British transgender comedian Eddie Izzard on leaving comedy, the problem with politics and the magazine cover that got away
You've been coming to New Zealand for a long time.
It seems so. I was trying to work it out before. 2000 seems to be the one. Crazy, huh? I do love to come here. There's a connection with the UK. There's a connection with Hobbits. Peter Jackson's apparently coming to the show. That's very nice. Anyway ... I just like being here. I had a great time in Queenstown when I was here before. I played Dunedin, where I didn't sell out but the audience was fantastic. I found out later that the Beatles didn't sell out when they played Dunedin, so me and the Beatles are exactly the same.
And now, after almost 20 years it's time to say goodbye?
Temporarily. It's only temporary. If you look at the wording it says, "I have to go away for a while." I love this but I was always going into politics. I've said that for nine years now so I'll just go in. Moderate people don't go into politics much because it looks too brutal. It is really brutal but nothing can be as brutal as coming out as transgender in 1985. That was rough. And it stayed rough until about five years ago.
It's still rough isn't it?
It's less rough. It's rough-ish. Rough around the edges. But there's more people going, "Ahh, I've read about this transgender stuff." I've always tried to just do my life. I thought if anyone, in any minority, if you do your stuff really well then people go, "Oh, that was good." You've got to try to swirl it around whatever you do, or at least make it equal, so they go, "Yes, transgender ... but comedy ... but marathons ... but politics …" It becomes a life as opposed to being defined by sexuality. It should be as incidental as being straight. As I say with LGTB+ when we hit boring then we've made it. It's getting more boring, even though you can find discussions and disagreements going on. I still think we're in a much better place than we were 5000 years ago.
You're going into politics, why now?
It's a good time to go into politics, but is it a good time in politics? No. But it sort of never is. The trouble with politics is there's always something that you disagree with that you'd like to sort out. If you look back through the history of humanity, politics has always been kinda crap.
Are you worried about the right wing attacks that are going to come your way in politics?
Not really. Being transgender, people have been attacking me physically and verbally since 1985, so that's no new thing. Nothing will be as vicious as that.
What's making you laugh at the moment?
3rd Rock from the Sun actually. I'm going back. John Lithgow does genius work in that. But I've seen so much comedy that I tend to smile broadly and go, "Ah, that's good." Actually, it's stuff that I'm coming up with. I try to make myself laugh.
I like coming up with silly ideas that I can put into the show. Like how Caitlyn Jenner came out and got the Vanity Fair front cover. I like to backtrack. Like, I didn't get anything when I came out in 1985. But I was pitching for covers. I went to Anglers Weekly and said, "Look, put me on the front cover, I'll hold a fish, yeah, and I'll be wearing a dress." "Hold on. Are you an angler?" "No, I'm not much of an angler, but I've got a fish I can borrow. I'll get my people to call your people." "You have people?" "No, I don't have people." I like the idea that I was aggressively pitching for that.
What are sort of things do you talk about in Wunderbar?
It's a push back against Brex-hate and Trump-hate. I feel we should be making more connections with people around the world because we're all humans. We know this from our genetics. We've fought wars and we have flags and all that sort of thing, but we know we're all the bloody same people. I'm against nationalism but I'm for patriotism. Nationalism says, "We're better than you, you can piss off and you? We're gonna attack you." I'm against all that.
Are you going to miss comedy?
Comedy and drama and all the films I do. Going away from all this is going to be sad in a way. But I can keep comedy through the politics to an extent because it gets very dry in politics. Comedy's an attack weapon, it's not a building weapon so it's not great for politics. But really, it's hibernation. It's all just going into hibernation.
Who: Eddie Izzard
What: Final comedy show Wunderbar
When: Tomorrow night at Spark Arena