Eddie Izzard on censorship, learning Arabic & marathons
We chat to Eddie Izzard ahead of his appearance at DXBLaughs at the Dubai World Trade Centre tonight…
Comedian, actor, political activist, serial marathon-runner – it seems there’s not much Eddie Izzard can’t do. The 56-year-old funnyman – renowned for his intelligent stand-up (he can make you laugh in four languages) and quirky sense of style – plays the Dubai Trade Centre tonight (and it’s sold out!)
We spoke to him about Dubai, censorship, marathons and more to get you warmed up for his set tonight…
On his journey to becoming a stand-up comedian
I was born in the Middle East, in the south of Yemen. I grew up in Northern Ireland, then south Wales, and then the south of England. My gateway to comedy was discovering Monty Python in my teenage years, in the late ’70s. I ended up dropping out of university in the early 1980s and going hell for leather trying to break into stand-up comedy. It took around ten years for it to all take off.
Since then, I’ve played the West End, the Hollywood Bowl and Madison Square Garden, and I’ve performed in 37 countries around the world, including stand up in four different languages: English, French, German and Spanish. I’m hoping to add Russian and Arabic to that list.
On wanting to learn Arabic
I actually visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi back in 1974. I really want to learn Arabic so that, one day, I can come back to Dubai and perform to an Emirati audience. This time round, I assume I’ll be performing mostly to an expat crowd.
On censoring his material for the UAE
I don’t believe I’ll have to censor my material for the UAE, and of course I’d rather not censor myself. I don’t say anything particularly controversial. I mean, I say that human sacrifice is a bad thing, but I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. I talk about stealing make-up as a kid, and I talk about being transgender. If the audience has a problem with that, there’s nothing I can do, it’s part of my DNA. Apart from the occasional swear word, I don’t think my show is going to offend anyone.
On completing 27 marathons in 27 days to honour Nelson Mandela last year
The trick is to never entertain the idea of giving up. You never get into your car in the morning thinking you’re going to drive it into a tree. In the same way, I never even thought about the possibility of not finishing the challenge.
I have more challenges coming up, but nothing I can talk about right now, because it’s still in the planning stages. My aim is to continue running marathons, so there’ll always be another challenge. What I love about running is that the more you do it, the easier it becomes. So the last seven marathons were easier than the first 20, even though I had to do a double marathon on the last day. It’s an adventure, and it was a way to raise awareness and salute a great man.
On going into politics
I’ve always talked about wanting to go into politics, and I still do. I don’t like Brexit, I don’t like Trump. I don’t like simplistic politics and the hatred that goes with it. We did this in the 1930s, and we know it doesn’t work, but it seems like maybe human beings keep needing to roll around to this point, and it’s not good. But some people vote emotionally, they don’t think about the pros and cons and that’s unfortunate. We’ll see what happens.
On meeting his fans
People tend to quote my own bits of stand-up at me, endlessly. But I don’t mind at all.
Dubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, Thur 7pm, Dhs295. Tel: (04) 4573212. Metro: World Trade Centre. dxblaughs.ae