Those who know me know I am not about meeting famous people. I am about meeting and, if at all possible, thanking people who have made a difference in my life, and people I powerfully identify with, feel a kinship with. There are now three famous people who fall into that category: Bruce Springsteen, President Obama and now, comedian and actor Eddie Izzard, the latter being someone I’ve only recently learned about, thanks to Emily, a remarkable 24-year-old woman who is like a daughter to me.
Emily showed me a couple of clips of Eddie Izzard on YouTube and I was instantly smitten. Izzard is a remarkable comedian and, as he would say, a card carrying transvestite. Frankly, I don’t know how anyone can watch his performances, listen to his interviews, watch the documentary “Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story” and not love the man. Who he is is fully present. He has the courage to be who he is, and that, to me, is what it is about for each of us; giving ourselves permission to be who we are. Millions grow up being told, in one way or another, that there is something wrong with who they are and so they should be someone else. Bullshit. My friend Dave Listowski has the best retort for that: Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.
In his performances Izzard displays a remarkable ability to take the every day of things, peel back the layers, and show us more, or show us what we already know in a way that is, well, brand new. His bit on computers is funny as hell and then some.
In the documentary about his life you discover that a truly loving heart beats within this man. There is a deep compassion for others as well as a remarkable level of self-awareness. It is not easy for most to be who they are openly and Izzard is a role model for anyone struggling with that challenge.
There is a deeply poignant moment in the movie where he talks about the death of his mother when he was five. Others have written about this moment, though I think sometimes they are so hell-bent on using tabloid phrasing they miss the breathtaking fearlessness of Izzard’s openness. He is talking about recently reading a letter his mother, Dorothy, wrote after she knew she was sick. In it she expressed her desire that Eddie and his brother and father be settled in their new home, the boys in school. It is in this moment that tears slip from Izzard’s eyes. “I keep thinking that if I do all these things, and keep going and going, then… she’ll come back" And now the tears are pouring from my eyes because I have for so long hoped (hoped!) that if I was just a good enough boy out here in the world my father, who died when I was 15, would come back and never had I heard someone voice the same thing, though I am sure many feel the same thing.
Now some in the tabloid species said he broke down, one said he burst into tears. Again, bullshit. He was fully present, fully in touch with his love for his mother along with the pulsing internal ache one feels when they are feeling the loss of a loved one.
As for his being a card carrying transvestite? Rock on, my brother. I hope some day we meet. If you want to see your mother, find a mirror, look closely, you will see the warmth of her heart looking right back at you.