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Eddie Izzard on marathons, Brexit and being a "bloke wearing make-up" in the public eye

The comedian says running a marathon a week is a challenge, but nothing compared to coming out as a transvestite 32 years ago

Published: Monday, 26th June 2017 at 9:00 am

What are you watching at the moment, Eddie?


The Last Kingdom is fantastic. It’s got a Saxon monarch and a Viking – and my dad’s line is Saxon and my mother’s line is Viking, so I like that. There’s a lot of sex and fighting but it’s also got politics, which I find fascinating. At the moment our politics is so messy; in the time of The Last Kingdom, it was messy with violence, whereas our politics is messy with arguments and human rights. Trump and Brexit are taking us backwards in the direction of “Let’s do simplistic politics and hate people and everything will be fine”.

Do you watch The Last Kingdom on a TV fit for a king?

I usually watch on a computer thing – I tend to download box sets from iTunes. I watch at the table, in bed, on my iPhone on a train. I watch wherever I am.

You spend lots of time in the States, don’t you?

No, I spend a lot of time in the world. If you struggle all your life to get a career going it’s nice to travel and work all over the place. Ambition can be a good thing – Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were pretty ambitious – and also some very bad people have been ambitious and toxic. But anyway… I am ambitious and instead of just touring the UK in English, I’ve been touring in French, German and Spanish.

You’re doing stand-up comedy in all those languages?

Well, Brexit is going to make things incredibly difficult, so I wanted to do something.

Last year you ran 27 marathons in 27 days for Sport Relief – are you having a rest now?

Now I do a marathon a week.

A marathon a week? You’re 55!

I learnt this from the 100 Marathon Club. I met these people in their 60s and 70s at the London 2012 Olympics and they were very fit. I thought, “That’s what I’m going to do.” I’m trying to stay fit for ever. Your body’s like a car – drive it and it works, don’t drive it and it starts to fall apart. I love being outside, especially when I ran in Africa. The sunrises we have in Britain can be fine, but the ones we had in Africa were just stunning. I don’t know what they’ve got that we haven’t got, but we need to buy some of those sunrises.

Were you a big runner as a child?

Whenever I did long-distance running as a kid I thought, “Oh God, this is so long! Why am I doing this?” The only way you can do it is if you have a mission. Mine is just to be as healthy as possible.

Has marathon running made you much more focused?

It certainly helps, but coming out 32 years ago – that very tough mission – was what focused me the most, what changed everything.

Coming out as a transvestite?

The trouble is, if you say you’re gay there’s nothing immediate that happens that people can tell straightaway, but if you’re a bloke looking like a bloke but wearing make-up it’s a jump from nobody noticing to everyone noticing. To learn to deal with that’s taken me 32 years.

More like this

Eddie Izzard’s memoir Believe Me is Book of the Week, Monday to Friday at 9.45am on Radio 4


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