The London Sunday Times has called him "the greatest British standup comedian of his generation", and the entity of Eddie Izzard is worthy of such praise. This comedian, actor, and transvestite has bewitched the world of comedy with a kitschy, campy, and cunning mix while adding a bit of British flair to American humor, and it's brilliant.
Born in 1962 to an accountant father and a mother who was a nurse, Izzard spent his early childhood in Yemen. Both of his parents worked at the British Petroleum refinery in Aden, but they moved to Bangor, Ireland before Izzard turned five. Time spent in Northern Ireland was the happiest of times for him, but another household upheaval to Skewen, South Wales changed all that. Izzard's mom died of cancer when he was just six, and he and his brother were sent to boarding school quickly thereafter. Such experiences would ultimately shape Izzard's charming, but crass persona.
Izzard participated in various stage plays and skits throughout his early childhood and teenage years. At age seven, he realized that performing on-stage in front of an amazing crowd was what he wanted out of life. In 1980, Izzard landed at Sheffield University for an Accounting and Financial Management with Mathematics degree, but comedy was fueling his fire. He spent the next year-and-a-half writing and acting in various university comedy shows, landing a top gig at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. By early 1984, Izzard left college, moved to London, and performed street-side shows with a friend in Covent Garden and figured himself out. He came out a year later. Eddie Izzard was a transvestite.
In three years time, Izzard was hot on the London Club circuit and by 1993, he was performing shows in the West End. He'd performed his first show in a dress in 1992 and was enjoying his stint in makeup. By the time his one-man shows like Unrepeatable, Definite Article, and Glorious hit the states in the mid-'90s, Izzard was already a bona fide star in his native England. His 1998 HBO comedy special and mini-American tour for Dress to Kill was a critical hit in the U.S., and his 2000 production of Circle landed him sold-out dates across the county. Three Emmy nominations followed, earning Circle two awards for "Outstanding Writing in a Variety, Music or Comedy Program" and "Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Comedy Program."
With Emmys aside, Izzard's place on-stage and onscreen was in full effect by the early '90s. He had the lead spot in the David Mamet drama The Cryptogram in 1994, and starring roles in 900 Oneonta and Edward II. In 1996, Izzard landed his first movie role in The Secret Agent with Robin Williams. Appearances in Velvet Goldmine, Shadow of the Vampire, The Cat's Meow, and All the Queen's Men with Friends star Matt LeBlanc earned Izzard a prime spot among the new millennium mainstream.
Dress to Kill was issued on DVD on Anti/Epitaph in October 2002, marking Izzard's first video release in the U.S. His previous five performances (including Dress to Kill) were already out on video in the U.K,, but Izzard wanted to give something back to his American fans. His Broadway performance in Peter Nichols' A Day in the Death of Joe Egg earned him a Tony nomination for "Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play" in May 2003. Stateside dates followed in the fall. ~ MacKenzie Wilson