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Eddie Izzard Has Opinions 

Wednesday, Jun 10 2015
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Every now and then, you'll hear a casual reference to Eddie Izzard's 1999 recording of Dress To Kill from San Francisco's Orpheum Theater. ("Cake or death?") It's a performance that won Izzard an Emmy and a long-standing invitation to return to the city anytime.

Izzard does in fact return June 18-20 with Force Majeure, his standup act that premiered in the U.K. in 2013. During our interview, he seems more intent to talk politics than comedy, making one think that this — like most of his work — has some weighty themes.

"It means 'Force of Nature'," says Izzard of the title, "Because you actually have to drive your way through life. It's quite a tough old thing, and you have to be willing to fight yourself down the river of life."

"And [there's] a positive half," he assures us, before launching into a list of the upbeat topics, including human sacrifice and sociopathic dictators. "Then I have God and Darth Vader fighting over spaghetti carbonara, I have cats with guns," he continues. "But that's how it normally is, it's intelligent and silly."

Anyone who is familiar with his work can attest to this; where some comics will shoot for the obvious or most shocking joke, Izzard takes a smarter approach. Walking away from one of his routines makes you feel as though you've just attended a surreal sort of history lesson. But that's not to say that Izzard's subject matter is uptight or antiquated. He's not one to shy away from explaining ridiculous scenarios through exaggerated mime, or dreaming up interesting ways to kill Hitler — who just so happens to be one of Izzard's favorite characters to tear apart.

"It's the angle that you take them in," says Izzard. "So I talk about Hitler, saying that he was a mass murdering fuck-head. People saying, 'Oh, you can't say that about Hitler!' Who's saying that? Only fascists would say that. So if some other person went out and said that they were really into Hitler, then obviously 99 percent of the world would go, 'This is insane!' But I'm pointing out that Hitler was a mass murdering fuck-head, and I do think that 99 percent of the world would say, 'Yes indeed, you have correctly articulated where he was at.'"

It seems as though most people do indeed enjoy a solid rip on Hitler — including the people of present-day Germany, where Izzard performs the show in the native tongue. And it's never a point of contention, because the Germans, as Izzard so delicately puts it, "also think he was a mass murdering fuck-head."

"You've got to remember that Germany was like America under George W. Bush," states Izzard in a phrase that makes Americans want to simultaneously nod their heads and bury them. "Some people were totally into George W. Bush and thought he was a wonderful person," he continues, "but there were a whole load of Americans that said he was not the right guy to be running it."

"It was like this in Germany," he continues. "Hitler kidnapped the country for 12 years. Anyone who stood up and disagreed with him was shot, was hung, or was sent to a concentration camp and murdered later. The German people are just like any other people. Before '33 they were just like any other European country, and after '45 they were trying to be an exemplary country."

According to Izzard, a testament to the Germans' resilience is their cutting-edge popular culture. This includes a thriving comedy scene — including many young comics who perform in multiple languages. It's hard not to give a substantial amount of credit to this era of comedy — and the international inclusiveness that it's created — to Izzard. In addition to the previously mentioned shows in German, he regularly performs in English and French. Next, he says, is to learn the show in Spanish, Arabic, and Russian.

And contrary to what you might think, Izzard, a transvestite, is surprisingly nonchalant about visiting and performing in countries like Russia, despite the fact that it isn't necessarily known for being the most open-minded in terms of sexual orientation or gender identity.

"It's just like America," he insists. "I could hang out with some [Americans] and they'd be totally against gay marriage. It's exactly the same - except that you have Vladimir Putin running the country and he's encouraging that frame of mind. It happens all around the world."

Izzard's solution for grappling with that frame of mind?

"You just deal with it and hope that we actually move on. Sometimes we do backwards steps, but generally we are heading forward."

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Laura Jaye Cramer

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