From his hotel in the United States, Izzard talks to tV about what it takes to put a show like this together, and his plans for the future. This is going to be a big one Izzard assures us; the biggest tour he has ever done; his own personal force of nature.
tV: You are the only performer I have ever known to receive a standing ovation before having uttered a single word.
EI: Is that true? Where was that?
tV: Here in Vancouver the last time you were here.
EI: (surprised) I guess I don't pay much attention to that sort of thing. That's wonderful but I would have thought that that would have been after the show.
tV: You received one then as well.
Izzard jokes about the obvious state of the Vancouver audience and skirts around the compliment.
tV: You conduct you shows in many different languages. That could be tricky. Have there been any interesting mishaps?
EI: Just two languages.
tV: You are also going towards German now, yes?
EI: Yes. German will be in January and February so if I talk to you again in January or February it will be three. You said many, which sounds like nine (laughs).
tV: The idea of doing a show like this in even one other language is impressive. It could definitely be a tricky situation though. Have you experienced any amusing mishaps?
EI: Not really because the French audiences are very polite. You don't get heckling. Also, I came with a sort of reputation with people because I have been pushing around the world doing my DVDs with up to 17 languages in subtitles so they knew that I was trying to do this for 15 years.
(Izzard shifts to his signature amusing tone.)
And they just weren't going to shout, “Come on, say something funny! Allez, dis quelque chose de drôle! Ca, ce n'est pas drôle mon cher.” They wouldn't shout that at me. If they'd been doing that or shouting really weird things then I would have been nonplused and not known how to quite get back on my feet. Generally it's been pretty good.
I was just kind of rubbish at the beginning, or semi-rubbish. I just kept asking my brother, one of my teachers, and I had two hundred teachers who would sit in the audience, and would say, "Qu'est ce c'est la mot pour 'dryer' " or something like that (laughs) just to get words, then I'd just jump back into the show and carry on. If my teachers were there I'd just ask the audience.
tV: Who is your toughest audience?
EI: Toughest audience is probably London or the UK audiences.
EI: Yah, because they've seen you grow up so they want to see you bring the good stuff. The further abroad or far away you go, the more they'll be inclined to say, “my god they've come all this way” and be more up for it, so yah, I think London. New York has always been tough for me as well.
tV: There must be an incredible amount to remember in your shows, and you must have an amazing memory, but have you ever got side-tracked and ended up somewhere you didn't quite expect but perhaps enjoyed going?
EI: Yes. In the early days I once tried to experiment with doing the show in any order with no particular structure and I got completely lost and I didn't know what followed what. If I do know the motorway journey and I got off on A-route and B-route in the small villages of my mind then I can come back to the main motorway. Yes, I have got stuck and quite often I will stop and say, “Where were we? I got off on a tangent. What was I talking about?”
I was in Thunder Bay a few nights ago and they said, “Spoons, you were talking about spoons”, and I said, “No I wasn't talking about, oh no in the second bit I was talking about spoons, that's right” then back into spoons.
tV: People always talk about your clothes. How do you choose what to wear for a specific tour?
EI: It's a bit of a crap shoot. It's got nothing to do with the comedy. I am a transvestite so I wear what I want. I'm kind of boring boy mode at the moment. On a perfect day I just flip a coin. There's no real logic to it.
tV: On stage with a show like Force Majeure you have the freedom to add something if, for example, in the case of audience interaction. This spontaneity comes as second nature to you so my question is, when doing a stage play, how difficult is it to stay within the guidelines of the piece when you have the temptation of a live audience in front of you?
EI: You can't go off on a tangent. It's not fair to the other actors, the idea that you can just make up something. It just wouldn't work. But there is an emotional corridor for improvisation; you can improvise emotionally. Sometimes you can really stick it to the person, other nights you can come back on it. You can alternate them. I find it's an amazing way of kicking up the energy in the scene, to still be playing the beats that you're supposed to be playing but choosing different energies. That really works.
tV: If you could play any role, whether it be in film or theatre, what would it be?
EI: I'd like to play Richard III.
tV: Have you tackled Shakespeare in the past?
EI: I've done Edward II by Christopher Marlowe. Iago (from Othello) was one of the first Shakespeare I actually did.
tV: Those are difficult roles. Is there anyone you secretly hope will catch your show one day?
EI: All the Pythons I think they have generally seen my stuff so I think I'm really covered on that. Nelson Mandela would be great.
tV: As a history buff, what historical figure do you find the most fascinating?
EI: Ceasar's kind of interesting. Kind of an asshole. There's probably a sito for that. Nelson Mandela is my great respect.
tV: Is it true you are going to run for Mayor in 2020?
EI: Yes, Mayor in 2020 and so I have to close down everything in May 2019.
tV: That is going to be such an amazing journey. Are you going to run in heels?
EI: I am a transvestite so I'll probably have two looks or one kind of blended look. That will be there but hopefully it's not worrying. It's getting really boring now, that's what's happening. With boredom comes acceptance. Boring in that people are not paying attention to it. Who cares. Are you doing a good job, do you live a good life. That's how it should be. No one says, “He's six foot and he's six foot five but you're five foot three.” Who cares. Are you doing a good job? That should matter.
tV: I there one special something about this tour that sets it apart from your other shows, that you're particularly excited about?
EI: The fact that it's the most extensive world tour that's ever happened. It's going to be in at least 26 different countries, maybe more, and in three languages. I don't think anyone's ever done that.
tV: Do you plan to introduce any other languages along the way?
EI: Yes. Eventually Spanish, then Russian and Arabic.
Force Majeure suggests an irresistible compulsion, a greater force, or something beyond our control. Though the title refers to the show itself, there is no question of Izzard's irresistibility; he is definitely an intellectual force to be reckoned with; and most certainly will challenge you to control your laughter throughout the show.
Vancouver has two tour dates that are sure to sell out. Click here for a link to tickets.