Not My Job: Eddie Izzard Gets Quizzed On King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where we talk to people who have come a long way, and then they wonder why they stopped by here. It's called Not My Job. Eddie Izzard might be the most famous comedian alive. He is certainly the only one, as far as we know, who has done stand-up in more than 40 countries and in four different languages and, as far as we know, is the only comic to describe himself as a, quote, "action transvestite."
He has written a new memoir about his remarkable life. We are delighted to have him with us. Eddie Izzard, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.
EDDIE IZZARD: Thank you very much. Very good to be with your crazy, crazy audience.
SAGAL: Yeah, they're nuts. They're crazy. I really enjoyed reading your book. But it was a little bit surprising because, unlike most comedians, certainly most extraordinarily successful comedians, you don't describe yourself as being very funny growing up. Was that true?
IZZARD: No, I'm not funny growing up. I'm also - I think I'm boring, as well. I think I'm naturally boring, which maybe all people are. And if you get to a point where you're interesting, you've just put layers of interestingness over the boringness. But, no, I wasn't funny until I was 16, 17. That's when I actively started trying to be funny in class.
SAGAL: Yeah, because you loved things like math and sports and stuff.
IZZARD: Yes, well, comedy is very mathematical. It's like music is Mozart. But I think Mozart's music is very mathematical. There's a certain mathematical equation that goes with comedy.
SAGAL: Really? So is that how you develop your comedy, with that kind of scientific rigor?
IZZARD: I sit down with a computer and it just churns out stuff for me.
SAGAL: There you go. So how do -
IZZARD: I just make it up. And I try not to think about it. It sort of comes out - most of it comes out on stage, actually.
SAGAL: Really? So, I mean, I'm always amazed to hear this. So you have, like I said, been touring the world, doing your comedy for years. And you're telling me that you walk on stage and you're only - you're not quite sure what you're going to say?
IZZARD: I would say that but only in a conversational way. I do know the show that I'm going to do. And I know the main routes, the freeways that you would say, the interstate highways of my comedy. But then I will go off on side roads, visit little villages, think about, hey, the sign says bar mitzvah and kebab shop, you know, and whatever.
IZZARD: Let's go visit that. And I go visit that in my brain. And if there's nothing funny there, I come back onto the highway and I'm like, oh.
SAGAL: Yeah. I can sort of see that, believe me.
ALONZO BODDEN: Eddie, I just want to say that if you having done - and I've seen you do your act in two languages. And you've done it in so many more all around the world. If you're considered not interesting, do you know how high you put the bar for the rest of us comedians?
BODDEN: Like, what are we supposed to do? I remember watching you do an act about the aristocrats in England who spoke French back in the Middle Ages or something like that. And all I could think while you were saying it is, I wonder if this is true?
IZZARD: Nearly everything I say is true.
IZZARD: But I must say that the interestingness was when I was a child. When I was born, I was not interesting. I find very few babies are that interesting. They do the same baby stuff. I have put layers of interestingness over my boringness. So I now look fabulously interesting.
SAGAL: So - and your ambition - and you've done it - was to perform stand-up comedy in another language.
IZZARD: That wasn't my - that was one of my ambitions. Like, remember, when you're a teenager, you always say, I want to be a fireman or a beekeeper or go to the moon or play banjo. We always had a few things on the boil.
SAGAL: But I'm just so intimidated by the idea of not only trying to speak a foreign language and be understood but to be funny in it.
IZZARD: It's much easier than you think. It's a lot of, lot of, lot of hard work. But it is not rocket science. You don't have to invent moon-earth orbit trajectory re-entry and docking and all that kind of stuff like NASA have to do. All you have to do - like, I've got this example. I have this joke in English which is about Julius Caesar. I say Caesar - did he ever think that he would end up as a salad?
IZZARD: And that gets a laugh in English on salad. And in French, say (speaking French). Again, the laugh comes in the same place. Now, in German, the verb goes at the end of the sentence because it's past tense. But it still gets a laugh. They still laugh at the same place. Everyone gets it. Humor is human.
SAGAL: All right. That's amazing.
SAGAL: And I am in awe of your confidence and your linguistic skill. But how do you know they have Caesar salads in Germany?
IZZARD: I check. I phone up.
SAGAL: Let me ask you about one more thing before we get to our game - is that you call yourself in your book an action transvestite. Tell me what that means.
IZZARD: Well, last year - 2016 - I ran 27 marathons in 27 days in honor of Nelson Mandela and the guys who fought against apartheid. So that's the action part of it. And the transvestite part is self-explanatory.
SAGAL: It is.
SAGAL: You've mentioned in passing some of your activism. Is it true that you're going to be running for mayor of London in 2020?
IZZARD: I've always said I'd run of London or member of parliament. Sadiq Khan is a Muslim mayor from the Labor Party in London. So that's great. And he's an angry Twitter war with Donald Trump, so that's fantastic, anyone (unintelligible).
