Books: Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard

In 2000, my then fiancĂ© and I were visiting my parents, and my dad said, "Oh, have you seen this guy?" And he turned on Dress to Kill. Besides loving the comedy routine, I remember being blown away that my dad—a very conservative man—was kind of fine watching a transvestite. I had to wonder whether being funny somehow excused what would otherwise bother my father, or if maybe there were things (in Dad's philosophy) that were okay for transvestites? Or maybe Dad just thought it was part of the act?

We've never talked about it, so I still don't know.

But at that point I fell in love with Eddie Izzard's comedy. My husband and I have since seen him live a number of times for Sexie, Stripped, some new material he was just trying out, and Force Majeure. We pretty much try to see him whenever he's in the area (first when we lived in Boston, now out in San Francisco).

Look, I grew up with British comedy, so that's probably a large part of my enjoyment of Izzard's work. He speaks repeatedly in Believe Me about his being influenced by Monty Python, and I grew up watching Monty Python (and Fawlty Towers, Are You Being Served? 'Allo 'Allo!, Keeping Up Appearances, some weird show called Mulberry that I sometimes think I dreamed up . . . the list goes on). So I think Eddie and I have some similar tastes, you know, we jibe. So that's cool.

All this to give you a sense of why I wanted to read this book.

It's definitely Eddie Izzard writing. Even with a co-writer credited, this is his voice, and there didn't seem to be much buffing of it. In fact, there were several places where I thought it needed another editing and proofreading pass. But that's fine, no big deal, and they'll probably fix it in the paperback.

You get the definite sense that Izzard struggles a bit with opening himself up. But at the same time, he seems fairly self-aware and introspective. He goes through the major events of his life (starting with his mother's death when he was six) and discusses how he felt then and what he thinks about it now. The gist of the book is about how persistence pays off, or at least it did for him. How being stubborn and determined is basically how he got where he is today. And he talks about the circumstances that shaped him, and of course about coming out and how he dealt with that and continues to deal with various reactions from people.

The book actually made for a very good conversation with my 9-year-old daughter. She saw the cover and asked, "Is that a boy or a girl?" Which gave me the perfect opportunity to explain gender fluidity. We talked about all the different ways people might feel about their bodies, like maybe they were meant to be a different gender and might want to change their bodies or at least dress differently. I think it was a productive discussion.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, though it made me kind of sad in thinking about my own attempts to succeed. Which I think is the opposite reaction Izzard might've wanted, but . . . Well, I won't go into it. Long story short, it's a nice read, and I look forward to the next time he's in town.

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