Eddie Izzard on Stephen Colbert’s show

Although I like comedy, I find it hard to watch an entire program by stand-up comedians. After a while, I find it tiresome and have to switch off. I prefer to watch short clips. The performer I can watch for longest is British comedian Eddie Izzard. If you search on this blog for her name, you will find a ton of her clips that I have posted over the years. She is always fun to watch.

Today her one-person show of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations opens in New York. This is not a comedy but it shows her skills as a performer who can switch quickly between multiple characters. She appeared on Stephen Colbert’s show to talk about that and her running for political office in the UK and running of marathons.

Here is the interview.

Izzard’s signature stand up comedy style is where she conducts a dialogue between two people by making a quarter turn back and forth to signal the shift in speakers. She says that she copied that from Richard Pryor. Here is an example of that quarter-turn technique being used by Izzard to parody James Bond films.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    Not even bothering to try to get the pronouns consistent? I mean -- it’s consistent with Izzard’s stated indifference to people getting them wrong, but using both just looks confused, and runs the risk of a kicking from someone who cares (i.e. not Izzard, and not me -- you do you, I just find it funny, which I accept might be the point).

    [It was an error on my part that I have corrected.- MS]

  2. Matt G says

    @2- Izzard wanted “he” or “she” in 2018, depending on whether Izzard was in “boy-mode” or “girl-mode.” Since 2020, Izzard has wanted she/her. Per Wikipedia. This raises the question: should pronouns be backdated to when the person identified as a certain gender?

  3. anat says

    Matt G @3:

    This raises the question: should pronouns be backdated to when the person identified as a certain gender?

    Based on the transgender people in my life, the thinking is that the gender they identify as is their one true gender, going back to their birth. They were mistakenly referred to as some other gender prior to their transition, but now that their correct gender is known it is the only one to use, including when discussing events from before their transition.

  4. John Morales says

    From the Wikipedia article on the performer:


    Izzard identifies as genderfluid and began using she and her pronouns in December 2020, but “doesn’t mind” he and him.[1][2]

  5. flex says

    Hmm. I’m not saying Eddie is wrong, or the technique isn’t effective, but there is something tickling my brain saying that the quarter-turn with two (or more) characters pre-dates Richard Pryor. I’ll have to think about it.

    It may just be old age.

  6. Holms says

    It’s also fairly a fairly generic thing to do in stand-up, seems strange to call a signature move.

  7. Silentbob says

    Mano, as I write there is still an abrupt change of gender in your third paragraph.

    I’m not going to give anyone “a kicking” per sonofrojblake, but I will comment that one should try to get a person’s gender right even if they “don’t mind”. You probably wouldn’t publicly use a racial slur for a person you knew “didn’t mind” because you would be conscious that you’re insulting everyone of that race. Likewise, misgendering someone who “doesn’t mind” still conveys some degree of disrespect to anyone who has made a similar gender transition.

    To confirm what anat says, the protocol is to use a person’s current identity when referring to them in the past. For example, “In 2007 Elliot Page starred in Juno where he played the role of a pregnant teenage girl”.

    [I thought that I had corrected the third paragraph earlier but it had reverted to the earlier version. I have corrected it again. -MS]

  8. Mano Singham says

    flex @#7,

    Izzard said she copied it from Pryor but did not suggest that Pryor was the first to use it. It is very hard to pin down who or what was ‘first’ when it comes to popular culture.

  9. sonofrojblake says


    I’m not going to give anyone “a kicking”

    … following immediately into a paragraph equating misgendering, even inadvertently, with using a racial slur.

    Just funny.

  10. Matt G says

    @4 anat- That is helpful -- thanks.

    I use a quarter-turn with the Socratic method to teach my students how to apply algebra to the solving of problems in physics. What do you know? I know the change in velocity and the acceleration. What are you trying to figure out? The time. What equation do you need? And so on.

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