June 27, 2011
Eddie Izzard Interview
By Dan Collacott
Someone once said comedy is the new rock-n-roll - after all it sells out stadiums and is watched and listened to by millions. Celebrity ultra stars and icons such as Russell Brand and Eddie Izzard use their style, sex appeal and raw personality to draw the masses to whatever medium they turn their talents to. The latter has shown that festivals aren’t just for big bands, by organising ‘Laughs in the Park’ an epic gathering where comedians get to be the ones making a big noise.
The festival is in its second year and sees Izzard himself joined in grassy St Albans by fellow comedy gods Ross Noble, Tommy Tiernan and Dylan Moran.
We were privileged to get the chance to talk to Eddie Izzard about Laughs in the Park 2011 and what the irrepressible star himself was up to. At the time we spoke to him he was in Paris, touring the brilliant show ‘Stripped’ with further plans to perform at the Hollywood Bowl in July. I asked him if he was still improvising and adding to the show and he told me it was harder to change the material when performing in France, but did state it would still be ‘beautiful’ to perform material created on stage in Paris in Britain.
Below is the full interview with the great man himself.
This is your second year of doing Laughs in the Park in St Albans, it’s great to see comedy finding its own home and not playing second fiddle to music.
Yes its hard when you’re playing against someone who’s turned it up to 11 on the big stage and that doesn’t mean you’re a great band it just means you’re blasting it out cause you’re in a field, and I mean who wouldn’t I’d do the same thing. So I just thought what if we had our own festival? They’ve had classical musical festivals in the past in Leeds Castle and stuff so I thought let’s just get us in a field doing comedy and we can even have an acoustic music tent. This year the BBC are going to have an upcoming stand ups tent so there’s going to be about 15 of them in there, you’ve got Ross Noble, Tommy Tiernan and me, flush toilets great concessions, stuff from all around the Europe, crepes, good sausages and not your burger in the bap type stuff and fireworks to end it all!
So I thought we’d get out there and keep doing it and probably people will start copying us and then we’ll know we are in a good place. You’ve always got to fight the weather a bit but everyone does that in music so we’ll keep on going through the light drizzle, but it’ll be warm this year. Last year it was 9 degrees, so bonfire night weather cause we did it in September so it will be so much easier this year.
I mentioned to Eddie about the Mighty Boosh festival and how even though it was billed as a comedy festival that music still took precedence.
Great respect to the Boosh, we’d been planning ours for a long time and probably because the Boosh went and did it we thought fuck it we should just get off our arses and get this thing out in the open. But I’m a student of the energies of these things, I was a street performer so I do not what the differences in these things are and as you say the music wasn’t on the main stage so if you do some really funny comedy but no-one can hear you because the very big band is playing and it could be playing wonderful god-like stuff, but the comedian could be doing god like stuff but competing with the band. And the audience are undecided and thinking maybe I should go and watch that, then it’s really tricky whereas if you make comedy your thing it’s so much easier because you’re there to watch only that. If you put Laughs in the Park into youtube you can see people’s reactions, and they’re all wrapped up because it was pretty chilly that day but you see their reactions and they’re all laughing and smiling and drinking, I thought the hot cider was great! And I was watching as well and I fucking laughed, I gave it a 10 out of 10 and that’s high in my book as I don’t give that out very much as I’m very hard on my marking, and there was fireworks every day as there will be this year. So it was just beautiful and we don’t have to compete with someone who’s just turned it up to 11!
I went on to asking Eddied about his biography ‘Believe’ and how he came to collaborate with Sarah McGuinness on the music for Believe?
She’s the alter-ego of Sarah Townsend (Director), I liked her take on stuff so I just said go ahead and do want you want with the music as it was very much her thing. The ‘Mama’ refrain really got to me as I’d been trying to right a song like that for years and she went ahead and did it and it’s a beautiful song. Music can be very evocative so it’s good to have it in there.
Was it cathartic making Believe and hard to revisit aspects of your past?
It was good to do, I had a very good relationship with Sarah Townsend (director) she knew me very well and I thought we don’t want to do one of those soft peddling biographies, you know oh look he’s got a car he’s got a cat he’s got a dog or whatever, she was really trying to dig around and lay a few things open and I think people responded to that. And you have to do that because if you don’t it just doesn’t seem worth it. So it took a long time to do and it was difficult to get me to open up, there is a scene right at the end where I talk about my mother and it really got me as I really didn’t know that I was going to say that so that was really interesting to me. My big hope with ‘Believe’ that it encourages people to follow their dreams. I’ve never done any gigs in Russia, and there was were these young Russian women who came down and asked if I’d come to Russia and I said yes I’m going to come to Russia and I’m going to do it in Russian so it’s great if you’ve got young women from in Russia who are picking up on this and travelling around Europe learning languages and wanting to go into politics. If it can encourage anyone to go for their dreams then that is great because I think we lost that in Britain as an ex-empire country and even in Europe to. In the old days we used to steal each other’s countries…. Germany, Britain, France, Spain all these empires saying hey we’ll have another war and we’ll take that bit this time, Alsace-Lorraine kept changing hands millions of times and now it can’t be like that! We need to be more creative and come up with new idea, so if that (Believe) encourages anyone to do that then that’s great.
You voice Miles Axlerod in Cars 2, can you tell us about the character and how you came to that role?
Well I love Pixar, I was going to play the role very differently, it’s kind of using my dramatic abilities rather than my comedic abilities, so I had to play him very straight and sincere and as a guy who has given up on oil and moved into alternative fuels, if you haven’t seen the film I’ll be going into spoiler territory if I go any further on this, but the character I play has a twist in him, so I have to play him straight down the line. I haven’t seen the film yet, so I’ll be flying from Paris to LA to see it Friday to do the press junket then flying back again so that’s how crazy things are these days. So I had to play him straight as if I were a business man, with a lot of energy and drive, so I feel there were more comedic things I could have done. But if you look at other things Pixar have done like the Incredibles it was very dramatic story , I think it works well, Pixar do very incredible and beautiful stuff.
The Riches was critically acclaimed as was your performance in it, is it true you are making a film to conclude the series?
We were but then we had the economic crisis and the bottom falling out of that, and we’d had to jump through so many hoops and over hedges anyway, so I decided that we’d have to leave that where it is at the moment. You can never tell the future but at the moment that is a parked idea, it’s just to tough at the moment. But I am planning on doing another dramatic series in America, I’m developing one in LA at the moment. The theme is a political hit man kind of story, it’s someone who goes around sorting things out politically behind the scenes in a very physical way instead of using the proper channels.
You also starred in United States of Tara?
I have finished work on that so it’ll be coming out this season.
Have you set a date for the Ironman triathlon?
I am going to do one but I haven’t set a date for it, I think I better start with a half triathlon or whatever to build up to it. I think there are four different levels to it so I should start one and then build up to Ironman. But first I need to do the French gigs, do the Hollywood Bowl, do Laughs in the Park and that should be just enough for the moment, but I’m really looking forward to Laughs in the Park.