‘Keep it rare’

Eddie Izzard to bring unique comedy style to the MACC

Andy Hollingworth photo

Tony nominee and Emmy winner Eddie Izzard is arguably one of the biggest stars in the world — with the exception of the non-cosmopolitan United States. When the Maui Arts & Cultural Center announced a one-night-only performance last month, the British comedian’s fervent fan base lit up social media with passionate multi-exclamation-point posts and tweets. Then there are the others who replied, “Who’s that?”

I asked Izzard to explain the two extremes. “In the early ’90s, I decided to get an acting agent and push for dramatic film work and separately to do tours of surreal comedy. I realized that if my comedy was very mainstream and very accessible I would probably not be accepted doing dramatic film work,” he said. “So, in the words of Peter Grant, manager of Led Zeppelin, I decided to keep it rare, ‘it’ being the comedy. You have to know comedy, like comedy and like surreal comedy to know and get my stuff. A lot of mainstream audiences, all around the world, do not know of my comedy work, and that’s fine by me. It’s there if they ever want to discover it.”

Izzard has been heralded as “the most brilliant stand-up comedian of his generation” by The New York Times, and called “the funniest man in, well, pretty much all of the known universe,” by the Los Angeles Times. I asked who some of his comedy inspirations were.

“Monty Python, Richard Pryor and Billy Connolly are the biggest inspirations to my stand-up. Monty Python is the bedrock of my surreal stories. Richard Pryor showed me how to bring a cast of diverse characters onto a stage when you’re only one person. Billy Connolly taught me how to chat casually to theaters packed full of thousands of people. All that has been blended together over a number of decades now,” he explained.

I shared with Izzard, star of more than 30 films, that one of my favorites was Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Cat’s Meow” and asked what it was like to play Charlie Chaplin.

“I knew that I could never reproduce the physical brilliance of Chaplin, but I wanted to give him a verbal flippancy and show him having this affair with Marion Davies. I had already researched Chaplin back in 1989 after the 100th anniversary of his birth. I was a street performer in London at that point, and the physical and comedic skills that Chaplin used in his film career were very similar to the skills that a comedy street performer has to have. Working with Peter and that great cast and crew on ‘The Cat’s Meow’ was a wonderful experience.”

His latest film, “Victoria and Abdul,” directed by Stephen Frears and starring Dame Judi Dench, is scheduled to be released this September.

“Judi plays Queen Victoria and I play her son, Edward VII. I haven’t seen the finished film yet but I hope and believe it will be a very good film,” he said.

Izzard’s ongoing Force Majeure tour is pursuing a new world record of visiting more than 51 countries. I asked how many countries he had visited to date.

“It’s 36 so far, but I’m just trying to play as many as possible now. World records don’t really matter, but being proud of your own country while reaching out to other countries is a good way to encourage positivity in today’s world of extreme simplistic politics,” he said.

I asked Izzard, currently on the Asian leg of the tour, if there were any highlights from performing there for the first time.

“I don’t like having highlights because it implies other things might be lowlights. But flying past Everest having just played Kathmandu was pretty bloody magic,” he said.

Izzard’s act frequently incorporates world history and politics, and I asked him to comment on the recent U.S. election and the Brexit vote in the U.K.

“Simplistic politics where we run back to the 1930s will not help move the world forward,” he said. “Building walls, hating Muslims, Jewish people and immigrants, trying to run and hide from the world–these are fearful things to do. And they don’t work. We need to be trying to make this world a better and safer place to live in, not running and hiding from it and conning people by appealing to their hatred.”

Rumored to be considering elected office, Izzard says he hopes to run for Parliament in 2020.

The international entertainer frequently performs in multiple languages, and I asked how many he has comfortably mastered.

“I’m performing in four languages now, and having got 60 minutes’ (worth of material) in Spanish, I can start planning to tour Central America, South America and the Caribbean,” he said.

* Eddie Izzard’s Force Majeure tour will hit Maui at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Castle Theater at Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului. Tickets range from $46.50 to $57 (plus applicable fees) and are available at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.

ALSO THIS WEEK

Cabaret & Cocktails and ProArts Inc. present “Love & Lust: A Burlesque Tease,” an exciting evening of song, dance, comedy and burlesque entertainment.

* The one-night-only performance will be at 8 p.m. Saturday at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. General admission tickets are $20 in advance at www.loveandlustmaui.eventbrite.com or $25 at the door.

*****

Maui OnStage Youth Theater presents “The Trial of the Big Bad Wolf.”

* Performances will be at 11 a.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. Sundays this week through March 19 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for youth, and are available by calling 242-6969 or online at www.mauionstage.com.

*****

Maui OnStage continues its free one-night-only theater series, ONO!, on Monday with a reading of Colin Higgins’ “Harold & Maude,” based on his 1971 screenplay.

* The free ONO! shows are at 6:30 p.m. every second Monday of the month at the Historic Iao Theater. For more details, visit mauionstage.com.

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