Drôle, lustig, cómico—around the world, there are plenty of ways to say the word “funny.” However, laughter sounds the same no matter where you go.
This is the idea behind Eddie Izzard’s “Force Majeure” tour, which is set to cover 25 countries and stops by the Citi Wang Theatre this weekend.
The British comedian isn’t just traveling the globe, he’s also performing his latest show in a variety of languages, including English, French, and German, to audiences of native speakers.
“I’ve already played South Africa, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Berlin in German, France in French, Madrid in Spanish,” Izzard recently told Boston.com. “It’s fun, it’s exciting, and also, it hopefully grabs other people’s imaginations.”
Fully aware that certain jokes may fall flat in other languages, the veteran comic has carefully crafted his new set so that it’ll resonate whether he’s in Cleveland or Kathmandu. The key, for Izzard, is avoiding national references in favor of more universal humor.
“There’s a chocolate bar called a Curly Wurly, which is kind of beloved in Britain, but they all have Hershey’s bars over here,” Izzard said. “So if you say Hershey’s bar here and go to Britain, they’ll go, ‘Well what the hell is a Hershey’s bar?’ and over here they’ll go, ‘Well what the hell is a Curly Wurly?’”
“People can’t laugh at things that they have no access to or never heard of.”
Beyond making audiences laugh, Izzard sees comedy as a tool that has the potential to bring people together on a deeper, much more positive level. He hopes that one upcoming stop in particular highlights this idea.
“I’m going to be pulling out of the tour in America to go to the D-Day 70th anniversary commemoration in Normandy,” Izzard said. “I’m going to do three gigs in one night. A gig in German, an hour in English, then an hour in French. Sort of celebrate the idea that, 70 years ago on that day, we were killing each other and now we’re not. It’s a positive place we’ve got to. So I got three languages in one night. It sends out a positive message.”
If “Force Majeure” wasn’t enough of an ambitious endeavor, the English funny man recently took time off of the German leg of his tour to wrap up shooting for the film “Boychoir,” opposite Dustin Hoffman and Kathy Bates.
“The roles are getting better and I feel I’m doing better and better work,” Izzard said. “I don’t start off naturally good at anything. I wasn’t a naturally good stand-up, I wasn’t a naturally good dramatic actor, but I sort of get better with time. I just have to throw myself into it until I get the hang of what I’m supposed to be doing. ”
Outside of the entertainment world, Izzard also has a few marathons he plans to run. However, they likely won’t be as difficult as the 1,100 mile, seven-week marathon he ran for charity in 2009, after only five weeks of training.
“It was slightly bonkers to do it,” Izzard said. “It helped raise a lot of money, so yeah, I’m going to do more of them, more of those type of things. It was an amazing time, it was kind of like being in a film or something.”
When he’s done running around the world—both literally and figuratively—Izzard has his sights set on becoming the mayor of London in 2020, although he thinks it’s a bit early to start putting together a platform.
Whether it’s running for mayor, helping charities, or just making people laugh, Izzard only wants to make headlines for the right reasons.
“You’re either in the gossip columns constantly telling of the opening of this and the opening of that, or you’ve got to do something else that grabs people’s attention,” Izzard said. “So, if you can grab people’s attention and do something positive and put something back by raising some money —that really works.”Matt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter @MattchidaMMA.