When Eddie Izzard gets onstage at the Kodak Theatre next week for a five-night stint (Aug. 5-9), he will present a message he’s been spreading across America for the past four months. For his Stripped tour, the comedian and actor traces the history of the universe from beginning to today, talking about, in his words, “everything that’s ever happened.” It’s a brilliant and funny show (I recently caught it in St. Louis) in which he moves from spot-on dinosaur impersonations to creationist theory to Moses and the burning bush to imagined fights between geologists and paleontologists (“It’s about the rocks!” “What about the monsters in the rocks?!” “They’re rocks!”).
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Izzard, who’s still awaiting word on whether the FX channel will commit to a third season of his critically acclaimed series The Riches, devotes a big chunk of time to deconstructing God: “There’s no point in worshipping God, because he’d have to have a better track record than that to be worshipped.” Izzard recently spoke with L.A. Weekly.
L.A. WEEKLY: Is it more nerve-wracking to perform the smaller cities or somewhere like Los Angeles, where you probably know more people in the audience and have a better sense of what works and what doesn’t?
Eddie Izzard: Well, I don’t actually know anyone in the audience anywhere. My dad and my brother might turn up in New York or something, or there might be two or three people, but with the whole audience I don’t think that really helps. I do think that to go around the Bible Belt places — I think that a lot of the audiences were kind of thrown when I was playing there. But it’s the same audience. It’s just socially progressive in your thinking. It’s an interesting thing. The social-progressive audience around the world, they can all talk to each other. They can all just get in a room and talk to each other straight off the bat. You don’t really have to get anyone up to speed. Mainstream audiences would have to reset there ... A mainstream American audience, if you got them together with a mainstream British audience, you know, the mainstream American audience would say, “Well, my sports are these, and this is the guy I vote for and he does this and that, and this is my world and I go to this shop.” And the British guy would say, “Well, our sports are these and they’re different.” Whereas the social progressive people would say, “Well, I know there’s a whole range of sport and whole range of religion. What religion are you? Are you Buddhist? Oh, you’re Hindu, ah yeah. Or the Christian right, how does that work? Now I know a bit about Hindu.” And the social progressive people just — it’s a great audience. They’ve already thought a lot about things and questioned things and have different lifestyles and can hook up quite easily. So when you play for that audience, it’s not terribly tricky. They can swing with it.
I think we worked out that about half of every audience is dragged along, so within that half of the audience there are people going, “What the fuck is this?” Not necessarily all of them. But it’s not like I’m getting, you know, strongly evangelical people coming and real right-wing people coming. It’s not like they’re sitting there just waiting to give me a hard time. Maybe in the future, if my profile keeps getting pushed up the ladder, maybe at some point people will come along and get really pissed off at what I’m saying. But, you know, I’m not trying to push it down people’s throats. I’m just saying what I think, and here it is, kids. So I do get some grumbles and stuff in certain places, but I find that if I put it out in the way that I’m trying to put it out ... I’m not sure quite what I’m saying with this ...
It’s not like you’re proselytizing or like you’re preaching, per se.
I try to make sure that it’s more like, “This is what I think,” as opposed to “this is what you should think.”
Did you ever get called on any of that stuff in the after-show Q&A’s? [Instead of giving autographs outside the theater, Izzard often returns to the stage after the show has ended and answers questions from fans.]
In the Bible Belt, people said they were surprised that [I] said it, that [I] could say it because no one says it around here. And it also surprised a whole bunch of people in the audience that they were also up for hearing that said. In a coastal audience in America, obviously that’s not the thing, and in a European audience, that’s not the thing. But in Bible Belt, you know, less people have that chat around their coffees of the day, I suppose. You just think, well, I feel this stuff but I won’t have a chat with Freddy or Suzanne because they’re probably not going to agree with that. [Someone at] the merchandising store said to a merchant, “Does Eddie know that scientists have proven that the Bible is right?” And I do know of that information. Whether I believe those scientists are correct, I cannot agree with. But obviously there are people coming along.