One of Britain’s most beloved stand-ups wraps up what might be comedy’s longest tour
Author Chris Wright Photography © Andy Hollingworth Archive
In the nearly three years since Eddie Izzard landed in Bucharest, Romania, for the first leg of his Force Majeure Tour (which wraps up this month at the Palace Theatre in London), the British comedian has performed in 28 countries, a feat he has described as “an unofficial comedy world record.”
It’s an impressive achievement. But does Izzard’s brand of gleefully absurd, wildly digressive, unapologetically campy humor translate in, say, a remote corner of Eastern Europe? “Well, I can tell you that we sold 600 tickets in two hours in Belgrade,” Izzard says, before adding that he doesn’t subscribe to the idea that different nationalities find different things funny. “German, French, Chinese—we are all the bloody same,” he says.
Izzard argues that responses to his comedy rely on sensibility rather than birthplace. “I have this bit about the Caesar salad getting its name from a dying Caesar saying, ‘Remember me as a salad!’ But what he really said was, ‘Remember me … suh-ah-uh!’ And someone said, ‘Did he say salad?’ There are people who will say, ‘What is he talking about?’” This is as likely to happen in Brooklyn as Botswana, Izzard adds, if the audience isn’t right.
Having performed in four languages (French, Spanish, German, and English) during the tour, Izzard will allow one exception to his “humor is human” rule. “I have this line about how, when you’re a kid, your body goes on and on, ‘Come! There might be an ice cream over the next hill!’ But as you get older, the body becomes like two weasels covered in gravy nailed to the back of a tractor. In English this gets a laugh, but in German it didn’t, and I think I know why—it’s the translation: ‘Yes, the body is like weasels, isn’t it, when they have gravy on their heads and you attach them very forcibly to the back of farming equipment.’ When I say it like that, all the music goes; it doesn’t work.”
Which is not to imply that Izzard buys into Teutonic stereotypes. “If the Germans are so efficient,” he says, “why couldn’t I get anyone to mend the treadmill at my Berlin hotel?”