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Fast Chat: Eddie Izzard of 'Race'

In this Feb. 25, 2010 photo, comedian and

In this Feb. 25, 2010 photo, comedian and actor Eddie Izzard poses for a photo in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/ Damian Dovarganes) Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS Photo/Damian Dovarganes

There's no telling what Eddie Izzard will do next. He's been a stand-up comic, dramatic actor, transvestite and gonzo marathoner. Last year in Britain, he notes, he raised nearly 2 million pounds - about $2.7 million - for charity, running 43 marathons in 51 days. With only five weeks' training, mind you.

Now, he's one of three new actors who've joined the cast of David Mamet's "Race," which has an extended run at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre through Aug. 21. (Richard Thomas, from the original cast, remains.)

Izzard, 48, was born to British parents in Yemen (dad was an accountant for, ahem, BP). After his mother died, when Izzard was 6, he went to boarding school in Britain.

By the time he hit the States, in the 1990s, he'd made a name for himself as a cross-dressing (and straight, by the by) comedian, with eyeliner, frocks and attitude.

He met Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio in Manhattan's Chelsea Market.


What's it like to be in a Mamet play, having to memorize all that blitzkrieg dialogue?

I actually feel very comfortable doing Mamet. It's something you can sink your teeth into, and you've got two months to really give it your all and then . . . smile on. So . . . it's great.

There aren't many performers who can pull off stand-up comedy . . . in a dress - then play a cutthroat lawyer . . . in a suit. Quite a career.

It may be a career plus one. It's not an easy fit for agents. I've been told the best way to succeed is to get known for comedy, then jump to drama. And I say, no, I think you can string 'em out at the same time.

You can't get more dramatic than an American play about race.

The question of race is very interesting. If some spaceship came from outer space, we'd say, "Look, we're called humans . . . but we divide up, depending on the color of our skin." And they'd go, "Why?" I'm surprised we've never gone to war over eye color. That's the one thing - we've done it for religion, politics, skin color. . . .

And oil, some say. Speaking of which . . . any thoughts on the BP mess?

For me, BP was like a rich uncle. I didn't know about oil exploration. Obviously, it's an unprecedented disaster.

Have you talked to your dad about it?

I haven't, actually. I talked to him yesterday, because of England winning the match.

So you're following the World Cup.

Absolutely. I love football. When I was 12, I was - oh, I can show you.

That sign there - that's your record? It says, "Won 11, drew 1, lost 2." Not bad.

Which one is me? 

Uhhh . . . I'm not sure. This one, with the slight smile?

The crooked, grin, yeah. That was . . . that was being a god. If you were very good as a 12-year-old, you could play with the 13-year-olds. I'm 12, there. I fought like crazy to be on that team. The height differential at that age is bonkers. So I was small, and they were massive.

Why is the world so crazy about soccer - um, football?

America sees it as a middle-class sport. But it's a working-class sport for the rest of the world. You can play with tin cans in the street. In Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers gave out soccer balls. That's all you need.

You think America could really get behind it?

Yes. Any side can win. It's a total meritocracy. Just like the essence of America. It doesn't matter who you are or where you came from - you can be the best in the world. As opposed to genetically very tall people playing basketball. In the World Cup, the whole world comes and is humbled by the abilities of everyone. It's brilliant. It's the rock and roll of sport.

How's the cross-dressing these days? Or . . . are you sick of being asked about it?

No, no. But I'm strategic about it. I had a big argument on Twitter with someone who said you can't be strategic about it. I said, "Well, I WILL be." I'm trying to land all these roles. And you can't - you know, if I was always wearing makeup and stuff, I wouldn't have gotten this role.

So you're wearing more natty black suits these days, like today.

Exactly. I've been out since I was 23 and so . . . yeah. This [gig] is about boy mode. The next tour could be girl mode, could be. . . . I just keep moving.


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