Edward John Izzard
7 February 1962
Eddie Izzard (//; born 7 February 1962) is an English stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and activist. Her comedic style takes the form of rambling whimsical monologues and self-referential pantomime.
Her stand-up comedy tours have included Live at the Ambassadors (1993), Definite Article (1996), Glorious (1997), Dress to Kill (1998), Circle (2000), Stripped (2009), and Force Majeure (2013). She starred in the 2007 television series The Riches and has appeared in numerous films including Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen, Shadow of the Vampire, The Cat's Meow, and Valkyrie. She has also worked as a voice actor on films such as Five Children and It, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Abominable, and the Netflix original series Green Eggs and Ham. Among various accolades, Izzard won two Primetime Emmys for Dress to Kill and was nominated for a Tony Award for her Broadway performance in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg.
In 2009, she completed 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief despite having no history of long-distance running. In 2016, she ran 27 marathons in 27 days in South Africa in honour of Nelson Mandela, raising £1.35 million. Regularly performing in French, among other languages, Izzard is an active supporter of Europeanism and the European Union. A dedicated Labour Party activist, she twice ran unsuccessfully for the party's National Executive Committee but temporarily joined as runner-up after Christine Shawcroft resigned in March 2018. Izzard is genderfluid and has said she prefers she and her pronouns, but "doesn't mind" he and him.
Eddie Izzard was born on 7 February 1962 in Aden, Aden Colony (now Aden, Yemen), the child of English parents Dorothy Ella Izzard (1927–1968) and Harold John Michael Izzard (1928–2018). The family name is of French Huguenot origin. Izzard's mother was a midwife and nurse; and her father was an accountant who was working in Aden with British Petroleum at the time of her birth. When she was one year old, the family moved to Northern Ireland, settling in Bangor, County Down, where they lived until Izzard was five. The family then moved to Wales, where they lived in Skewen. Her mother died of cancer when Eddie was six and her brother, Mark, was eight. She and her brother built a model railway to occupy their time while their mother was ill (it was donated to Bexhill Museum in 2016). Following their mother's death, Izzard attended St John's School in Porthcawl, Mid Glamorgan, St Bede's Prep School and Eastbourne College. She has said that she knew she was transgender at the age of four, after watching a boy being forced to wear a dress by his sisters, and knew she wanted to be an actor at the age of seven.
Izzard began to toy with comedy at the University of Sheffield with student friend Rob Ballard. After leaving accountancy, Izzard and Ballard took their act to the streets, often in Covent Garden. After splitting with Ballard, she spent a great deal of the early 1980s working as a street performer in Europe and the United States. She says that she developed her comedic voice by talking to the audience while doing solo escape acts. She then moved her act to the stand-up comedy venues of Britain, the first gig being at the Banana Cabaret in Balham, London.
In 1987, she made her first stage appearance at the Comedy Store in London. She refined her comedy material throughout the 1980s, and in the early 1990s began earning recognition through improvisation, in part at her own club, "Raging Bull" in Soho. Izzard's 'big break' came in 1991 after performing her "Raised by Wolves" sketch on the televised "Hysteria 3" AIDS benefit.
In 2000, for her comedy special Dress to Kill, Izzard won two Primetime Emmy Awards: Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program and Outstanding Writing for a Variety or Music Program, while the special was nominated for Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Special.
She speaks French and has performed stand-up shows in the language; from 2014 she began to perform in German, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic, languages that she did not previously speak.
Izzard uses a stream-of-consciousness delivery that jumps among topics, saying in a 2004 interview with The Guardian, "It's the oral tradition. Human beings have been doing it for thousands of years". Her bent towards the surreal went so far as to produce a sitcom called Cows in 1997 for Channel 4, a live action comedy with actors dressed in cow suits. She has cited Monty Python as her biggest influence, and Python's John Cleese once referred to Izzard as "the lost Python".
In 1994, Izzard made her 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 a second starring role, in David Beaird's black comedy 900 Oneonta. In 1995, she portrayed the title character in Christopher Marlowe's Edward II.
In 1998, she appeared briefly on stage with Monty Python in The American Film Institute's Tribute to Monty Python (also referred to as Monty Python Live at Aspen). As part of an inside joke, she walked on stage with the five surviving Pythons and was summarily escorted off by Eric Idle and Michael Palin when attempting to participate in a discussion about how the group got together. In July 2014, she appeared on stage with Monty Python during their live show Monty Python Live (Mostly) as the special guest in their "Blackmail" sketch.
