecdotes.

His bent towards the surreal even went so far as to produce a sitcom called Cows in 1997 for Channel 4, a live action comedy with actors dressed in cowsuits.[13]


Eddie Izzard performing Sexie

In his show, Dress to Kill, Izzard describes himself as an "executive", "action" and "professional" transvestite, as "a male tomboy" rather than a drag queen or a "weirdo" transvestite (he cites J. Edgar Hoover and Hermann Göring as examples of the latter). He regularly cross-dresses both on and off stage and makes it clear that cross-dressing is, for him, neither a part of his performance nor a sexual fetish.[citation needed] He remarks in his show Unrepeatable, "Women wear what they want and so do I". According to Izzard, "Most transvestites fancy women". [Dress to Kill, 1999] He dismisses claims that he is a male homosexual, saying he is "a straight transvestite or a male lesbian".[14] He has also described himself as "a lesbian trapped in a man's body",[15] transgender,[16] and "a complete boy plus half a girl".[14]


Izzard has engaged in campaigning work. He is especially well-known as a pro-European Union campaigner supporting the further integration of the UK into the EU. In May 2005 he appeared on the BBC's political debate show Question Time, describing himself as a 'British-European', comparing this with other cultural identities such as 'African-American'. As part of his integration campaigning, he was one of the first people to spend a euro in London.This pan-European approach has influenced his work: he regularly performs in French, in which he is fluent, and occasionally in German, in addition to English. In July 2003, Izzard received an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England for "pro-Europe campaigning", "his contribution to promoting modern languages and tolerance of other cultures and lifestyles" and for having "transcended national barriers" with his humour.[17]

He has also campaigned unsuccessfully against the closure of the departments of Drama and Languages, Linguistics and Translation at the University of East Anglia, although the department of Drama was later reprieved. In 1998, Izzard was named in a list of the biggest private financial donors to the Labour Party.[18] He appeared in a party political broadcast for the Labour Party in the run up to the 2005 general election. He donated nearly £10,000 to the party in 2008,[19] appeared again in a party political broadcast for the 2009 European election and again in a 2010 election video entitled 'Brilliant Britain'.

On 20 July 2006, he received an honorary doctorate in Letters from the Faculty of Arts at the University of Sheffield,[20] where he spent one year on an Accounting and Financial Management course in the early 80s. During his time at the University he established the now-defunct Alternative Productions Society in the Union of Students with the aim of promoting fringe-based arts. On 4 March 2010 he was elected as the Honorary President of the University of Sheffield Union of Students.[21]

On 7 July 2007, Izzard was one of the presenters from the London leg of Live Earth. During an interview for the 2008 Stripped tour, Izzard spoke about becoming more active in European politics as well as running for political office in Europe within the next decade. Izzard added a stop in New Orleans during his 2008 Stripped tour. All proceeds from the performance of 23 June 2008 were donated to Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans.[22]


On 27 July 2009, with only 5 weeks training and no significant prior history of running, Izzard began seven weeks of back-to-back marathon runs (with Sundays off) across the UK to raise money for Sport Relief. He ran from London to Cardiff, to Belfast, to Edinburgh, and back to London carrying flags of England, Scotland or Wales depending on which country he was in, and carried a self-designed green flag bearing a white dove when in Northern Ireland. The blog Eddie Iz Running was a document of his road running marathon, in which he ran 43 marathons in 51 days. He completed the run on 15 September 2009, after having run at least 27 miles each day, 6 days a week for 7 weeks straight, covering more than 1,100 miles across the UK.[23] Izzard received a special award at BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2009 for his achievements.[24]

Izzard ran his final marathon in five hours and 30 seconds, narrowly outside his projected time. However, had he not stopped and waited 20 minutes for his film crew to catch up with him he could have finished well under his target time. In March 2010, Izzard took part in the Sport Relief Mile event.[25]

Following the completion of the marathon runs, Izzard has started training to take part in an Ironman Triathlon, saying he has become fascinated with fitness "because there's no point in throwing away all that training".[26]

Personal life

During his Stripped tour, Izzard said he realised he was an atheist. "I was warming the material up in New York, where one night, literally on stage, I realised I didn’t believe in God at all...I just didn’t think there was anyone upstairs."[27]

He keeps his romantic life private, saying one of the reasons is due to the wishes of his companions not wanting to become content for his show.[27]

Izzard speaks French and has performed stand up in French during his shows. He also speaks German, and used it in the 2001 film All the Queen's Men.

Critical reception

On 18 March 2007, Izzard was listed as number 3 of the 100 Greatest British National Comedians (just behind Peter Kay at number 2 and Billy Connolly at number 1) as part of British television station Channel 4's ongoing 100 Greatest..., series. However in the 2010 updated version of the list he was ranked 5th[28] In a 2005 poll to find The Comedian's Comedian, Izzard was voted amongst the top 20 greatest comedy acts ever by fellow comedians and comedy insiders. He was number 75 in Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.

