“Izzard is one of the funniest people alive, a talented actor, a sharp cross-dresser, an experienced marathon runner, and a great writer. You will have to read this if only to find out what a jazz chicken is.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
With his brand of keenly intelligent humor that ranges from world history to historical politics, sexual politics, mad ancient kings, and chickens with guns, Eddie Izzard has built an extraordinary fan base that transcends age, gender, and race. Writing with the same candor and insight evident in his comedy, he reflects on a childhood marked by the loss of his mother, boarding school, and alternative sexuality, as well as a life in comedy, film, politics, running and philanthropy.
Honest and generous, Believe Me is an inspired account of a very singular life thus far.
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About the Author
Eddie Izzard is a world-renowned comedian, actor, writer, runner, and activist. He made his West End debut in 1993 in a one-man show called Live at the Ambassadors, for which he received an Olivier Award nomination for Outstanding Achievement. He recently appeared on television as Dr. Abel Gideon in Hannibal, and he produced and starred in the FX Networks series The Riches. His films include Valkyrie; Ocean’s Thirteen and Ocean’s Twelve; Across the Universe; Mystery Men; Shadow of the Vampire; The Cat’s Meow; Lost Christmas; Castles in the Sky; and Whisky Galore. His stage appearances include David Mamet’s Race and The Cryptogram; the title role in Marlowe’s Edward II; 900 Oneonta; and A Day in the Death of Joe Egg in London and on Broadway, which garnered him a Tony nomination for Best Actor. Izzard’s hit one-man shows include Dress to Kill, Stripped, and Force Majeure. His performance in Dress to Kill earned him two Emmy Awards. In 2010, the documentary Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story received an Emmy nomination. In 2009, Izzard ran forty-three marathons in fifty-one days throughout the United Kingdom, and in 2016, he ran twenty-seven marathons in twenty-seven days across South Africa in honor of Nelson Mandela’s twenty-seven years in prison. By running these seventy marathons he has helped raise £4.8 million ($6 million) for the UK charity Sport Relief.
Read an Excerpt
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
Copyright © 2017 Eddie Izzard
I N T R O D U C T I O N
I always thought I’d write a book about my life toward the end of my life, like Ulysses S. Grant did. Or Chaplin did. But I have noticed that a number of people (maybe lots of people) have done autobiographies in the middle of their lives, or even several autobiographies over different slices of their lives. I came to the conclusion that I don’t really know what the rules are for this.
I think I’m a really boring person. I think I am naturally boring. Probably most of us are. Interesting people, too, probably decided at some point in life that they were boring and wanted to be more interesting. Like Che Guevara, who was a medical student, then threw on a beret, became a revolutionary, and became way more interesting. Billy Connolly, the Scottish comedian, who really influenced my work, used to say in his stand‑up material that he did certain things to make him‑ self “windswept and interesting.” I identify with that. It’s bonkers that in this world some people are just trying to live and exist while I’m sit‑ ting here thinking, Ooh! I’ve done some interesting things and now I’m going to write an autobiography! But that is the situation I find myself in. I’ve done a certain number of things in my life and have now reached an age and a state of mind where I’ve come to reflect on those things. And some people want me to write them down.
It was at the end of the documentary Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story when Sarah Townsend, the director, who had been shooting interviews with me for some time, said that I never really “say” anything.
I thought, Well, I’m up for saying lots of things.
But maybe I was being guarded, or trying to make everything very palatable, or funny, and therefore I never seemed to say anything that really cut through the mist of being a performer, an actor, and a personality of some sort.
Then, toward the end of the film, I started talking about my mother, who died when I was six. And that’s when I said something revelatory:
“I know why I’m doing all this,” I said. “Everything I do in life is trying to get her back. I think if I do enough things . . . that maybe she’ll come back.”
I remember that when I said those words in the film it didn’t feel like it was really me talking. Because it wasn’t my conscious brain talking. It was my subconscious brain. And for some reason it was saying: Here’s what’s really going on. Here’s a note to yourself. Something like that.
I think it’s true. I think trying to bring my mother back is at the base of everything I’m doing, and everything I’ve ever done.
On top of that, of course, there is also ego and a love of adventure and trying to be, as Billy C. would say, “windswept and interesting.” But it’s quite a moment in the film. And it was quite a moment in my life.
So this book is intended to give you a chance to sit inside my head, behind my eyes, for a bit. I’m trying to share thoughts and feelings that I may not have covered in the documentary and that I don’t normally talk about in my stand‑up.
In a way, I’ve tried to live my life like a film. I’m trying to do interesting things so that somebody notices or so that maybe my mother notices, from beyond the mists of the living.
Real life is actually a lot of boring things with occasional spikes of interest. If you look at films of people’s lives, they tend to focus on only one aspect of it because the whole life doesn’t quite work as a story. We know how we like our stories, and they have to go down to the bottom at the end of the second act, and then come back up and win at the end of the third act. Stories don’t really have to be like that, but that does get our motors going. Real life doesn’t play that way, which is why I’d like to thank Sarah Townsend for making my life look interesting in the documentary, even though my life is lots of boring bits with occasional spikes of interestingness. She took all the boring bits out. She got an Emmy nomination for Best Documentary for the film. Which means that my life story got a nomination for trying to be “interesting,” even though I know the truth.
So this is it—an autobiography—a walk through my life—in a non‑linear way. Belief or, more likely, self‑belief, is central to what I have done, and that probably applies to anyone whose life could be deemed “unusual.” But I do also know self‑belief can be used in a good or a bad way: Some people with tremendous self‑belief are complete psychotic mass murderers. So if you have a negative heart, then please don’t read this book. But if you have a positive heart, then please do read this book. Because I have worked certain things out in life. I think there are certain patterns to the way human beings behave and I believe if you have analysis in one hand and instinct in the other hand, you can go a long way and live a life that is truly memorable.
Have a read.
Here we go.
What People are Saying About This
A wicked, beautiful man has written a wicked, beautiful book about his (kind of?) messed up life and it’s…perfect.
This book is a raw, honest exploration of what it means to live your truth, to be unapologetically ambitious, and to walk through fear over and over again. It's about being brave. And hilarious. It reminded me that walking through fear almost always leads to happiness.
I had never heard of Eddie Izzard before, but judging by this delightful memoir, he has a glittering career ahead of him. I particularly enjoyed his descriptions of working in a Vatican slaughterhouse, acting as Deputy Foreign Minister in Gladstone’s first administration, his whacky exploits at his uncle’s Taxidermy Cafe, and his tragic death at the age of only eight at the Morris Dancing Finals in Bruges.
Eddie Izzard is my favorite stand-up chameleon.