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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 June, 2003, 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK
Izzard: Dressed for success
Eddie Izzard
Izzard caused a buzz without the help of television
As with many comedians and actors, Eddie Izzard has a colourful background to draw on, from his boarding school days to coming out as a cross dresser in his 20s.

BBC News Online takes a look at the rise of his career from performing on the streets of London to his Tony-nominated appearance on Broadway.

Izzard has become the British darling of stand-up comedy, theatre and film, also making the leap into the hearts of US audiences.

John Cleese even went as far as calling him "the funniest man in England".

The transfer of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg from the West End to Broadway was met with positive reviews as his "supreme confidence" on the stage shone through.

This confidence came from what he describes as a happy childhood, although he was hit by the death of his mother when he was four.

Izzard was born in Yemen in 1962 but the family soon moved to Northern Ireland, before relocating to Wales and then settling in Bexhill-on-Sea in East Sussex.

Street entertainer

He attended boarding schools, where his thirst for acting was largely ignored.

But he dropped out of college to pursue comedy - with the attitude of "I'll show 'em".

The Edinburgh Festival beckoned - the way in which many a performer has cut his or her teeth, and he also became a street entertainer in London's Covent Garden.

Eddie Izzard and Prince Charles
Izzard is a supporter of the Prince's Trust
A move in from the cold saw him become a regular at London's comedy clubs, starting a buzz about the "man who wears a dress on stage".

But despite his transvestitism his stage act rarely resorts to talking about his sexuality - instead Izzard waxes lyrical about anything and everything that takes his fancy.

After picking up a Perrier Award nomination, Izzard set his sights on putting his act on the West End stage, with a four-week run extending to 13 at the Ambassador's Theatre.

Film action

His unrelenting enthusiasm then saw him take to the road for a British tour, before returning to the West End where he performed to more than 35,000 people.

But having conquered comedy, without using television to generate interest, Izzard then wanted to enter into "serious" acting, making his 1994 debut in David Mamet's play The Cryptogram.

It was not long before the film world wanted a piece of Izzard and he appeared in a number of films on TV and the big screen, the most high-profile of which were in Brit rock flick Velvet Goldmine in 1998 and the widely-panned The Avengers.

Eddie Izzard
Izzard starred with Victoria Hamilton in A Day in the Death of Joe Egg on Broadway
But stand-up was never far from his heart and he embarked on another tour - Dressed to Kill.

He took this to the US and filmed it for a network special, for which he won an outstanding writing Emmy award.

Euro campaigner

But aside from the frivolity of comedy, Izzard is also passionate about a variety of causes.

He was compere of an Amnesty International celebration concert in 2001, highlighting the campaign to free prisoners of conscience around the world.

Another pet project is his support for Britain entering the euro - a fight that has put him up against celebrity eurosceptics including Bob Geldof. He sees the single European currency as way of bringing people together.

After more than a decade in the limelight Izzard's star continues to rise with his Tony nomination sealing his reputation as one of the most versatile performers of his generation.

Hairspray wins eight Tonys
09 Jun 03  |  Entertainment
Izzard eyes Broadway success
06 Nov 02  |  Entertainment
Tony awards: Nominations list
12 May 03  |  Entertainment
Izzard drags up for a busy year
24 Dec 02  |  Entertainment

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