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OKG Q&A: Comedian Eddie Izzard talks global politics, standing up to LGBT harassment ahead of Dec. 29 show



Eddie Izzard completed 27 marathons in 27 days this year, but when it comes to hatred and discrimination he isn’t running from anything.

The English comedian and actor is known for his unconventional, train-of-thought comedic style displayed prominently in the popular and hilarious 1999 special Eddie Izzard: Dress to Kill. He performs Dec. 29 at WinStar World Casino and Resort, 777 Casino Ave., in Thackerville.

Izzard finished the amazing streak of marathons in March. In 2009, he completed 43 in 51 days, benefiting the Sport Relief charity. Though it’s an endurance feat even some of the most fit runners would not dream of attempting, Izzard surprisingly does not have a long history of distance running.

In November, the comic put on hold his bilingual stand-up tour through Spain so he could appear as a litigant in a court case and testify against a man accused of making threats and using transphobic slurs.

Izzard describes himself as transgender. The court found the accused guilty on two counts for the threats and harassment. In a recent interview with Oklahoma Gazette, Izzard said he pursued the case as a way of standing up to abuses he and many other LGBTQ people have endured through the years.

The multilingual comedian is politically outspoken and is a vocal supporter of the European Union and larger cultural understanding. He publicly decried “Brexit,” the United Kingdom’s June vote to withdraw from the international union.

Oklahoma Gazette: Are you touching on many current events for this coming show?

Eddie Izzard: Well, if you know my stuff, I don’t tend to adjust it. The one thing politics does is it completely dates things. So to do Brexhate, Trump-hate and all of that stuff, it’s not my thing. I do stuff on historical politics, sexual politics, social politics — everything about how the world has been going around for centuries. I just put the world into context as opposed to saying, “Hey, Trump, isn’t he a weird dickhead?”

OKG: There are already a lot of people making those jokes.

EI: Yeah, exactly. The facts are almost like their own comedy.

OKG: Some people compare the Brexit vote to the recent United States presidential election. Do you see a comparison there?

EI: Well it’s really Brexhate, isn’t it? Not Brexit, but Brexhate. We’ve gone back to the ’30s; we’re trying to encourage people to hate Muslims, immigrants, Jewish people. It’s just appealing to hatred to get a vote. It’s a ridiculous thing, thinking you can do simplistic politics like building a wall or doing a register of Muslim people like there was a register of Jewish people back in Nazi Germany. These are all ideas that are not part of humanity, and it’s just the wrong thing to do. The moderate people of the world have to get motivated. We’ve got to push back hard on this, because otherwise we’re just going to go back down the drain.

OKG: Does comedy have a role in opening people up to the world?

EI: I think comedy and journalism. Comedy is like a cousin of journalism. Journalists point out intellectual truths and psychological truths about things that are going on in the world. Comics, we can point out things that make people laugh by pointing out the fallibility, the strangeness and the twisted nature of things. We’re both doing a similar job in slightly similar ways. But to me, I’m doing it in a nonpolitical way. That’s the odd thing. Politics are politics, and the show that I do when I go out to the casino will just be pure comedy.

OKG: You were in some headlines recently for that harassment case. What inspired you to pursue that case specifically?

EI: Well, you know, LGBT people have been harassed over hundreds and thousands of years. But [being gay or transgender] is built-in. I believe it’s genetic. I know I didn’t choose it; it’s something that’s inside, expressing female attributes as well as male attributes. I’m being honest. Honesty in this world is a lot better than the lies that are being made up by the extreme right, the alt-right, the far-right, the Trump-right.

This guy insulted me because of nothing. Nothing had happened, and all of a sudden he’s screaming at me. Then I find out his name from the pub nearby and I said, “Well, I better make a note of that.” He threatened to rob me and burgle my house. Then a month later, he does it again, but this time, it’s just homophobic abuse. And I say, “All right, that’s it; I’m putting his name in the piece just in case something happens.” Then the Crown Prosecution Service ... followed through and said, “No, these are actually hate crimes, and we’re going to take action on them.”

OKG: Did the case affect any of your dates in Spain?

EI: It did; we actually cancelled about four dates. We didn’t put them on sale, essentially. But these things happen. ... We came away with two guilty verdicts, so it’s good to see justice going down. If someone screams abuse at you, you say, “This is not right.” You report it and something happens. That’s a good thing in this day and age.

OKG: What’s it like performing Spanish-language shows in Spain?

EI: Well, we start the show in English and I do an encore in Spanish. The encore is about 15 minutes, probably getting up to 20 minutes. But as we go, the Spanish encore will get longer as I build up to it and eventually, the Spanish bit may be longer than the English bit. And I’d like to do it in America. I can come to America and do a show in Spanish. It will be bloody amazing. I can go to Latin America, South America, and I can go to Cuba now. I could have gone before, but now I can go there and logically, no matter which way you look on the Fidel Castro situation, there should be even easier relationships between America and Cuba and Cuba and the world. It would be nice to go over there and say “Hello” en Espanol.

OKG: It would be cool to do a Spanish show in a U.S. market with a high Mexican or Hispanic population.

EI: Absolutely. There’s so many cities [I could perform in]. I could do one in English and one en Espanol as well.

OKG: When you’re performing in another language, does it change the intricacies of the humor at all?

EI: No. It means I can’t ad lib as much because of my ability in the language. In French, I can ad lib — I can ad lib quite well. In German, I can ad lib a little bit, but in Spanish, no. It’s going to be line-by-line for the moment. But the actual language, the quality of the comedy, is exactly the same as the English. ... It’s the same comedy, and people laugh at the same place because I am playing to the alternative audience; I’m not playing to the mainstream.

OKG: Are you still running recreationally, or have you now done enough running in your life?

EI: No; all the running I’ve done so far is just training for the next one. I ran this morning.

OKG: How long do you run on a typical morning?

EI: Most mornings I just do HIT, high-intensity training. It’s all you need to do. I encourage anyone in Oklahoma who is reading this to look up high-intensity training. You sprint for 20 seconds; recover 40 seconds. If you think about it, it’s what wild animals do while they’re hunting: sprinting, then creeping along, then sprinting again. It’s what soccer players do. That’s the best way to get your fitness level up — and it takes like half an hour.

OKG: It’s supposed to be much more efficient that way, and probably easier on the knees.

EI: Well, apparently, but my knees are still pretty good. For some reason, despite everything, my knees still work.

Print Headline: Keeping course; Comedian Eddie Izzard talks global politics and standing up to LGBT harassment ahead of his Dec. 29 show at WinStar World Casino.

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