During the 1999 television special It's... the Monty Python Story,[29] which Izzard hosted, John Cleese said Izzard was the "Lost Python"; Izzard furthered that idea via his substitution for Graham Chapman in public performance of Python material with the rest of the original members of the troupe. He also made a cameo appearance in a Python reunion interview, Monty Python Live At Aspen.

In 2008, Izzard received the James Joyce Award of the Literary and Historical Society of UCD, Dublin, Ireland. In March 2010, the Students Union of the University of Sheffield overwhelmingly elected him their honorary President.

Discography and appearances




TV appearances

Video game

Future projects

Eddie Izzard said in a personal appearance (for his biopic Believe) that he is currently putting together a script for a movie as a conclusion to The Riches. He said the plan is to "pick up exactly where we left off, and we think we're going to make a film of the next bit". As of May 24, 2010 there are no indications that this film will ever be made, leaving The Riches without a conclusion. He has announced for future tours that a dollar out of each ticket sale will be appropriated to supplying Africa with contraceptives and other means of sexual protection. June 21 through August 21, 2010, Eddie Izzard will be taking over for James Spader in Mamet's Broadway production of Race at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.[30]

See also


  1. ^ "Eddie Izzard: 'We need Europe to be a melting-pot. We need to melt'". London: News.independent.co.uk. 2006-05-16. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  2. ^ By Marty. "Interview: Eddie Izzard". Martyflanagan.com. Retrieved 2010-01-21.
  3. ^ "Fans turned up at our Oxford Street Megastore in their thousands to get the chance to see comedian and actor Eddie Izzard up, close and personal, and they were not disappointed". December 18, 2002. Retrieved September 1, 2010.
  4. ^ Chris Roberts, Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind Rhyme, Thorndike Press, 2006 (ISBN 0-7862-8517-6)
  5. ^ Run, Izzard, run and run again.
  6. ^ "Eddie Izzard Biography (1962-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  7. ^ James, Caryn (2008-03-16). "Eddie Izzard's Master Plan". New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2008-04-18. ((cite news)): Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  8. ^ "Biography / Eddie Izzard". Eddieizzard.com. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  9. ^ Last Updated: 2:56PM GMT 11 Feb 2009 (2009-02-11). "Vanessa Redgrave to star in BBC's The Day of the Triffids". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-04-17.((cite news)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ "Eddie Izzard Joins Showtime's United States of Tara". TVGuide.com. Retrieved August 30 , 2010. ((cite web)): Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  11. ^ Bedell, Geraldine (2004-10-03). "'Mentally, I'm all boy - plus extra girl' | | guardian.co.uk Arts". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  12. ^ The Hour (TV-Series). Canada: CBC Television. 2007. Event occurs at 7m.
  13. ^ "cake or death: an eddie izzard site :: the biography". Auntiemomo.com. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  14. ^ a b "Eddie Izzard: The tough transvestite who can take care of himself". The Independent. London. 23 May 2004. Retrieved 2008-11-22.
  15. ^ Comic Izzard promoting life story, BBC News (May 17, 2004. Retrieved on November 22, 2008.
  16. ^ Garfield, Simon. Frock tactics, The Observer (May 27, 2001). Retrieved on November 22, 2008.
  17. ^ "University of East Anglia: Events and News: Eddie Izzard". 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-26. ((cite web)): Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  18. ^ "'Luvvies' for Labour". BBC News. 1998-08-30. Retrieved 2010-05-01.
  19. ^ "Feature: Political celebrities". Politics.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  20. ^ "Latest News". Shef.ac.uk. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  21. ^ "Elections Results 2010". University of Sheffield Union of Students. Retrieved 2010-03-05. [dead link]
  22. ^ "Eddie Izzard Adds New Orleans to Tour; Show to Benefit Housing Services - St. Tammany Art Association - NorthShoreNOLA - NOLA.com". Blog.nola.com. 2008-06-10. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  23. ^ "Donate and Sponsor". Comic relief. Retrieved 2010-04-01.
  24. ^ "Eddie Izzard given BBC Sports Personality special award". BBC Sport. 13 December 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2009.
  25. ^ Nikkhah, Roya (2010-03-21). "Thousands prepare for mile run as Sport Relief raises record amount". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-04-01.
  26. ^ "Izzard To Tackle Ironman Triathlon". uk.imdb.com. 2008-12-04. Retrieved 2009-12-04.
  27. ^ a b Armstrong, Stephen (2009-02-08). "Eddie Izzard: Hollywood to House of Commons?". timesonline.co.uk. London: The Times. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
  28. ^ "100 Greatest Comedy Stand-ups of All Time!". channel4.com. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  29. ^ "It's... the Monty Python Story (1999) (TV)". Imdb.com. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  30. ^ Eddie Izzard Joins the Cast of Race - New York Times, 13 May 2010