• Germany edition
 
Interview with Eddie Izzard
'If you want an adventure, learn a language'
Eddie Izzard. Photo: Bruno Calvo

'If you want an adventure, learn a language'

Published: 31 Jan 2014 16:36 GMT+01:00
Updated: 31 Jan 2014 16:36 GMT+01:00

It is arguably a plucky decision for a British stand-up comedian to ditch the language of Monty Python when creating comedy in Germany, but Izzard sees his six-week stand-up run in Berlin as central to his European mission.

“We've been making beautiful stuff together for the past 2,000 years, then stopping to kill each other every 250," he told The Local. "If we take out the killing, like we're trying to, we should be able to keep making great things."

It has taken him a decade to bring a German-language show to the stage, something for which he drafted in his linguist brother Daniel, and which resulted in a script - a novelty for the famously quick-witted Izzard.

“We have the same sense of humour,” he said of his brother, pulling a wad of A4 sheets off the dressing table. They contain the script for his show Force Majeure in German. “I mean, look, for the first time ever I have an actual manuscript.”

It took him just three weeks to learn it – at roughly a page a day.

Before embarking on what must have surely been one of history’s oddest German grammar classes, 50-year-old Izzard had just two years of high school German under his belt.

Kicking off an interview with a fellow Brit in German may have seemed absurd, and ran a little like a tutor session, with him asking “is that correct?” from time to time, but for Izzard, it's all or nothing. “In the things I do, I'm more. In those I don't, I'm nothing,” he said.

'Humour is universal'

His affability in person - just as one hopes - quickly chases away his fame, and his enthusiasm for his topic transforms the dressing room in the Imperial Club of the Admiralspalast into a bubble of discussion.

“My theory is that humour can be universal. You use universal jokes, like human sacrifice, like religion, or explain your references.

“That way the smart people get it. It's intelligent and stupid and I knew it would cross over,” he said.

His level of German is outstanding, thanks to a method of learning he calls the “matrix treatment,” and he slaps the crook of his arm as if prepping a vein for a shot of A-grade vocabulary.

Running interviews in German is testament to this, as is the German version of The Avengers he has got on his iPad.

“You absolutely have to push yourself,” he said, gesturing to the screen. “Of course at the beginning of the run I was terrified.”

His Berlin show has already been running for two weeks and he is enjoying life in the city. “I'm here because it's the capital, and for the history and because I love being European," he said. “Berlin is fucked up and crazy and everything a city should be.”

Initially his performance was little more than a recital of a pre-learned script. Izzard knew the jokes as “they're cut out of me, cut out of blood,” he said, but he did not have the ability to juggle them. “I couldn't take the words out and put them in another sentence.”

'If you want an adventure, learn a language'

Now, however, he opens his set with a completely improvised chat, in German, about why he's doing what he's doing.

It's met with rapture, as Germans are almost always thrilled when foreigners give it a go. His attack on German sentence structure and grammar goes down a storm.

His jokey self-mockery is almost native in its self-depreciation.

Sitting among the audience, 70 percent of whom, on a show of hands, identify as native German speakers, it's clear that something is clicking.

People get involved, helping him out when he forgets a word and not only laughing at his jokes, but also equally hard at his mistakes. Schleiderkrank, instead of Kleiderschrank (wardrobe), deserves a mention.

“You're the pioneers,” he told the crowd. “Not the GDR ones, but the modern ones,” he continued, in reference to the fact that they had come to see a foreigner do stand-up in their language.

Still, the biggest laughs go to the more physical parts of his routine - a mole digging tunnels, God using a tablet computer, a horse backing into a wardrobe.

The audience was at its quietest when the topic moved to human sacrifice, but seemed to ease up when they realized he was talking about medieval England.

The Imperial Club is Izzard’s launch pad for a German-wide tour.

“It was a business decision as well, moving over into German,” said Izzard. “It's an extra 95 million people to perform to if I include Austria and Switzerland.” This isn't just about the money, of course. “I want to tell Germany that we're all the bloody same.”

Already fluent in French and now capable in German, soon to be 51-year-old Izzard is an open supporter of the EU, and of language-learning.

“If you want an adventure, if you want to create a person that is – but also isn't – you, learn another language,” he said. “But this is an adventure you have to choose, it's not like if you don't do it you die.”

