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Interview: Eddie Izzard

The comedian, who plays the Saenger Theater Dec. 9, talks politics and his never-ending tour schedule



  "That's never I think been done before by an English speaker in the history of ever," he says. "Two hundred years since the Battle of Waterloo — beautiful."

  Izzard — whose wandering, often-surreal and endlessly silly stand-up comedy has placed him among the greatest British comics of all time — is on pace to conquer several languages, in which he performs his mercurial, partially improvised and unrestrained monologues in their native countries. His "Force Majeure" tour (a sort of intercontinental analog to Bob Dylan's Never Ending Tour) lands in New Orleans on Dec. 9. Izzard doesn't rely on Rosetta Stone or Muzzy language courses — he designed a method with his brother, Mark.

  "We've developed a radical way of doing things," Izzard says. "We came up with this system — the Izzard System — which is 'learn it like a play.' ... The show is created as a universal comedy — talking about human sacrifice, chickens with guns, God fighting Darth Vader over spaghetti carbonara in the Death Star canteen. The references cause problems. So I just translate them to different languages. ... Once I have a show in my head, like a play, I could learn the language after that, with a living dictionary in my head. That's the radical method."

  He's sharpening his German, next is Spanish, followed by Russian and Arabic.

  "Then there's politics," he says. "That's the order."

  Izzard's political ambitions in his native England aim for a parliamentary seat in 2020.

  "I just want to be inside the machine to see how it all works," he says. "I feel I can work politically. I do come up with different ideas, and I want to put my energy into that."

  Izzard's stand-up spans the monumental Dress to Kill, lampooning world history and religion (famously setting the phrase "cake or death?" into comedy's marble) and Circle, which he also performed entirely in French. His platform and burgeoning political career, modeling friend and fellow comic-turned-office holder Al Franken, will represent "the many rather than the few."

  "I'm inclusionist. I want myself to do well. I want us all to do well," he says. "If anyone's having a tough time I want a safety net there. And live and let live. I'd love America to be the America I grew up with. I'm a Democrat in America and a Labour Party member in Britain. I'm a social democrat. I like people. I think all people are great. Extremists can all piss off."

  Izzard's activism also extends to his tour — ticket sales benefit charitable organizations in each city he performs. In New Orleans, Izzard donates a portion of proceeds to the New Orleans Musicians Clinic.

  "You come in, you do entertainment, you get paid, great, and if you can do something extra that seems like a wonderful idea," he says. "The city has had enough tough times. As has the world."

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