IZZARD: And so he will run again. I'm sure he'll run again a second term. So maybe sometime in the future. But member of parliament I will run for in the next general election.
SAGAL: Do you think that London - or Britain, I guess - wherever you run - is going to be ready to elect a man who has spent his career telling jokes often while wearing women's clothing?
IZZARD: Yes. They're not women's clothes, you see. They're mine because I bought them.
IZZARD: I have already campaigned as an activist in 2008. And, in fact, no one is asking any questions. They've got bored. You see, when LGBT hits boring, then we've made it.
SAGAL: That's true.
SAGAL: When you're just as dull as the rest of us. Congratulations.
IZZARD: Exactly. That's it. When someone says, I'm gay. I'm transgender. So what? What do you do? Oh, I play the banjo. Are you any good? No.
SAGAL: Well, Eddie Izzard, we're delighted to talk to you. But we have also invited you here to play a game we're calling...
BILL KURTIS: Eddie Izzard, meet King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
SAGAL: So obviously, Eddie Izzard, we couldn't decide whether to ask you about gizzards, lizards or wizards. But then we found out we could ask you about all three at once. So we're going to ask you, Eddie Izzard, three questions about the very real Australian band King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
SAGAL: It exists.
BODDEN: I love them.
SAGAL: You do not.
BODDEN: I do.
SAGAL: All right.
BODDEN: There's no way to check that.
PHOEBE ROBINSON: I know.
BRIAN BABYLON: Get on the internet. Get on the internet.
BODDEN: We're sorry about that, Eddie.
SAGAL: Answer two of these three questions correctly. You'll win our prize for one of our listeners. Who is Eddie Izzard playing for?
KURTIS: Jason Scrofini of Brooklyn, N.Y.
SAGAL: All right. Your first question - most critics agree that King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard did not really come into their own until their second full-length album, a concept album called "Eyes Like The Sky." What was the concept? Was it A, 45 minutes of the lead singer whispering your eyes over electronica music; B, a, quote, "spaghetti Western audio book" or C, 17 covers of old Carpenters B-sides?
IZZARD: I'm going with A.
SAGAL: You're going with A. It was actually B. It's a spaghetti Western audiobook. It is this strange Western sort of gun opera that the lead singer wrote.
BABYLON: That music is, like, for mushrooms.
SAGAL: You still have two more chances here, Eddie.
IZZARD: OK. I reject that answer.
SAGAL: You do.
SAGAL: Sadly, it's - but you still have two more chances. I'm looking. Your chances are good. Now, they have put out many albums since that second one, including which of these? A, "Flying Microtonal Banana;" B, King Gizzard's Blizzard of Twizzlers or C, Fuzz in your Belly Button?
IZZARD: (Laughter) They all sound very good.
IZZARD: They all sound very good. And I'm going for C.
SAGAL: No, it was actually A, "Flying Microtonal Banana."
ROBINSON: Oh, no.
BODDEN: Yeah, that just has a ring to it.
SAGAL: It's certainly does.
SAGAL: Last question - King Gizzard got so popular, they headlined their own music festival in Australia in 2015 called Gizzfest.
SAGAL: Which was one of the supporting acts? A, Dr. Psychedelic Porn Crumpets...
SAGAL: ...B, Dr. Piffle and the Burlap Band or C, West Thebarton Brothel Party?
IZZARD: Again, I think they were all there.
SAGAL: You're right. They were all there.
SAGAL: Those were all names of bands at the 2015 Gizzfest. It was quite the festival.
SAGAL: So, Bill, how did Eddie Izzard do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Well, he got one right. And, Eddie, good going.
IZZARD: I got three right.
SAGAL: Technically, you did get three right because there were three good right answers.
KURTIS: That's right. Three in one.
BABYLON: That's a good point.
SAGAL: All right. One last question. Your new book, which you're out with now, is called "Believe Me: A Memoir Of Love, Death And Jazz Chickens." Would you like to explain to the good people, what are jazz chickens?
IZZARD: No, it's not mentioned in the book. And I quite like that - that it's not mentioned at all.
SAGAL: Eddie Izzard, ladies and gentlemen.
SAGAL: His new book, "Believe Me: A Memoir Of Love, Death And Jazz Chickens." It's in book stores now. Eddie Izzard, an honor to talk to you. Thank you so much for joining us.
IZZARD: Thank you very much.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BEING FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR. KITE")
IZZARD: (Singing) For the benefit of Mr. Kite, there will be a show tonight on trampoline. The Hendersons will all be there, late of Pablo Fanques fair. Have you seen it? It's great. They've got stuff. Over men and horses, hoops and garters, blasting through a hogshead of real fire. In this way, Mr. K will challenge the world.
SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill takes us on a new side gig in the Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAITWAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR.
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