My France interview with Eddie Izzard

Comedian EDDIE IZZARD, who is soon to start a world tour, tells Pierre de Villiers about performing stand-up in French and why he feels at home in |Paris

Why did you choose Force Majeure as the title of your new comedy tour?

Well, you have to come up with a title. It is an odd thing that acts as a flag before you have your forces around the flag. I wanted something that was French but also meant something in English – force majeure is in everyone’s contract as it can stand for an act of God or a force of nature. I like the fact that the meaning can be taken in two ways. I believe everyone should be their own force of nature.

You will be returning to Paris, where you performed your show Stripped – Tout en Français for three months in 2011. The city must be like a second home to you.

I collect cities as second homes and Paris is one of those alongside Berlin, New York and Los Angeles. I had had this dream of living in Montmartre and playing Paris, and when that happened there was no negative part about doing it. I was living on the seventh floor at the top of Montmartre, so I had a beautiful view, and I was practising my show in the Jardin des Tuileries, just down the road from where Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI had their heads chopped off. I was doing gigs six days a week and speaking French all the time.

Were there any other areas of Paris that you got to know well?

Yes, I used to hang out a lot in the Marais quarter (pictured below) and when I go back now I’m just collecting areas. I like wandering around and going for runs, discovering Paris by going down this or that road. On one occasion I took a wrong turn and ended up at [the business district of] La Défense instead of back at my hotel in the Marais. I had no money to get the métro back; it was raining and it got cold, and I was wearing only a tracksuit top and shorts.

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Before your Parisian shows in 2011, did you take lessons to sharpen up your French?

I found it was better to take part in conversations, so before the gig I did a week of intensive work with a couple of teachers and my brother, who is a qualified teacher in French and Spanish. Once the shows started I scaled it down to about three hours a day of French conversation. I would find a restaurant on one of the boats on the River Seine and sit there from 2pm to 5pm with friends, having a salad and a glass of wine as we chatted. They would correct my French again and again.

You mentioned it was a dream of yours to perform in France. Where does this love for the country come from?

France has always been a holiday country for me. I believed in my head that the whole of France was always on holiday, which is obviously ridiculous. I went there with my dad, often to the north, so we would travel from Newhaven to Dieppe. I have visited the Normandy beaches a few times, as well as Boulogne, Paris and the Loire Valley for holidays. I just like going to France and so does my brother. It’s the idea of speaking a second language; I like the fact that you have a whole lot of other people you can say different things to.

It is a long tour [more than 50 dates in 2013 alone]. How do you cope with living out of a suitcase?

I am quite brilliant at living out of a suitcase. I have a system of hanging good-quality jackets; they come out of the suitcase a bit bashed up but you hang them in the bathroom and the steam from the shower will sort them out. So I have tricks for steaming things.

For more information about the Force Majeure world tour, which starts in March, visit www.eddieizzard.com. Eddie will perform Stripped – Tout en Français at the Olympia Theatre in Paris on 13 March.