Jerry Seinfeld famously stopped telling the same jokes he had told for several years, and started from scratch, documenting his efforts in the stand-up documentary, Comedian. Across the pond, meanwhile, Eddie Izzard had a completely different experience, as a TV show accused him in 2000 of fraud for "recycling material" in his stand-up act. Clearly hurt by this, Izzard stopped performing.
When Izzard started up again in 2003, writing material for his "SEXIE" tour, his ex Sarah Townsend began documenting his return, and Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story, follows him on that tour and also reflects upon his life story, which is one of relentless determination and believe in his ability to be a comedian and an actor (related: Watch the trailer for Believe here). The "fraud" accusations are something Americans might not comprehend in terms of their stand-up comedians — there are plenty of acts, from headliners on down, who have been doing the same routines for what seems like forever. And as Izzard points out in his documentary, "It’s like going to a rock ‘n’ roll concert and saying, ‘We’ve heard the Stones. We’ve heard these f*cking numbers before. You’re on Watchdog. For fraud. The Stones. On Watchdog. For fraud. Because we’ve heard all this stuff before." So now, instead of working in new material and improvising within the previous set, gradually building an entirely new show, Izzard would workshop right from the start.
As for his life story, the amount of footage of Izzard that already exists is staggering. You may have heard he was a street performer at Edinburgh, but when you see the footage of him in the mid-1980s, riding a unicycle while handcuffed, or doing everything he can muster to get the attention of the passersby, or seeing his big break with a bit about wolves in 1991, or the uproar he endured by announcing he was a transvestite in 1993. You see just what a marathon journey Izzard has been on already. Apt, perhaps that he runs a bit in the film, and also just ran 43 marathons in 51 days around the United Kingdom for charity (see: Eddie Iz Running). I asked Izzard last night if he thought about the parallels between his marathon effort and his journey to become a success, and he, with his quick wit, knew that I didn’t have "the right analogy" exactly. In running, for instance, the first six miles feel different from the following 20, he told me. I could have asked him more questions, but he’s already answered quite a few, and talking more this weekend. Here is footage from his chat session with Kevin Pollak earlier this week (their chat begins about 15 minutes in):
He’ll appear tonight on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and also at the 10 p.m. screening tonight in NYC at the City Cinemas East Village. Screenings there continue through Oct. 22. On Saturday afternoon, Izzard will sit down for a chat with Paul Provenza at the Apple Store in Soho. And Sunday night, Izzard has a "secret" stand-up show that’s already sold-out in NYC (otherwise I’d give you the details).
Don’t worry, though. Izzard is about to embark on a new tour of world domination, which will include a January 2010 date at Madison Square Garden.
Related: His "SEXIE" tour, documented in Believe, culminated in his triumphant return to London and Wembley Arena. Footage from those shows, previously unavailable in North America, will come out Nov. 3 on a separate DVD, Live From Wembley.