Eddie Izzard’s 'Force Majeure' to stop in Indianapolis

PHOTO PROVIDED BY AMANDA SEARLE
PHOTO PROVIDED BY AMANDA SEARLE

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Old National Centre at 502 N. New Jersey St. in Indianapolis

Tickets: $52 to $71.50 after fees

Buy Tickets

Eddie Izzard will stop in Indianapolis on Wednesday. PHOTO PROVIDED BY AMANDA SEARLE

Eddie Izzard, who stops in Indianapolis this week with his “Force Majeure” tour, is anything but conventional.

“I am starting with human sacrifice and asking the question, ‘Why the hell did we ever do that?’” Izzard said. 

“Why would gods want us to take one of these human units and say, ‘We’ve destroyed one of the things you’ve built.’ How did anyone ever sell that?”

The global tour started in March 2013 and is taking the surrealist comedian to 25 countries on five continents, making it the most extensive comedy tour ever, according to a press release.

Izzard, 52, combines a mixture of ambition, performing in English, French and German, and a bit of noise for "Force Majeure" — a French phrase that means a greater force.

"FORCE MAJEURE" in Indianapolis

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Murat Theatre at Old National Centre 

Tickets: $52 to $71.50 after fees

Buy tickets

“I’m constantly looking for ways to make it fun, different, and this is a very positive way of doing it,” Izzard said. “The number of countries is a good reach.”

He said his audience tends to be students or former students, people who are open minded and progressive.

“It tends to be switched on to open minded ... ‘cool in their head’ people,” he said. 

“... People who have cool minds and are thinking positively and openly and ‘where can we go in the future.’”

His own plans after Wednesday’s performance at the Old National Centre's Murat Theatre include hopping on a plane to France.

Read a Q&A with Eddie Izzard. PHOTO PROVIDED BY ANDY HOLLINGWORTH

NORMANDY

Izzard will take a break from the U.S. leg of the tour to fly more than 4,000 miles to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of D-Day on Friday.

That night, he will perform three back-to-back, hour-long shows in German, English and French, speaking in the languages of the thousands who died on that day.

All of the money earned from the Normandy shows will benefit charities, including the German charity Stolpersteine, an art installation by Gunter Demnig.

The German artist memorializes Holocaust victims by placing their names on brass plaques. These plaques sit at more than 610 addresses from where Nazis took their victims in Germany, Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Norway and Ukraine, according to the project’s website.

Izzard said he has noticed that since 1945, Germany has worked to erase intolerance and create a positive image.

“Anyone under the age of 85 cannot be at all blamed for any [Nazi activity],” Izzard said. “You’ve got to be 85 or over to be someone who was really involved and say, ‘Yes, Come on. Hitler really is doing a great job.’ Anyone else is too young. It’s almost a completely clean slate.”

As a test run for Normandy, Izzard performed the three languages in late March at a Yale University show.

“It was scary,” he said. “Yale was a great test because I didn’t know if I could do it, and it worked.”

Between switching from German to French and ending on English, Izzard said one aspect got stuck: his cursing.

“Whenever I was [meaning to swear] in French, I swore in German,” he said. “I said ‘Scheiße — no, no, I mean merde.’ My swearing comes from more of a gut place.”

He plans to switch it up for the Normandy shows. He’ll start with German and then perform the second set in English to “reset” his mind.

“With English, I’ll be happy and then I’ll get into French,” he said. “And we’ll see if I’m swearing in German or not.”

PHOTO PROVIDED BY ANDY HOLLINGWORTH

LANGUAGES

Izzard’s three-language performances haven’t satisfied his thirst to do big things — his goal is to add even more languages with Spanish, Russian and Arabic. Previously in Madrid, he performed for 15 minutes in Spanish after doing the show in English.

“Now that I’m getting Spanish on board as my fourth language, that means the whole of the Caribbean, Central America and South America are opening up as places to play,” he said.

To make his shows work in multiple languages, he needed to create jokes based on universal humor.

“I talk about God and Darth Vader and human sacrifice and dinosaurs and squirrels with guns and all this kind of very surreal stuff,” Izzard said. “... They get it around the world.”

Once he put together his jokes in English, he went to his brother, Mark, for the German translation. Unlike his usual performances, Izzard had to learn the German as a script instead of just going with the flow.

“That’s how I get really good,” he said. “... Line by line by line, adding it to my memory.”

Izzard also practices German in conversations to improve his ability to ad lib at the shows. And when he messes up, he said people will correct him to help him learn and perform in the conversational style he’s known for.

But despite writing as much universal humor as possible, some jokes don’t exactly translate.

One bit Izzard performs is about the ancient Greek and Olympic idea of a healthy mind and a healthy body. In English, Izzard speaks about how bodies are typically in good shape when they’re young. For his kicker, he jokes that “when we get to adults, our bodies become like two weasels covered in gravy, nailed to the back of a tractor.”

In Berlin and Hamburg, Izzard said he received laughter for the line in the three weeks it took before he was able to say it properly in German.

“I realized that the imagery was verbally funny, but not visually funny ... it doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Our bodies do not look like ‘two weasels covered in gravy, nailed to the back of a tractor.’ But there’s a certain musicality to ‘covered in gravy, nailed to the back of a tractor.’ It’s a certain rhythm.”

In German, that rhythm doesn’t flow and is staccato, making it a bumpy ride for listeners. Once he realized the audience was laughing not at the joke but rather his attempts to say it, he came up with a different image to tell German audiences.

Click here for a larger version. DN GRAPHIC

IZZARD

After being born in South Yemen in 1962, Izzard grew up in Northern Ireland, South Wales and Bexhill in England.

He got his comedic start by street performing and first performed on stage in 1987 at London’s Comedy Store.

Izzard has starred on screen in movies and in TV shows, such as NBC’s “Hannibal” and Showtime’s “United States of Tara.” He received a Tony nomination for best actor for his stage performances.

His “Force Majeure” tour isn’t the first time he’s done something big, either. At the age of 47, he ran 43 marathons in 51 days in 2009, raising about $2.7 million for charity.

“I did it as a bit of an adventure, as a healthy thing for myself,” he said. “And I’ve noticed all wild animals are fit, so I thought I would do this and let’s see what happens.”

Heavily influenced by Monty Python, Steve Martin and Richard Pryor, Izzard’s absurdist comedy is something he hopes leaves people laughing and thinking.

“I want people to be entertained and to have something to think about,” he said. “That’s my perfect landing. ... Hopefully, this is intelligent and very silly.”


Read a Q&A with Eddie Izzard about his global tour.

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