Many entertainers pursue hobbies such as golf or poker. Yawn.
Izzard runs marathons. In fact, he’s run about 60 to date and expects to pass 100.
And some film and TV actors may dabble in Shakespeare on stage to show their versatility.
Izzard? He has performed his current comedy show dubbed “Force Majeure” entirely in French and German before native audiences and hopes to do so in Spanish and Arabic as well.
Clearly, this Yemen-born, British-raised 52-year-old revels in avoiding the obvious.
“I tend to go off into the hinterlands,” he said in a recent phone interview from Philadelphia. “I can be surreal, intelligent but silly. This show’s a journey through my brain.”
Izzard’s fertile brain is littered with historical references and ambitious ideas, but his brain is always hungry for more. He doesn’t know much about Atlanta, for instance, and is using Twitter and Facebook to solicit historical tidbits from fans about each city he visits.
He recalls his last trip to Atlanta featured a DVD signing: “I remember the people being there were really crazy and out there. It was such an interesting mix at the signing. Ever since then, I’ve put Atlanta in a different place in my brain beyond the Civil War and things like that. I’ve done great gigs there.”
Izzard feels his career is on many levels as strong as ever: “I’ve played the Hollywood Bowl. I’m learning Spanish. I just did a film with Dustin Hoffman and Kathy Bates. I’m feeling good.”
And Izzard thinks his current world tour will hit more countries than any tour by a comedian: 25. He’s also a sly marketer. He knows by even saying that his tour is unprecedented, he will gain attention.
“Some celebrities trash hotels. Others try to get into gossip columns. I thought I’d do multiple shows in multiple languages and run multiple marathons. That’s just me.”
Izzard also has big plans to honor the 70th anniversary of D-Day. He will attend ceremonies on the beaches of Normandy, then do his show three times, each in a different language: English, French and German. “To paraphrase Nelson Mandela, ‘If you speak in their second language, you can speak to their mind, but if you speak their native language, you can capture their heart.’ It’s a very positive way to reach out to another country and extend a hand.”
The late South African leader is such a major hero of Izzard’s that he tried in 2012 to run 27 marathons in 27 days in honor of Mandela’s years in prison. He couldn’t finish for health reasons but plans to try again in the future.
“Running is very primal,” Izzard said. “You can’t fake it. Even on long bike rides, you can coast down a hill. And I realized running is quite a good thing to do for my health and I can raise money, too. People like to see celebrities sweat!”
Given his predilections, perhaps Izzard’s desire to run for mayor of London in 2020 isn’t such a stretch: “I may try to do an Al Franken. I’ve campaigned for others before. I’ve done some polling. I just have to be willing to follow through and put my career in hibernation in six years.”