She portrayed comedian Lenny Bruce in the 1999 production of Julian Barry's 1971 play Lenny. In 2001, she replaced Clive Owen in Peter Nichols' 1967 play A Day in the Death of Joe Egg at the Comedy Theatre. Izzard and Victoria Hamilton repeated their lead roles when the show was brought to Broadway in 2003 in the Roundabout Theatre Company production. The revival received four Tony Award nominations, including Best Revival of a Play, Best Leading Actor, and Best Leading Actress for its stars Izzard and Hamilton in their Broadway debuts, and Best Direction for Laurence Boswell. In June 2010, she replaced James Spader in the role of Jack Lawson in David Mamet's play Race on Broadway.
She has appeared in numerous films, starting with 1996's The Secret Agent, and has appeared as several real-life individuals, including Charlie Chaplin in The Cat's Meow, actor Gustav von Wangenheim in Shadow of the Vampire, General Erich Fellgiebel in Valkyrie and wartime pioneer of radar Robert Watson-Watt in the BBC drama film Castles in the Sky. 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. Her 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. Izzard declined to reprise the role as Reepicheep, a role understudied by Simon Pegg in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. She has stated that she felt she learned to act while working on the film Circus.
In 2009, Izzard was the subject of Sarah Townsend's documentary Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story, which addresses BBC's Watchdog reporting of "recycling material from an old tour".
She appeared in the 2009 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. She played Dr. Hatteras, a skeptical psychology professor, in the Showtime series United States of Tara and appeared in six episodes of the 2013–15 American psychological horror television series Hannibal as Dr. Abel Gideon. In 2021, she appeared in the television series The Lost Symbol based on Dan Brown's 2009 novel of the same name.
At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Izzard presented the medals to the athletes who had won the 800m T54 race, including gold medalist David Weir.
She has appeared on a number of episodes of BBC One's Have I Got News for You, as well as a guest on The Daily Show. In 2017, she read excerpts from her autobiography Believe Me for BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week in 2017.
On 27 July 2009, with only 5 weeks' training and no significant prior running experience, Izzard began seven weeks of back-to-back marathon runs (with Sundays off) across the UK to raise money for Sport Relief. She ran from London to Cardiff to Belfast to Edinburgh and back to London, carrying the flag of the country—England, Scotland, or Wales—in which she was running. In Northern Ireland, she carried a self-designed green flag bearing a white dove. The blog Eddie Iz Running documented the 43 marathons in 51 days, covering at least 27 miles per day (totalling more than 1,100 miles), ending on 15 September 2009. Izzard received a special award at BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2009 for these achievements. In March 2010, she took part in the Sport Relief Mile event.
On 16 February 2016, the BBC announced that Izzard would attempt to run 27 marathons in 27 days through South Africa for Sport Relief. The significance of the number 27 came from the number of years Nelson Mandela was held in prison. In total, she would aim to run more than 700 miles in temperatures of up to 40 °C. Izzard had attempted such a project in South Africa in 2012, but withdrew due to health concerns. She completed the first marathon on 23 February 2016, completing the marathon challenge on 20 March 2016 at the statue of Mandela in front of the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Because she had spent a day in hospital, she had to run two consecutive marathons on this last day. She raised more than £1.35M for Sport Relief. A BBC documentary detailing the feat was broadcast on 28 March.
On 8 December 2020, Izzard announced that she would attempt to run 31 marathons, and perform 31 stand-up gigs, in the 31 days of January 2021 to raise money for a range of charities including Fareshare, Walking With The Wounded, Care International, United to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases, and Covenant House. The series of marathons raised in excess of £275,000.
Izzard is a vocal proponent of Europeanism and European integration, and has campaigned in support of the European Union. In May 2005, she appeared on the BBC's political debate show Question Time, describing herself as a "British-European", comparing this with other cultural identities such as "African-American". As part of her campaigning, Izzard was one of the first people to spend a euro in London. This pan-European approach has influenced her work, regularly performing in French and occasionally in German. On 16 June 2017, on the "Overtime" segment of HBO political talk show Real Time with Bill Maher, she claimed to be working in English, French, Spanish, and German.
She campaigned in favour of replacing first-past-the-post with the alternative vote as a system for electing MPs in a 2011 referendum and is a supporter of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform. She is also a republican, believing that Britain should have a democratically elected head of state. She has stated that she is a social democrat, not a socialist. In 2014 Scottish independence referendum, Izzard led a campaign encouraging Scottish people not to vote for independence, and said the rest of the UK would feel a "deep sense of loss" if Scotland were to leave.
She 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.
