Eddie Izzard is to decamp to France. The comedian known for his surreal skits and slinky skirts is to move to Paris for three months from next April to perform a one-man show in French. Izzard said the project reflected his support for greater European unity.
"I want to play for the French," he told The Independent. "I'm very positive on European politics and I'm putting my money where my mouth is. We just need to be a big melting-pot because we are all the same humans around the world."
The Paris residency will involve Izzard performing a French version of last year's show Stripped for six nights a week for 12 weeks. "I suppose it will be called Sans Vetements, or I might call it by the French slang name for Stripped."
The flamboyant comic is known for setting himself demanding challenges, such as running 43 marathons in 51 days last year for the charity Sport Relief. "I will do about two-and-a-half weeks of previews, then I'll do a press night and after two months I should be doing stuff that really is – if not like a French guy doing it – something that is entertaining and that any French speaker can hopefully get," he said.
In spite of calls for a European referendum in Britain, Izzard claimed not to be angered by Eurosceptics. "I think it's understandable if you look at history," he said. "We were Mercia and Wessex and the east Saxons and someone said there should be one England ("Oh no, surely not") and there were England-sceptics at that time and pro-Mercians and those that said we can't have Cornwall separating off. Then we came together. It's what we do as humans to try to get to a place where we can have a fairer world for everyone."
Izzard, 48, made his first attempts at performing in French more than a decade ago and some of his early efforts are featured in Believe, an Emmy-nominated biographical film released as a DVD next week. In the film, Izzard is shown bravely trying to win over a Paris club audience in Franglais. He will prepare for his residency with intense French tuition. "I did two weeks of gigs 10 years ago and I haven't been back," he said. "This time I'm going for three months. I've got management but it's very difficult to persuade anyone to help me in Paris because they were saying this isn't going to work. It's like a play sitting down. I'm just going to stay in Paris, playing six gigs a week for three months."
If the project is a success, Izzard, furthering his Europhile credentials, will attempt to perform in German for the Germans. "The point is that if Paris works then it means the others can work," he said. "People say there's a French sense of humour but that I don't believe. I just believe there is mainstream and alternative humour in every country. I'm going to do this and when I do it the floodgates will open." It could be something of a trend. Another British comedian, Al Murray, recently took his Little Englander alter ego the Pub Landlord to the ski resort of Meribel and performed his act in his brushed-up GCSE French.
Izzard has broader linguistic ambitions. Born in Aden in Yemen to ex-patriate parents, he hankers to learn Arabic. "You could go to Lebanon and do gigs in English, French or Arabic," he said.