Eddie Izzard uses the Force tonight at Ruth Eckerd Hall

The famed British comic talks about foreign language immersion and his knack for suppressing humiliation.

Eddie Izzard: Force Majeure
Tonight at 7:30 p.m., Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N. Mc Mullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. Tickets are $47.50-$77.50. rutheckerdhall.com.

Intrepid, tangential and transgender before it was trendy, Eddie Izzard is indeed a force of nature. The 53-year-old British comedian has transformed from pudgy drag queen to svelte, superfit androgyne — he ran 43 marathons in a seven-week period — and even tells jokes in foreign languages during his long-running international tour (two years and counting), Eddie Izzard: Force Majeure (though tonight's show will be in English, of course).

The show features a snazzy James Bond-style intro and physical comedy that is on point as he prances around the stage like a dressage horse that’s robbing a bank. Other bits involve historical lessons with a touch of surrealism and stream-of-consciousness.

In a recent phone conversation with CL, Izzard says he writes his material and builds on it with improvisation, and is decidedly more polite and less of a spaz than onstage. 

CL: Considering how you've been touring around the world, learning new languages and running marathons, you really seem to be a Force Majeure. What's your latest superhuman feat?

EI: I’m claiming to be the first English speaker to tour France, completely in French. It's a very positive thing.

How do you go about learning new languages while on tour?

I get help from my brother, Marcus, who is teaching me and checking everything. ...We're working on new material in German and Spanish. I go in from the back end of the act and will typically perform the encore in another language and then add on in 3-minute increments. ...I'm also working on jokes in Arabic.

How does performing in, say, French, affect the material?

I'll typically hover over the jokes and say what's ever on my mind when I'm performing in English, but I trim down when translating to another language. 

Why do you think children language learn languages faster than adults?

It's the utter lack of understanding of humiliation. When kids get older, their friends will take the piss out of them, but when they're young they don't feel as embarrassed. 

You seem to know how to turn off the button in your brain that signals embarrassment. 

Yes, I took the advanced step, I took the special bulletin step, in dealing with humiliation by coming out as transgender 30 years ago. That really was not cool back then. It was not accepted by people at all, at age 9 or 98. ...I also took an advanced course in how to hold your head up high — when every fiber in your body and the rules of Western civilization tell you, ‘I am wrong.’

A literal course or course in your head?

A course in my head. 

Has getting in shape helped your act, considering that you perform a lot of physical comedy?

It hasn’t really affected my act, but I suppose it continues to up my confidence; informs the show by way of stamina.

I like how you bring characters to life on stage, shifting positions while creating a dialogue ...

That comes from Richard Pryor, how he played characters during his act. I've also been influenced by Monty Python and looking at the American method of stand-up model post-Lenny Bruce.

Have you looked into acting in any of the new cable and streaming series?

I was going to do one for HBO, but they didn’t go with it. …I’m looking, choosing for my next project. ...I won’t do anything that’s not good.

I read on Twitter that you're scouting out locations. Have you got a new project in the works?

Yes, I’m working on a film. It’s in the planning stages.

Are you single?

Right at the moment, yes. With being transgender, touring around the world being in a long-term commitment can be a tricky thing.

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