Izzard was named on a list of the biggest private donors to the Labour Party in 1998; in 2008, she donated nearly £10,000. She has appeared in party political broadcasts for the Labour Party in the run-up to the 2005 general election and 2009 European election, as well as a 2010 election video entitled Brilliant Britain. During the 2015 general election, she attended a rally with fellow comedian Ben Elton and actor Sally Lindsay. Expressing support for Labour in the 2017 UK general election, she said that Jeremy Corbyn "believes in what he says."
Izzard has at various times said she would run for Mayor of London in 2020. Asked on a comedy panel show, The Last Leg, why she would be elected, Izzard replied, "Boris Johnson". She unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party in 2016 and 2018. After Christine Shawcroft resigned in March 2018, Izzard replaced her as the next runner-up, but failed to secure re-election that summer.
During the 2008 Stripped tour, Izzard said she realised she was an atheist. She said, "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." Izzard has since described herself as a spiritual atheist, saying, "I don't believe in the guy upstairs, I believe in us."
Izzard keeps her romantic life private, citing the wishes of her companions not wanting to become content for her show. Izzard dated Sarah Townsend, who later directed the documentary Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story, and whom Izzard first met while running a Fringe venue at the Edinburgh Festival in 1989.
Izzard supports Crystal Palace F.C. and became an associate director at the club on 16 July 2012.
Izzard is genderfluid and calls herself "somewhat boy-ish and somewhat girl-ish". She uses "transgender" as an umbrella term. When asked in 2019 what pronouns she preferred, Izzard said, "either 'he' or 'she'", explaining, "If I am in boy mode, then 'he' or girl mode 'she'". In 2020, she requested she/her pronouns for an appearance on the TV show Portrait Artist of the Year.
In the past, Izzard identified as a transvestite, and has also called herself "a lesbian trapped in a man's body" and "a complete boy plus half girl". According to her memoir Believe Me, Izzard first cross-dressed in public at the age of 23 with the help of a lesbian friend, an experience which ended in a verbal confrontation with three 13-year-old girls who had followed Izzard home from a public toilet. She started to publicly identify as transvestite in venues such as the Edinburgh Festival as early as 1992. Her stance is that the way she dresses is neither part of her performance nor a sexual fetish. Izzard said "I don't call it drag; I don't even call it cross-dressing. It's just wearing a dress. ... It's not about artifice. It's about me just expressing myself." She remarks in Unrepeatable that "women wear what they want and so do I". She has expressed a personal conviction that being transgender is caused by genetics and that someday this will be scientifically proven, having gone so far as to have her own genome sequenced.
In 2003, Izzard received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of East Anglia, Norwich, for her work promoting "modern languages and tolerance of other cultures and lifestyles", and for having "transcended national barriers" with humour. She has also received honorary doctorates from the University of Sunderland in 2012, York St John University in 2018, and the University of Sheffield in 2006, where she had spent a year on an Accounting and Financial Management course in the early 1980s and established the now-defunct Alternative Productions Society in the Union of Students with the aim of promoting fringe-based arts. She was elected Honorary President of Sheffield's Students' Union in 2010.
Izzard's website won the Yahoo People's Choice Award in 2004 and a Webby Award in 2005.
In 2007, Izzard was listed as number 3 of the 100 Greatest British National Comedians (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, and was ranked 5th in 2010.
In 2013, Izzard received the 6th Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism, which is presented at Harvard University each year by the Humanist Community at Harvard, the American Humanist Association, and the Harvard Community of Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics.
In 2015, Izzard was chosen, by readers of The Guardian as their 2014 public language champion. The award was announced at the Guardian and British Academy 2014 Schools Language Awards as part of the annual Language Festival.
