What do you want to be when you grow up? For some, they may say lawyer or zoologist, but for Eddie Izzard, he wanted to be an actor. Yes, Izzard has a long resume of film and television work, the most notable as of late is “The Riches” (The cancelled series’ premise dealt with a family of grifters who took over people’s lives by moving into their vacant homes). However, “Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story” deals with so much more than his experience as an actor. For Izzard, the road to being a transvestite-comedian/actor is filled with failure, tragedy and the funniest bits of stand-up comedy that will have you laughing out loud, not from the sheer wit, but from the way in which his experiences will resonate with you.
This isn’t your standard documentary. It is true that it discusses his life, however, the interspersion of the return to the stage is what makes Izzard’s story compelling. It’s as if he’s doing a path-working to find out just what is it that makes him want to return to the stage to do stand-up. Being a comedian on stage is one of the bravest things a human being can do. You have to keep an audience engaged for the better part of an hour. Even the workshops of his new material have vulnerable moments where you see the process of what makes a good joke, or what will be successful. Essentially Izzard is doing “slightly surreal humor” that touches people on every level because while everyone is doing timely comedy, he’s talking about “being brought up by wolves.”
The thing about Izzard is that he’s not afraid to try something new, even if it means absolute failure. That’s the premise for this documentary – working out what’s funny, but still leaving room for improvisation. It’s a risk that as an audience you’ll be thrilled to be on the ride with.
Dressed as a man Izzard’s stage routine would be funny, but as a woman, Izzard’s comedy takes on a dreamlike quality in which his material takes on an androgynous nature. Somehow what he speaks about in make-up rings truer and honest to the viewer.
Izzard’s ten year, overnight success story in England was successfully replicated in the U.S.. Starting in small venues and building up a reputation for being surreally-funny is the formula that Izzard has stuck to and caused him to have a fan base on both sides of the pond – all the while looking “stunning.”
Dualism is the most important skill that Izzard has cultivated. He has this uncanny ability to write and act out his own stand-up and then there is the catastrophe of doing it in French. Yet again his tenacity helped him to take another risk. If anything it teaches him about himself and perhaps what not to do again. But for Izzard he does and wonders of wonders he’s damn good at it.
At one point of the documentary Izzard is accused of telling the same old jokes every time he began a new tour. It seems absurd, since comedians have bits that they had done for decades. After all where would Rodney Dangerfield had been without his self-depreciating jokes? Still, it pushed Izzard to reevaluate how he engages with his world and if he has anything new to offer. So begins the Sexie tour – the successful Sexie tour. But having to “do it all” can be exhausting.
When it all boils down to it Izzard, is best at “challenging assumptions about language.” This idea brings the documentary full circle because in the end it’s not about the jokes, or the acting, it’s about his life as a man who lost his mother when he was young. And how do you express that – through any means necessary.