‘Force’ of comic nature: Eddie Izzard returns to Santa Barbara

 English stand-up comedian, actor and writer Eddie Izzard brings his stream-of-consciousness comedic style to the Granada Theatre. Amanda Searle photo

English stand-up comedian, actor and writer Eddie Izzard brings his stream-of-consciousness comedic style to the Granada Theatre.
Amanda Searle photo

When Eddie Izzard first came to town in 2012, he was working material out for his tour. Three years later, he’s still on that tour, called “Force Majeure,” which has taken him “from Moscow to St. Petersburg to Cape Town, 27 countries, and the show is in a very good space,” as the comedian puts it.

He returns to Santa Barbara tonight at the Granada.

Mr. Izzard’s comedy is surreal, stream-of-consciousness observations that draw from history as much as modern pop culture.

The last time we talked, Mr. Izzard had announced his 2020 plans – if things weren’t changing in his native London, he was going to run for mayor in attempt to oust Boris Johnson. After the UK’s Labour Party collapsed like a bad soufflé in last month’s election – the party for which Mr. Izzard has

“This is how politics works,” he says. “The trick is to be able to carry on when you have a disappointment. Churchill lost an election after winning a war. How do you do that? But then Churchill decided to not go away and fought the next (election) and he still didn’t win. But the one after that he did.

It’s about stamina.”

Asked for his view on David Cameron’s Conservative party win, the comedian is dismissive.

“This was a win by a center right government, I would say. But I don’t thinks they know what they did right. They can claim whatever they want, but I pretty sure they don’t know. And I think we don’t know what we did wrong.”

But he’s never been political in his standup, mostly, he says, because political humor dates badly. “It’s practical. Who wants to keep coming up with stuff and then dump it within a week?” However, he does do “historical-political, socio-political, sexual-political,” as he says, pointing out that jokes about Hitler, Pol Pot and squirrels never get old. (He’s referring to his 1998 special “Dress to Kill,” still one of the funniest hours of comedy out there.)

In 2020 Mr. Izzard vows to get serious, putting aside his former life, just like Al Franken did when he ran for Senate and Arnold Schwarzenegger did for governor. With the date looming, he knows he has a lot to do. “It’s a stopwatch, or a clock,” he says. “It’s like, I better get some things done. I’ve got some films in my head, I’ve gotta get the scripts written. It’s like get on and get things moving. I feel I have to do this. I feel the transition could be tricky, and I’ll have to go and fight my way through. It’s not a joyous thing because there’s a whole bunch of stuff I’ll have to learn. You’ve got to be battle hardened, ready to go in and fight and see what happens.”

So he has been crossing a few things off his bucket list. Mr. Izzard got to join the Monty Python troupe at their reunion shows at London’s O2 Stadium, and hung about back stage for seven of the shows, even interviewing them in a special post-show VIP special. For a man who’s called his own standup “Python-influenced stage comedy, but I’m playing all the roles,” this was a dream. Being on stage with them was “a bit weird,” he says. “Bells don’t go off. You get used to saying, ‘Hey John (Cleese), hey Terry (Jones), how are you doing?’ It’s great to be able to talk to them, and you’ve already have had a conversation last time and the time before. That’s the interesting thing. You have a history. But they’re all Mount Olympus gods of comedy.”

“Force Majeure” has been touring not just in English but in French, German and now in Spanish.

“Learning the language is easier than learning a sense of humor,” he says. “What you have to do is take out national references and replace them. And that’s like 10 to 15 percent.”

He says he has his routine transcribed then translated, then learns the translation like a play.

“I learn a language back to front,” he says. “I know what all the words mean, but I can’t use them (at first) in another sentence … But once the show is up and running you have a living dictionary in your head.”

His skill disproves any theory that it gets harder to learn a new language the older we get.

“I think our brains tell us it will be harder,” he says. “But if you were going through customs in a foreign country and accidentally picked up a drug dealer’s bag … and they shoved you in jail, you’d learn the language pretty damn quickly … You’d have the incentive.”

Eddie Izzard: Force Majeure
When: 8p.m. tonight
Where: Granada Theatre, 1214 State St.
Cost: $50-$81
Information: (805) 899-2222, www.granadasb.org

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