In his first book, Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens (Blue Rider, June), transgender comedian, actor, and writer Izzard tells his life story—beginning with the death of his beloved mother when he was six—with depth, honesty, humor, and footnotes.
You lost your mother at a young age. What role did this play in shaping the creative, self-confident, and meaningful life you’ve achieved?
More than anything else, it was the loss of her affection that affected me so deeply. I don’t feel her death caused my creativity, but my own sense of determination to succeed as a comic performer did. I had to build self-confidence in my talent. What really freed me to do my best and believe in myself was coming out as a transvestite and transgender person over 30 years ago. I was afraid to tell my father at the time, and waited a few years before I finally did. But he was accepting of the news, and today completely accepts me for who I am.
Your use of footnotes in Believe Me is unique and clever. Why use this kind of formatting rather than place the same comments more traditionally within the text?
I’m a bit of a reluctant writer, and can’t help commenting on my comments. It just worked out that way.
You’ve been open and honest about your transsexuality from the beginning of your career. Do you consider yourself a role model?
I’m a role model for myself. I don’t want to be an activist. We’ve already carved out a place in society; money spent by LGBTQ people in the U.K. is referred to as the “pink pound.” It’s almost boring at this point, and once we’ve hit boring, we’ve made it. Actually, there are fewer LGBTQ people than you’d think, although they do come from a broad cross-section of society.
On two occasions in the book you mention a desire for a career in politics. How would this manifest?
I would like to stand for member of Parliament in 2020. This is the elected half of Parliament. I’ve been a member of the Labour Party since 1995. Al Franken, the senator from Minnesota, has been my role model for this effort.
In 2015, you ran 27 marathons in 27 days in South Africa. It symbolized the number of years Nelson Mandela spent in prison, and by doing this you raised millions of dollars for the Sports Relief U.K. charity. Do you still run?
Yes, I still run marathons, and my knees are in good shape. The trick is to keep moving no matter what. I did injure myself recently when I jumped over a fence; I hurt my heel and ripped my knee up. So I had to take a break. But I’ll be running my next marathon on May 1.