What I Learned From Eddie Izzard by It's All True's Tim Barnes

It's All True is an excellent podcast hosted by Chicago-based writer and comedian Tim Barnes. The show is produced by local comedy news site The Whiskey Journal and is now an officially sanctioned WBEZ podcast. Each week, Tim will be checking in with his thoughts on his most recent show. This week's guest was the legendary Eddie Izzard. Here's what Tim learned from his talk with Eddie!

I remember turning the television on one high school weekend and stumbling upon a comedy special starring a man wearing makeup, a dress, and heels, and on top of that, being incredibly funny. It was Eddie Izzard.

About a month ago, I showed up to my WBEZ internship exhausted from a weekend of comedy and selling bagels only to find I’d be able to interview that very man. It was weird. I got over it pretty quickly though.

Given the premise of the show, Izzard was not excited. “I don’t do those…” he explained “I don’t do real stories.”

That statement makes a lot of sense, given that he is one of the most universal comedians. I had to take some time after the interview to dissect what the word “universal” means. Many have argued that Richard Pryor was the first universal comic because he delved into his personal demons on stage, opening up aspects of his own life that anybody could identify with even if they weren’t drug addicts with sex addictions or vice versa. Then you have a man like Jerry Seinfeld who doesn’t talk about himself too deeply, but points out flaws in everyday situations which get laughs across age, race, and gender.

Both of those styles have their limits. Izzard’s method for reaching the masses is even more direct. He performs the same act in English, French, German, Russian Spanish and as he put it: “I’ll hopefully be Mayor of London or a member of Parliament in May 2020… If I have time I’ll do Mandarin and Chinese.”

In the recording you can hear me laugh, but in my mind I thought “What!? Is he a cyborg sent from outer space made to make the Earth laugh?”

“All my jokes work… in all of the developed languages,” he explains.

In hindsight I’ve realized Eddie Izzard is not a cyborg; he simply has an actual invested interested in the things he talks about. His deep interest in history and pointing out the odd bits of it to people across the globe is definitely a gift, but even that has limits.

In reference to the jokes he tells, Izzard says “They all work, but not to middle America, not to middle Britain, not to middle Russia, not to middle Turkey.”

Here is a man who knows his audience. I’d really like to see him booked on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour though.

-Tim Barnes