Even as he surveys his stand-up past with the newly released Eddie Izzard: The Definitive Comedy Collection box set, the British performer has a full docket of future endeavors on his plate — including a new stage show and a feature film all before he hurtles himself into the world of politics in 2020.
Izzard describes the new show Wunderbar as “a work in progress,” with performances already in Paris, Berlin, London, Los Angeles and New York. “It’s getting there,” Izzard, who performs in multiple languages, tells Billboard. “It’s getting better. I’m trying to get it into good shape to take out next year — my last big tour before I go off and Glenda Jackson myself into politics.” But don’t expect the show to immerse itself too deeply in politics because of that, according to Izzard.
“When I do these shows, I plan for them not to disappear,” he explains. “That means I don’t put topical stuff in there. If it is topical, if I had stuff about Margaret Thatcher or John Major, one day people will go, ‘Who…?’ They won’t be relevant any more. I want everything to be timeless, like Monty Python. I think that’s why these shows in (the box set) still work. They’re not dated in any way.”
The 10-disc Comedy Dynamic set brings together a dozen Izzard long-form videos from 1994-2013, along with an October 2018 interview and a Madison Square Garden performance. A digital download card for the album versions of the shows is also included. “I do like the idea of a box set,” Izzard says. “I had one out in Britain before, and it’s good to get one out in America, because the American public has been so supportive of me. If you can resonate in America, that’s fantastic. The idea that American people like to come see the show, and I’ve played all 50 states, is wonderful. It was really my dream to do that.” Izzard adds that the live shows have a particular allure in a career that’s also included movie, theater and books.
“It’s the only thing I’ve decided to do again and again,” he explains. “I don’t do sitcoms. I don’t do sketch films. I don’t do comedy films, though I’ve done some films where I play a character in a comedy situation. But (stand-up) was a technique I’ve developed early on. I’m the first person in the audience I’ve got to make laugh. I’ve been to every one of my shows, every second, and I know if I’m shucking out old rubbing or if it’s an interesting idea. It’s very rewarding.”
The Definitive Comedy Collection, then, will serve as souvenir as Izzard makes his transition in less than two years. An active and outspoken member of Britain’s Labour party, with a seat on its National Executive Committee, he announced an intention years ago to run for mayor of London in 2020 and promises he’s not kidding. “I’m very positive about Europe, positive about humanity,” Izzard says. “If I don’t get in, I’ll stand again and stand again until things give in. I’ll be relentless.” He remains in favor of keeping Britain in the European Union, though he does feel that “we have to reform the EU. But you can’t reform it by running away from it. Brits don’t quit. We will not quit. I will fight forever from that.”
In the meantime, Izzard has another trip to the big screen coming up. He’s co-written the new drama Six Minutes to Midnight, which also stars Dame Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent and Carla Juri. Due out next year, it’s set in 1939 at a girls’ boarding school attended by daughters of some of Nazi Germany’s high command. “They were trying to make inroads into British life,” Izzard says. “Hitler didn’t really want to fight Britain. He felt we were the same kind of people and could all work together. They were there as kind of advance ambassadors. It’s a story not a lot of people know about, so that’s what makes it so exciting to be doing.”