|15 November 1993||Live at the Ambassadors|
|14 March 1994||Unrepeatable|
|21 October 1996||Definite Article|
|17 November 1997||Glorious|
|9 November 1998||Dress to Kill|
|18 November 2002||Circle|
|26 November 2003||Sexie|
|23 November 2009||Stripped|
|15 January 2011||Live at Madison Square Garden|
|18 November 2013||Force Majeure|
|1995||The Oncoming Storm||Luthor Keeton|
|1996||The Secret Agent||Vladimir|
|1998||Velvet Goldmine||Jerry Devine|
|1999||Mystery Men||Tony P|
|1999||The Criminal||Peter Hume|
|2000||Shadow of the Vampire||Gustav von Wangenheim|
|2001||The Cat's Meow||Charlie Chaplin|
|2001||All the Queen's Men||Tony Parker|
|2004||Five Children and It||It (voice)|
|2004||Ocean's Twelve||Roman Nagel|
|2005||Romance & Cigarettes||Gene Vincent|
|2006||The Wild||Nigel (voice)|
|2006||My Super Ex-Girlfriend||Professor Bedlam|
|2007||Ocean's Thirteen||Roman Nagel|
|2007||Across the Universe||Mr. Kite|
|2008||The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian||Reepicheep (voice)|
|2008||Igor||Dr. Schadenfreude (voice)|
|2009||Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story||Herself||Documentary|
|2011||Cars 2||Sir Miles Axlerod (voice)|
|2011||Lost Christmas||Anthony||Also executive producer|
|2015||Day Out of Days||Dag|
|2016||Whisky Galore!||Captain Wagget|
|2016||Rock Dog||Angus Scattergood (voice)|
|2017||The Lego Batman Movie||Voldemort (voice)|
|2017||Victoria & Abdul||Bertie, Prince of Wales|
|2019||Get Duked!||The Duke|
|2019||The Song of Names||BBC Radio Announcer (voice)|
|2020||The High Note||Dan Deakins|
|2020||Six Minutes to Midnight||Thomas Miller||Also writer and executive producer|
|1991||Barf Bites Back||Herself||Television special|
|1994||Open Fire||Rich||Television film|
|1995||Aristophanes: The Gods are Laughing||Socrates||Television film|
|1996||Tales from the Crypt||Evans||Episode: "Confession"|
|1998||Rex the Runt||Melting Blob Man / Easter Island Head Aliens (voices)||2 episodes|
|1999||Python Night – 30 Years of Monty Python||Herself||Television special|
|2002||Mongrel Nation||Herself||Television documentary|
|2002||A Day in the Death of Joe Egg||Bri||Television film|
|2003||40||Ralph Outen||3 episodes|
|2006||The Secret Policeman's Ball||Herself||Television special|
|2007||Kitchen||Nick Malone||2-part series|
|2007–2008||The Riches||Wayne Malloy / Doug Rich||20 episodes|
|2008||The Secret Policeman's Ball||Herself||Television special|
|2009||The Day of the Triffids||Torrence||2 episodes|
|2010||Eddie Izzard: Marathon Man||Herself||Television special|
|2010||The Simpsons||Nigel Bakerbutcher / Elizabeth II / Prince Charles (voices)||Episode: "To Surveil with Love"|
|2011||United States of Tara||Dr. Hattarras||8 episodes|
|2011||The Good Wife||James Thrush||Episode: "The Death Zone"|
|2012||The Secret Policeman's Ball||Herself||Television special|
|2012||Treasure Island||Long John Silver||Television miniseries|
|2012||Bullet in the Face||Johann Tannhäuser||6 episodes|
|2012||Mockingbird Lane||Grandpa||Television film|
|2013||Meet the Izzards||Herself||Two episode documentary|
|2013–2015||Hannibal||Dr. Abel Gideon||6 episodes|
|2014||Castles in the Sky||Robert Watson-Watt||Television film|
|2015||Powers||"Big Bad" Wolfe||10 episodes|
|2015||The Devil You Know||Thomas Putnam||Pilot|
|2016||The Big Fat Quiz of Everything||Herself||Episode #1.3|
|2018||Travel Man||Herself||Episode: "48 Hours in Ljubljana"|
|2019||The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance||Cadia (voice)||3 episodes|
|2019||Green Eggs and Ham||Hervnick Z. Snerz (voice)||13 episodes|
|2021–present||The Lost Symbol||Peter Solomon||10 episodes|
|2021||Stay Close||Harry Sutton||Netflix original|
|2000||102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue||Sgt. Tibbs|
|2011||Cars 2||Sir Miles Axlerod|
If they call me 'she' and 'her', that's great — or 'he' and 'him', I don't mind. I prefer to be called Eddie, that covers everything. I'm gender fluid.
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but in 1999, the consumer programme Weekend Watchdog was contacted by punters complaining that Eddie Izzard's
Sarah Townsend's intriguing film about the comedian began with a snippy and ill-informed report on the consumer programme, which accused him of recycling material from an old tour.
At least that has been the case since 2000, when Anne Robinson and the BBC's Watchdog threw a spanner into the works.
Weekend Watchdog 29.10.99
|author=has generic name (help)
Eddie Izzard, one of the hottest names on the circuit, is chatting freely about his transvestitism. 'People ask me why I wear women's dresses. But I keep telling them, they're not women's dresses. They're my dresses.'
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