Eddie Izzard refuses to be pinned down by any one label. The English actor, writer, comedian, transvestite and marathon runner took to the stage of the Fred Kavli Theatre in Thousand Oaks on Friday, March 2, with something a little different: the story of his life and how he developed his unique personality, from childhood to the present.
The Thousand Oaks show would be his last on a long leg of a tour promoting his recently released Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens. As he took the stage, wearing a black blouse and knee-high high-heeled boots, sporting a bright blonde ’do and what appeared to be breasts (later confirmed with a question from the audience), Izzard oozed confidence. This is a man who ran 43 marathons in 51 days in 2009 in honor of Nelson Mandela. That’s 26.2 miles times 43; you do the math. He’s been referred to as the “Lost Python” by John Cleese himself and has appeared in a wide variety of films and television specials, including my personal favorite, Hannibal.
It can be sometimes difficult to understand how someone like Izzard can accomplish so much while railing against, well, the odds. He’s an atheist and has described himself as a “lesbian trapped in a man’s body.” In Thousand Oaks, the first words out of his mouth were to disparage Donald Trump, to uproarious applause. He knows his audience, but more importantly, he knows himself.
What followed was a series of events one had to pay very close attention to, to fully comprehend. His accent, coupled with a fast-paced delivery that borders right on the edge of rambling, packs in a lot of information with no breaks. The almost two-hour-long show, replete with pictures and even an interactive map of locations, had no intermission, and the breaks to show a video clip from the documentary Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story felt like permission to catch a breath.
The details shared about his tragic upbringing — from his birth in the then-British colony of Aden in Yemen to the death of his mother from cancer and frequent moves across all of the United Kingdom — shaped his point of view and gave him an outlet for his creative energy. His repetition of one particular line from his first acting gig, a small part as a street urchin boy at the boarding school he attended, became an anchor for the rest of his life’s story. Just when the weight of Izzard’s tale seemed to sway too much toward making the audience shed a tear or two, he’d utter, “Oh, Beauty, don’t go,” and laughter would drown it out, bringing lightness back into the theater.
This is where Izzard exceeds expectations and the reason that he is much beloved not only in his native United Kingdom but the world over. His struggles are real, his persona is genuine; what you see is what you get. In the end, Izzard is the embodiment of what we all strive to be: human, on our own terms.