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Eddie Izzard: In conversation with the acclaimed British comic

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Acclaimed British comedian Eddie Izzard is in Montreal this week to host a Gala at the Just For Laughs festival, and I was lucky enough to saw-off five minutes of his time to talk dick jokes, politics and his absolutely serious run at the mayoralty of London in 2020. 

 

Eddie Izzard: What was your name again?

Ethan Cox: Ethan Cox

Oh, I thought you said Ethan Hawke, I was confused...

I wish! He gets to be rich and famous and all I get are dick jokes …

That's true eh? Have you ever considered changing it to "Penises?"

From Cox to Penises eh?

 Yep, there you go, there's the comedy line! 

I noticed in the news this week that your Prime Minister, David Cameron, is trying to ban pornography from the internet. Seems like an unfortunate infringement on our right to jack it in the privacy of our own homes, so I was just wondering if you support a porn-free internet?

I don't know if that's possible, is it? 

Well I would imagine not, no. But David Cameron seems to think it is…

I haven't studied his policies on that, but I thought it was more about kids, protecting kids wasn't it?

That's the pretext, but it's basically to block pornography of all kinds. Written, the Sun page three, what have you…

I think that's got to be a tricky thing to do…

Now, I got to know you originally, as with many people on this side of the pond, through your tragically cancelled television show The Riches, before being introduced to your stand-up and other work. And I actually crowd-sourced some of the questions for this interview from twitter and Facebook, and one that kept coming up was whether a) you will be returning to TV and b) whether you would ever consider playing Dr. Who? There was strong support for you to play the next Dr. Who!

I'm not really going towards Dr. Who, but I am already doing Hannibal, the TV series. I'm in episode seven and eleven I believe, and I'll be doing more in the second season but I have no spare time! I play Dr. Gideon, a competitor to Dr. Lecter.

Now obviously you're from England, but the big news here last year was the student strike that happened in Quebec. So I was curious, I know you're a very political person, whether you were aware of that student strike or…

No. What was it about? 

It was about tuition. They tried to raise fees by roughly 80% and students went on an unlimited general strike for over six months, and actually succeeded in defeating the government and forcing the government to repeal the tuition hike. 

Wow. I hadn't heard about that. Well, it's a big issue in our country. We had free tuition and tuition fees came in and now people are doing loans. Emotionally I always thought it would be nice if everyone could have free tuition, but it has become so difficult, with so many people now going to university, at least in the UK, I assume it's the same here. It's a tricky old situation.

But yes, endlessly hiking the fees up is not great for students. If you come from rich parents it's so much easier, no stress at all, you just say yes, whatever.

Snowden and Manning: heros or traitors?

Tricky one that. I think its good to get information out there, but if I was in a position of power I'm sure I'd be saying "Well it's not such a good idea!" So I'm going to say I'm not sure…

Another crowd-sourced question: Cake or death? 

Always cake.

You're obviously famous for impressions, what would you say is your best impression?

Well you know, I'm really bad at impressions! I do terrible impressions...

Well the rest of us quite like them!

Sean Connery and James Mason are probably the favourites of all the ones that I can vaguely do best. Sometimes I can do Christopher Walken, I was on it, then it would float away. I think you have to spend a lot of time, as an impressionist, working to get the stuff right, and I just do the lazy version. I just want to be good at them!

Now are you familiar with the tar sands? Obviously in the context of climate change the Canadian tar sands are a big issue because if all the oil is removed from the ground there, scientists say it would cause global warming of over the two degrees that is the most we can allow without catastrophic consequences. Are you familiar with the tar sands? 

No. In fact I thought you were saying Tarzans! 

Yes, it's called that because the oil is heavy, tarry bitumen mixed with sand and it's particularly C02 intensive to extract and burn it. Around 3-5 times more polluting than conventional oil. 

Well yes, I don't know much about Canadian politics but don't do the bad stuff there! Because with climate change… I mean the weather is just going all over the place. All. Over. The. Place. So it does seem logical that something's gone wrong… We are coming towards serious climate change.

Is there any truth to the rumour that you'll be running for mayor of London?

Yes. 

And what are the main themes of your platform?

Well, I'm going to announce my platform much closer to 2020, when I'm running. Seems foolish to come up with policies now, because then you'll be saying "steam driven cars? That's a bit weird!" "Well I came up with policies 9,000 years ago!"

Basically I'm taking all the energy I normally throw into things, like gigs in French, or German, or running forty three marathons, or any of that stuff, and that's the energy I will bring to this. 

I'm at the centre, a radical centrist. I think extremists are the people that take the world down. So I think it's really about centre and extremes, rather than left and right.  

What's the last book you read?

I'm reading one by Max Hastings on Churchill. That's what I'm reading at the moment. And just before I go I should say, not only am I going to be doing this gala tonight but I'm going to be touring the whole of Canada, from one end to the other. It's only the second time I've toured all of Canada. That's in November, so if you hold your breath for a few month's time I'll be there…

 

Tonight's Gala, hosted by Eddie Izzard with Special Guest Gad Elmaleh, and featuring Trevor Noah, Ronny Chieng, Rove McManus, Colin Quinn, Sabrina Jalees and Jean Paul, takes place at 10 PM at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier - Place Des Arts. Tickets are $40.71 to $71.76, and are available at the Just For Laughs box office or online at hahaha.com

 

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