Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Eddie Izzard: “If there’s something you don’t like doing and you need to do it”

By Daniel Gibson

Stand-up comedian, actor and activist Eddie Izzard speaks at Mad//Fest London 2024, giving her views and stories on the importance of social media, how adversity can and should be overcome, as well as how advertisers should approach LGBTQ+ in advertising.

Coming off the back of her highly-rated performance of Hamlet, Izzard spoke with NDA Editor Justin Pearse on how she has managed to overcome adversity in her life and gave her views on what advertisers should do in order to cater to an LGBTQ+ audience, as well as giving out advice on overcoming fear and how social media can be an incredible advancement but needs to be used carefully.

“(Social media) is not going to uninvent itself so we just need to get to a better place on it. But we can still communicate much better now,” said Izzard. “We still can have people doing communication systems so that we can have operations happening around the world. You can help someone save a life around the world and you can unfortunately also help someone make a bomb around the world, you know? So the trouble is the light and dark with social media and communication systems. How we take them forward in this century is going to help us either get to the next century or say goodbye to humanity.”

Excelling despite dyslexia

The talk started with Izzard providing a unique point of view on how her dyslexia has been very positive to her career, stating that, “I think my dyslexia has been a help to the way I think. I think sideways, but I think I might have quite a high functioning dyslexia. I’m severely dyslexic.” Going on to explain how she realised that she had dyslexia and how it had affected her as a child, she spoke about how she didn’t let her dyslexia get the better of her and how she trained herself to use it in order to be more creative.

Izzard went on to talk about how determination is one of the most important traits that someone can have, and how you should pursue your goals and keep at it, otherwise you’ll stay stagnant in your position – be it in business or general in life, you shouldn’t let any opportunities pass by.

“Determination is more important than raw talent. We all knew someone at school when you were younger, who you thought, ‘that person is going to go on. That boy, that girl is going to go on and do things.’ but if they don’t have the determination on top of it and really work at it, that rough diamond talent won’t turn into a fully fledged diamond.” 

Izzard later reflected on impostor syndrome, stating that she doesn’t suffer from it and, in fact, will always be seeking out a way to do more if possible. 

“I don’t get impostor syndrome, it doesn’t happen. I rarely get to a place where anyone wants to, you know, no one’s offering me anything. I’m just saying fuck you, I’m gonna do it. And so I like me for that. It’s a terrier-like approach, I am an eternal bastard, I just keep going.”

Highlighting this, Izzard went on to talk about her performance of Hamlet, and how she “split the critics in London, but we were loved in New York, Loved in Chicago and nominated for outstanding performance. But you know, I said, we didn’t design the show for critics, we designed it for the people, and the people really loved it.” Even when faced with adversity from critics, she still carried on to perform, doing shows in other countries and not letting language barriers become a hindrance.

“Improvising French is fucking amazing. And if no one is impressed by that I am.”

Getting representation right

Izzard later discussed the role advertisers have in maintaining a positive view of the LGBTQ+ community, while navigating the fact that not everybody will agree with the message. 

“I’d say stay strong as it definitely helps LGBTQ+. I am a trans person, we do exist. I’m not making this up… Just play it carefully. The right wing are going to try and twist it, people who hate it are going to try and twist and make it into a political thing.”

Izzard went on to discuss how humour is used within advertising and how it has generally improved over time, highlighting that ads using humour in clever and inventive ways are more likely to have a greater impact on an audience.

“I think it’s got better. It was more mainstream before and now it seems more nuanced, Alternative, off-beat, off-the-wall. And if someone does an advert that is weird and wacky, that’s more likely to go viral.”

Overcoming your fears

Izzard went on to talk about her fear of flying and how she was able to overcome it by attaining a pilot’s licence, urging the audience to do whatever it is that scares them and to do it again and again, as “(Your mental health is) going to be better.”

“And so I was scared of flying because I would throw up a lot when I was a kid. I suffer from motion sickness, and I just thought if I learn to fly, that would be great. And so I’d say to you, if there’s anything that you usually fear, say public speaking comes up a lot. The way to get good at public speaking is to do a lot of public speaking. So, all I can say to you here is not what you probably want to hear. If there’s something you don’t like doing and you need to do it. You know, if it’s good for your business, do as much of it as you can, it will get better, it does get easier. So move towards what scares you.”

She later went on to talk about being her own role model in her work, saying that, “I try to do things that make me go who the fuck did that? I did that!” and how she wants to continue to live a positive life and carry that with her as she goes into politics.

“I was lucky because I have a natural sense of business so I could take a risk with my career, which most people wouldn’t do. But I tried to live a positive life and do things that I want to take into politics, because I think I can help people go forward in politics. I just don’t have a seat yet, but I will keep going until I get it. So that’s my plan.”