Eddie Izzard will make you laugh in four languages

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Eddie Izzard

Comedian and polyglot, Eddie Izzard does stand-up in English, French, German, and Spanish.


Idil Sukan 

This week on the World in Words: Comedian Eddie Izzard.  

Eddie Izzard has often joked about language from the silliness of Latin to why English speakers are so stubbornly monolingual. However, in late ‘90’s, Eddie decided that it wasn’t enough to joke about language; he wanted to joke in other languages. So in 1997 he took the stage and did his first set in France in French. It wasn't funny, he admits, but it was the start of a career goal to do stand-up in as many languages as possible. Eventually he did feel funny (and fluent) in French. Now, nearly two decades after that first French show, he has toured in not only French but German and Spanish. He intends to learn Russian and Arabic next. 

The World in Words sat down with Izzard to find out why he’s decided to take his humor around the globe and how he’s managed to learn all these languages. (Warning: Parts of this podcast are definitely NSFW.)


00:00 If you build it, he will come.

1:05 Eddie Izzard on Latin

1:52 How hard is it to learn another language, really?

2:56 Language learning is all about confidence

3:56 “You’ll see me stand on stage with what looks like a bible — it is the translation of the entire show!”

5:06 Eddie schools Nina on how to pronounce the “Colony of Aden” where he was born.

5:25 Learning Egyptian Arabic

5:48 The ability to swear like a native in French

6:53 Eddie Izzard and his brother Mark have worked out a technique for doing stand-up in another language

8:24 Immersion is key the language learning

10:36 Ausgezeichnet, baby!

11:18 Humor is universal says Izzard.

11:45 Caesar, did he ever think he’d end up as a salad?

14:18 On developing his next show in French first

14:38 Remembering the first time that he stood on stage and did his act in French

15:30 How long before Eddie felt funny in French?

16:02 Stereotypes about humor in different countries

17:22 Driving is just like doing stand-up

19:12 More on Eddie’s technique for performing in another language

19:47 Forgetting a line onstage

20:22 Eddie’s secret weapon is his brother Mark

21:08 How coming out as transgender has helped Eddie embark on his path to learn all of these languages

23:00 How Eddie’s career has been affected by coming out as transgender

26:00 “The thing is languages can’t be that hard”

26:16 The “hurdle of humiliation”


60’s Quiz Show by Podington Bear

Good Times by Podington Bear


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With support from the National Endowment for the Humanities

In Arts, Culture & MediaCultureThe World in WordsGlobal Satire.

Tagged: Eddie Izzardlanguagecomedy.