Eddie Izzard (//; born 7 February 1962) is an English stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and political activist. Her comedic style takes the form of rambling whimsical monologues and self-referential pantomime.
Izzard in 2015
Izzard had a starring role in the television series The Riches as Wayne Malloy and has appeared in Ocean's Twelve, Ocean's Thirteen, Mystery Men, Shadow of the Vampire, The Cat's Meow, Across the Universe, Valkyrie, and Victoria & Abdul. She has also worked as a voice actor in The Wild, Igor, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Cars 2, The Lego Batman Movie, Abominable, and the Netflix original series Green Eggs and Ham.
Izzard has won numerous awards, including a Primetime Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for the comedy special Dress to Kill, in 2000. Her website won the Yahoo People's Choice Award and earned a Webby Award.
She has campaigned for various causes and has been a Labour Party activist for most of her adult life, twice running for a seat on Labour's National Executive Committee. When Christine Shawcroft resigned in March 2018, Izzard took her place by default, but was not re-elected in that summer's NEC elections. In 2009, she completed 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief despite having no history of long-distance running.
Izzard is genderfluid. Discussing identity and pronouns in January of 2021, she said, "If they call me 'she' and 'her', that's great - or 'he' and 'him', I don't mind." She also stated, "Anytime someone refers to me as she or her I feel a wonderful feeling."
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 she 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 a transgender person 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.
Theatrical, television and film appearances
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 has appeared on a number of episodes of BBC One's Have I Got News for You. 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, 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. 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.
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 presented the medals to the athletes who had won the 800m T54 race at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, including gold medalist David Weir. 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 2014, Izzard played the part of Robert Watson-Watt, in the BBC drama film Castles in the Sky, who invented aircraft-detecting radar equipment in time for the Battle of Britain.
In June 2017, she read excerpts from her autobiography Believe Me for BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week. She appeared as a guest on The Daily Show in May 2019 and discussed her current activities as a comic, her political aspirations, and her ongoing efforts as an avid marathon runner.
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".
Political views and activism
Izzard is a staunch pro-European Union campaigner, supporting the further integration of the UK into the EU. 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 integration 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 four languages: Spanish, German, French and English.
In July 2003, Izzard received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of East Anglia, Norwich, for "pro-Europe campaigning", "[her] contribution to promoting modern languages and tolerance of other cultures and lifestyles", and for having "transcended national barriers" with humour. She 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 on a list of the biggest private financial donors to the Labour Party. She appeared in a party political broadcast for the Labour Party in the run-up to the 2005 general election. Izzard donated nearly £10,000 to the party in 2008, appeared again on a party political broadcast for the 2009 European election, and again in a 2010 election video entitled Brilliant Britain. She appeared in literature to support changing the British electoral system from first-past-the-post to alternative vote for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons in the Alternative Vote referendum in 2011 and is a supporter of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform. On 25 February 2016, she announced her intention to stand for the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. It was announced on 9 August 2016 that Izzard had failed to be elected to the NEC.
On 20 July 2006, she received an honorary doctorate in Letters from the Faculty of Arts at the University of Sheffield, where she had spent a year on an Accounting and Financial Management course in the early 1980s. During her time at the university, Izzard established the now-defunct Alternative Productions Society in the Union of Students with the aim of promoting fringe-based arts. On 4 March 2010, Izzard was elected Honorary President of the University of Sheffield Students' Union.
On 7 July 2007, she was a presenter from the London Leg of Live Earth. During an interview for the 2008 Stripped tour, she 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 her 2008 Stripped tour. All proceeds from the performance of 23 June 2008 were donated to Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans.
In March 2014, she began leading a campaign encouraging Scottish people not to vote for independence in the September referendum, saying that England would feel a "deep sense of loss" if Scotland were to leave the UK.
In September 2011, Izzard declared her ambition to stand for the party as an MP, MEP, or Mayor of London, announcing her intention to stand for the London mayoral election in 2020. When asked on comedy panel show The Last Leg why she thought she might be elected, she replied "Boris Johnson". 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. Izzard confirmed her support for Labour in the 2015 general election, attending a party rally with fellow comedian Ben Elton and actress Sally Lindsay in April 2015.
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.
In May 2017, Izzard declared her intention to become a Labour politician after endorsing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the 2017 UK general election. She said: "I like Jeremy Corbyn. He believes in what he says." In October, she announced a renewed bid for election to Labour's National Executive Committee. In January 2018, it was announced that Izzard had failed in her second bid to be elected to the NEC. On 31 March 2018, Christine Shawcroft resigned from the Labour Party's NEC. Izzard replaced her and served until the next NEC election, held in summer 2018. She came ninth in that election, and so was not re-elected to the NEC.
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 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.
On 18 March 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. In the 2010 updated version of the list, she was ranked 5th.
On 20 February 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||Romance & Cigarettes||Gene Vincent|
|2004||Ocean's Twelve||Roman Nagel|
|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||The Other Side||Dean Bellamy|
|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|
- 900 Oneonta (1994)
- The Cryptogram (1994)
- Edward II (1995)
- Lenny (1999)
- A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (2001–2002, 2003)
- Trumbo (2003)
- Race (2010)
- What About Dick? (2012)
|2000||102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue||Sgt. Tibbs|
|2011||Cars 2||Sir Miles Axlerod|
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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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- Lister, David (26 August 1992). "It's never too late in Edinburgh: David Lister stays up well past his bedtime to rub shoulders with the stars and crack jokes with the comics on a tour of festival night-spots". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
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.'
- Visco, Gerry (May 2014). "Eddie Izzard, Force of Nature". Interview. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
- DEALING WITH TRANSGENDER REACTIONS - Eddie Izzard on London Real, 14 December 2015, retrieved 12 October 2017
- "100 Greatest Comedy Stand-ups of All Time!". Channel 4. Archived from the original on 23 June 2013. Retrieved 17 April 2009.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
- "University of East Anglia - UEA". Uea.ac.uk. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
- "UEA Honors Comedian Izzard". Auntiemomo.com. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
- Nicola Weatherall, "Sunderland University to honour Eddie Izzard, Charlie Spedding and Alastair Stewart", journallive.co.uk, 5 July 2012. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
- "Eddie Izzard: Lifetime Achievement Award: The Humanist Community Project". Harvardhumanist.org. 23 January 2013. Archived from the original on 17 May 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
- "Eddie Izzard accepts the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism on Vimeo". 25 February 2013. Retrieved 13 July 2013 – via Vimeo.
- "The Humanist Community Project | From the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard". Harvardhumanist.org. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
- Holly Young. "Eddie Izzard named public language champion". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
- "Doctorate for comedian Eddie Izzard". Thenorthernecho.co.uk. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
- "Believe Me, A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard". Penguin.co.uk. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
- "Eddie Izzard: Live At Madison Square Garden: Eddie Izzard, Largo: Movies & TV". Retrieved 25 February 2016.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Eddie Izzard.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Eddie Izzard|
- BBC America – Eddie Izzard
- Eddie Izzard on IMDb
- Eddie Izzard at AllMovie
- Eddie Izzard at British Comedy Guide
- Interview with Izzard – The Observer, 3 October 2004
- It's stupid and I love it – the Goon Show and me – The Guardian, 14 February 2005.
- Izzard interviewed by Bono – The Independent, 16 May 2006
- Venus Zine Staff Picks: Eddie Izzard, Dress to Kill