• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'If you want an adventure, learn a language'

Jessica Ware · 31 Jan 2014, 16:36

Published: 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.

Story continues below…

“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 news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Jessica Ware (jessica.ware@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Dresden 'most woman-friendly’ city in Germany
Photo: DPA.

Sorry Berlin, you're not the most progressive city for women, according to a new report.

The future belongs to these 10 German regions
This east German city won the 'most improved' category. Photo: DPA

A new study shows that one city above all will dominate the future of Germany, but if you're canny you might still want to think about moving to Leipzig or Erfurt.

Fugitive ex-terrorists 'on huge crime spree' in north Germany
(L-r): ex-RAF members Volker Staub, Daniela Klette, and Burkhard Garweg. Photo: BKA

In their struggle against capitalism they once murdered businessmen and politicians. Now three ex-terrorists have taken to robbing supermarkets - and rather successfully, too.

Scooter singer finally reveals how much the fish cost
H.P. Baxxter. Photo: DPA

It is the question Germans have wanted to know the answer to for almost two decades - and now they have the answer, thanks to a US talkshow host.

'I'm definitely not a paedophile': disgraced MP
Former MP Sebastian Edathy is in hiding after a child pornography scandal destroyed his career. Photo: DPA

Former MP Sebastian Edathy quit his job and left Germany after videos of naked children were found on his computer.

Weekend promises storms, humidity - and a bit of sun
A storm in Cuxhaven last weekend. Photo: DPA

The forecast for the coming days isn’t the pristine blue skies many of us are longing for. But, in among the storms, the sun will still peek out.

Prosecutors take aim at unedited Hitler book
An original edition of 'Mein Kampf' featuring a photo of Hitler on an inside cover. Photo: DPA

German prosecutors said on Thursday they were investigating whether to bring charges against a publisher who has promised to print a version of Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic manifesto "Mein Kampf" without annotations.

VW bets on battery factory for electric car dominance
A VW logo is seen in front of a plugged-in electric car. Photo: DPA

Scandal-hit car giant Volkswagen is set to sink huge sums into building a factory for batteries to power its future electric cars, German media reported on Friday.

Raging ticket controller seizes Chinese traveler's passport
File photo of a plainclothes ticket controller. Photo: DPA.

Germany's national rail operator is in hot water after a ticket controller reacted aggressively to a newly arrived Chinese traveler who made one of the most basic transit mistakes: forgetting to stamp her ticket.

Berlin politician crusades for health of skateboarding dog
File photo: DPA

Can a canine enjoy skateboarding? That's the question Berlin politicians are struggling to address in a row over a dog on four wheels.

Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Society
Pegida enraged by black children on chocolate bars
Health
New father's tragic herpes warning touches 1000s online
National
Monsanto takeover would be 'diabolical': environmentalists
Lifestyle
10 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
Politics
MP recites explicit Erdogan bestiality poem on live TV
National
China beats Germany in readiness to help refugees
Hamburg
Headless Lübeck corpse turns out to be discarded sex doll
National
Pensioner claims to have found hidden Nazi nukes
Business & Money
Here's why Munich is worth 20 times more than Berlin
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that will stay with you forever
Technology
Church plans to connect with faithful at Wi-Fi 'Godspots'
Technology
Online hate speech can cost users thousands of Euros
Society
Bavarians in rush for non-lethal weapons licenses
Sport
Here's Germany's Mannschaft for Euro 2016
Culture
The Syrian pianist playing his way into Germans' hearts
The parrot who flew fast enough to trigger a speed camera
Technology
New law could let free Wi-Fi bloom across Germany
Politics
Berlin's plans to beef up the German army
Sport
Lufthansa's Euro 2016 ad takes aim at England
National
Supermarkets must pay massive fine for fixing beer prices
National
4/20: Five things to know about weed in Germany
Berlin
Police break up hipster swarm at vegan restaurant opening
7,846
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd