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Arts, City, Theatre

JFL Preview: Eddie Izzard

Posted by Bryan / July 20, 2013

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Acclaimed British comedian Eddie Izzard is hosting a JFL gala next week. We got to chat with him about his comedy, his long-distance running and his political engagement.

Izzard has gained worldwide fame not only for his various stand-up acts, but also for his reputation as a stage, film and television actor. Last year he performed solo shows at JFL in both English and in French. In 2009, Izzard completed 43 marathons in 51 days around the UK for charity despite having no previous history of long-distance running. In 2011 he was appointed a UNICEF ambassador and plans to run for Mayor of London in 2019.

MP: Hi Eddie, how are you enjoying Montreal? Are there any attractions here for you other than the comedy festival?

EI: I love it. I like going down to the European quarter (which seems a bit stupid since I'm a European) but I just really like that area, the older architecture and the restaurants around there. That's where I tend to go and hang out. I also love seeing other comedians, because it is a comedy festival. That's where we meet, you see. When we were younger, doing the circuit, all us comedians hung out together - probably all the Brits are hanging out in Britain, all the Canadians are hanging out in Canada --then, after you take off and start doing your own tours, the only time you actually hang out with people is at the festival and it's good to go and see other people's stuff.

MP: What can we expect from your gala this year?

EI: Well, it's the United Nations of Comedy, so there are some really good comedians from all over the world. There's a guy called Gad Elmaleh who's a very well-known French comedian, I might say he's the Jerry Seinfeld of France. In fact, when Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie came out in France he did the voiceover for all of Jerry's stuff. So, they're friends now and if you actually google Jerry Seinfeld and Gad Elmaleh, you'll see that Jerry's now doing video podcasts and Gad is in one of those. Gad's coming out and doing his very first gig in English as a Frenchman. The gala's all in English, though, but it's people from all over the world. We'll also have Trevor Noah, a brilliant black comedian from South Africa. His father was from Switzerland, so he's Swiss and South African. We have some Canadians, I think some of them are of Pakistani extraction. We have Colin Quinn who's American of Irish extraction, so a lot of different gymnastics going on there and some very good, world-class comedy.

MP: You've mentioned that you plan to run for Mayor of London in 2019 and you've recently done some work for UNICEF exposing the plight of Syrian refugees in Iraq. Do you think there's a relationship between comedy, politics and social engagement?

EI: (exhale) I would hope, but it's not always the case because some comedy can be really off the wall or nihilistic. A number of comedians will go out and do benefits and such to attract attention to a certain cause. So, yes, they're kind of linked up, but in the end, who knows? In the end, doing the right thing, humanity-wise, is what most of us humans feel right about. I'd say 80-90% of the world is quite happy to say "hey, people are having a tough time, let's help them out". Then, there are the other 10% of people who are extremists and just hate everyone. Comedians, and musicians as well, are both in a good place to help raise money and try to do something helpful.

MP: Let's talk a little about your running. You seem to be a very avid runner. When you're running all of these marathons back to back, what are you thinking about?

EI: I have to talk about a lot of different things in stand-up, and people have said to me "Surely, you must be bored out of your mind" and in fact, I'm not. I mean, sometimes, yes, when I ran those 43 marathons in 51 days the surroundings weren't terribly interesting to look at. Then, you'd come out into the countryside or see some amazing architecture or whatever it is. I ran past the Battle of Naesby, now there's a thing. The Battle of Naesby was one of the English Civil War battles, and we had a truckload of those. The English Civil War was a very murderous time, I think that around 200,000 people died in the UK--well, particularly in England, actually because it was the English Civil War. So, I was running past this famous battle, which was a big turning point in the English Civil War and I was thinking of both opposing forces coming around here, with great cannons and cavalry --because these would have been the same roads, they weren't paved back then, but they would have been the same routes. So my mind wanders and I imagine things or I see things or I think about other things so I didn't find it to be a big problem. Sometimes I was very tired and I wasn't thinking about much, but yeah, it was a great adventure.

MP: On that note, you often make reference to history and to classical literature in your acts. What have you been reading lately?

EI: I keep downloading books and getting into those. I've been reading a number of things. A book on Winston Churchill by Max Hastings, a book on Dunkirk, The Black Swan, a book on British football, Keith Richards' autobiography, Naiomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. Yeah, quite a bunch of books flying around.

MP: One final question, with all the things you do, your comedy, your social engagement, your running, how do you remain so motivated? What gets you out of bed in the morning?

EI: Well, nothing really got going until I was about 30, so I'm trying to catch up on lost time. I think that's my motivation. That, and when I was running I saw a bumper sticker on a car that said "One Life, Live it" so I just thought let's try to really live this. So I'm coming into Montreal and doing this gala, but then, I'm coming back in November on a cross-Canada tour so there's my motivation. It's quite neat, I get to come in and do this gala, then come back in November and do a solo show from Montreal to Vancouver and everywhere in between.

Catch Eddie Izzard at the JFL United Nations of Comedy gala this Thursday at 10:30 p.m. - click here for tickets.

**JFL is having a 2-day special (July 20 and 21) if you buy a ticket for a gala, you get a ticket to a second show for free**

Photo credit: Telegraph Media Group

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