Eddie Izzard is unbelievable. 8 years of French and 2 years of German in school. And after witnessing people of many nations splashing about peacefully together in Santorini and believing that languages will unite us, he’s decided to do his show in various countries and languages. Standup comedy in foreign tongues, not just in French, which he speaks, but also in German, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Arabic, which he doesn’t.
The title of the show, “Force Majeure”, he says, is about his wanting to be a force of nature for peace. He doesn’t believe in waiting for some hand of God to come down and do the business.
His brother has translated the show into German, and he began learning it by heart, came to Berlin on 4 January, and on 14 January was on stage, doing the show. The show gets a bit longer every night as he adds new bits he’s learned, and the older parts get a bit shorter as he gets through them more quickly.
He handles forgotten lines by interacting with the audience. Finally, a suitable context for that word! It slows his pace down, but also provides the opportunity for some fresh improvisation, playing with words and the audience. Then he surfs on the positive energy of the audience. The basement at the Imperial Club seats no more than 150, and maybe 100 people were there on Sunday, so it’s all rather intimate. I was close enough to get a good look at his lovely manicured fingernails, with the Union Jack and the flag of the EU painted on them. The show is set to continue through to the end of February. Tickets and dates here.
In language learning terms, he’s proving a point. As he said in the Q&A he gave instead of an encore, he finds the key to learning to speak a foreign language is
- total immersion
- not worrying about the grammar
- learning by heart
- simply having the courage to speak
- being under extreme pressure to actually perform before an audience with high expectations
He says sometimes he can access language at will, it all flows out of him, and sometimes he’s completely stumped.
In the interview below he somewhat surprisingly says he doesn’t think there are any cultural differences in humor. His jokes work in any language, he says. I’d agree, but isn’t that simply a measure of Britain’s lead in the world of comedy? With Britain’s history, after all, how can it not be multi- and cross-cultural?
I’ve found an illegal recording of the show from about a week ago. Judging from what I heard as compared to what the video shows, he’s already made some headway.