Next on his Force Majeure crusade, Izzard will perform in Spanish, Russian and eventually Arabic.

Russia, he admitted to the crowd, could be a tougher gig due to his well-known habit of cross-dressing.

“I'm a transvestite but I'll fight anyone anywhere,” he says, his long red nails glistening.

One has a Union Jack flag on it, another the EU flag (he's already found a good manicurist in Berlin). 

The Local has tickets to give away to Eddie Izzard's show on February 13th in Berlin. To win, email news@thelocal.com and tell us in one sentence why they should be yours.

Force Majeure runs in Berlin until February 28th. Get your tickets here.

For more stories about Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Jessica Ware (jessica.ware@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Tourists stranded on cable car over Rhine
Tuesday night's rescue operation Photo: DPA

Tourists stranded on cable car over Rhine

Six people, including a family and two American tourists, were left dangling 40 metres in the air over the Rhine for hours late on Tuesday after Cologne's cable car came to a halt. READ  

7:1! Bayern celebrate record Roma away score
Arjen Robben celebrates the first goal against AS Roma. Photo: DPA

7:1! Bayern celebrate record Roma away score

Bayern Munich were elated on Tuesday night after seuring a 7-1 victory against Roma in their group stage Champions League clash. READ  

Nazi U-boat wreck found off US coast
A preserved World War II U-Boat on the beach near Kiel, Germany. Photo: DPA

Nazi U-boat wreck found off US coast

A World War II German U-boat and an American merchant vessel it sank in battle have been found deep in the ocean off the coast of North Carolina, officials said on Tuesday. READ  

Indian schools drop German teaching
Indian pupils enrolled in German classes prepare for Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's visit to their school. Photo: DPA

Indian schools drop German teaching

Thousands of children in India will no longer be taught German after the country's education ministry allowed a contract to lapse. READ  

Fourth time lucky for free Berlin WiFi?
Coming soon? Photo: DPA

Fourth time lucky for free Berlin WiFi?

Berlin's bid to set up a free city-wide wireless network has so far come to nothing. But city bosses are now trying for a fourth time - and hope to have the project running next year. READ  

Opinion
Do German unions have too much power?
Lufthansa passengers rush to change their flights at Frankfurt Airport on Monday. Photo: DPA

Do German unions have too much power?

Germany's pilots and train drivers are taking it in turns to bring the country to a standstill with strikes that have cost the economy tens of millions of euros in the last two weeks. Are unions abusing their power or standing up for their rights? READ  

Older workers can have extra days off, court says
Photo: Workers in a German shoe factory. Photo: DPA

Older workers can have extra days off, court says

Older workers in Germany are allowed more time off than younger ones, a court ruled on Tuesday, saying the difference was not discriminatory. READ  

Expat's family battles for answers four years on
Matthew Fitzpatrick died in 2010 in Mannheim. Photo: Fitzpatrick family

Expat's family battles for answers four years on

In 2010 an Irish computer engineer was found dead in his apartment in Baden-Württemberg. Four years on, his family are still pressing the German justice system for answers. They feel badly let down by police who they say have refused to examine evidence of foul play. READ  

Court: Germany can keep arms deals secret
The judges of the Supreme Court announce their decision about weapons exports on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Court: Germany can keep arms deals secret

The government can keep arms deals secret and only tell the public about them after contracts have been signed, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday. READ  

Tourist finds €7,500 instead of cheesecake

Tourist finds €7,500 instead of cheesecake

Just how honest would you have to be to return €7,500 that you found in a box supposed to contain your favourite cheesecake? READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: Mariana Schroeder
Munich
Special Report: Hope and chaos at Munich's refugee shelters
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Robbers blow up Berlin bank
Photo: DPA
Culture
Can you top our history quiz leaderboard?
Photo: Facebook
Society
German motorcycle gang joins Isis fight
Photo: DPA
Politics
UKIP ‘seeks EU pact’ with German satirical party
Photo: DPA
Gallery
PHOTOS: World's biggest erotic fair opens in Berlin
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
11 things Germans are afraid of...
Sponsored Article
International School on the Rhine: a legacy
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The ten richest people in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,488
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd