Jokes aside

2013-06-14 10:21

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Cross-dresser, philanthropist, actor and comedian Eddie Izzard is heading back to South Africa this month to give us all a little comic relief.

Eddie Izzard is 2.8% Neanderthal – which doesn’t sit that comfortably with his penchant for wearing women’s clothes. Not that he cares.

‘Women wear what they want and so do I,’ he says of his cross-dressing, which is only one aspect of this fascinatingly multifaceted character.

Eddie had the Neanderthal-revealing DNA test done for his BBC TV series Meet the Izzards, during which he embarked on an epic journey to trace the migration of his ancestors out of Africa and into Europe.

The British entertainer has become used to epic journeys in the last few years.

In 2009, with only five weeks of training and no prior history of running, he ran 43 marathons in 51 days to raise money for Sport Relief.

Last year, in South Africa, he attempted 27 marathons in 27 days in honour of Nelson Mandela’s 27 years in prison, but was forced to stop when he started peeing blood.

But he’s not giving up. ‘I hope to complete the race I had to drop out of last year due to illness,’ he says.

He’s a big fan of Madiba, and of South Africa, too.

‘Africa is great,’ he says. ‘I think that the progress the people of South Africa have made over the past two decades is remarkable, and a shining light of what’s possible when everyone works towards a common goal. If I come to South Africa, and my peers do too, the better. The more traffic, the better, to the benefit of all.’

When he’s not cross-dressing, commentating or running across countries, he does stand-up. His current 25-country, two-year, mammoth one-man show, Force Majeure, has him playing sold-out venues around the world.

Having attempted an accountancy degree in the 1980s, he worked as a street performer in the US and Europe, where his multilingualism stood him in good stead – he can crack jokes in English, French and German.

‘Comedy is universal,’ he says. ‘People get it – most probably because I, for the most part, play to progressive audiences.

They get the surrealism that underpins so much of my work. I’d hope people would see it as intelligent comedy rather than slapstick and stupid.’

He was only seven when he decided he wanted to be an actor, and he’s popped up in Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen, Valkyrie and Cars 2. His most recent appearance on screen was in the NBC show Hannibal.

• Catch Force Majeure in Cape Town on 18 June and Joburg on 21-23 June. Tickets from R312 at Computicket.

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