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Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Humor (2017)
Critically acclaimed, award-winning British comedian and actor Eddie Izzard details his childhood, his first performances on the streets of London, his ascent to worldwide success on stage and screen, and his comedy shows which have won over audiences around the world.

Over the course of a thirty-year career, Eddie Izzard has proven himself to be a creative chameleon, inhabiting the stage and film and television screen with an unbelievable fervor. Born in Yemen, and raised in Ireland, Wales and post-war England, he lost his mother at the age of six. In his teens, he dropped out of university and took to the streets of London as part of a two-man escape act; when his partner went on vacation, Izzard kept busy by inventing a one-man act, and thus a career was ignited. As a stand-up comedian, Izzard has captivated audiences with his surreal, stream-of-consciousness comedy--lines such as "Cake or Death?" "Death Star Canteen," and "Do You Have a Flag?" have the status of great rock lyrics. As a self-proclaimed "Executive Transvestite," Izzard broke the mold performing in full make-up and heels, and has become as famous for his advocacy for LGBT rights as he has for his art. In Believe Me, he recounts the dizzying rise he made from street busking to London's West End, to Wembley Stadium and New York's Madison Square Garden.

Still performing more than 100 shows a year--thus far in a record-breaking twenty-eight countries worldwide--Izzard is arguably one of today's top Kings of Comedy. With his brand of keenly intelligent humor, that ranges from world history to pop culture, politics and philosophy, he has built an extraordinary fan base that transcends age, gender, and race. Writing with the same candor and razor-sharp insight evident in his comedy, he reflects on a childhood marked by unutterable loss, sexuality and coming out, as well as a life in show business, politics, and philanthropy. Honest and generous, Izzard's Believe Me is an inspired account of a very singular life thus far.

15 pages, Audio CD

First published June 6, 2017

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About the author

Eddie Izzard

19 books348 followers
Edward John "Eddie" Izzard is an English stand-up comedian, actor, writer, activist and aspiring politician. She had popular roles in the television series The Riches and Hannibal and starred in multiple films.

In 2009, she completed 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief despite having no prior history of long-distance running. She has won numerous awards including a Primetime Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for her comedy special Dress to Kill, in 2000.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,643 reviews
Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
801 reviews2,521 followers
April 15, 2022
Don't read this book--LISTEN TO THE AUDIOBOOK! Eddie Izzard reads his book in a very personal way, and while I haven't seen the hard-copy book, I cannot imagine it coming close to his own narration. And, I doubt that Izzard is reading it in a straight-forward manner. So much of it sounds like on-the-spot improvisation.

Is the book humorous? At times it is hilarious, while at other times it is dead serious. Eddie Izzard describes his life, especially his early life in some detail. Half of the book is devoted to the portion of his life from age 6 to his leaving the university. I am not sure if he personally remembers all those details--probably he got most of them from his older brother and his father.

Izzard's mother died at the age of six, and it left him with an indelible mark on his own life. Then, since his father traveled a great deal for his job, Eddie and his brother Mark were enrolled in a boarding school.

Izzard's life-long goal was to become an actor, which gradually morphed into a career as a stand-up comedian. You can see videos of his acts on Youtube. He is very funny. But it did not come naturally to him. It took many years for him to discover his voice, to gain confidence, and to learn how to make people laugh. It's not easy. The main theme of the book is really his motto, "Aim for the stars, and reach the moon." His lesson here is to aim for your passion in life, and to be persistent, not to give up. You can only reach your goal if you engage your passion and try hard.

[Footnote: Eddie Izzard is a very interesting character. He has a gentle, very moral heart. He always tries to find the good in people, and rarely challenges them for their ugly talk or deeds. (Except for a few truly evil people, like Hitler.) Also, Izzard is transgender; he came out at the age of 23, and it was the hardest thing he ever did in his life. Even though he is British, he is enamored with NASA and the space program. Landing a man on the moon is a frequent theme in the book. I highly recommend his memoirs to be listened to, as an audiobook. It is so different from any of the hundreds of audiobooks I have listened to, it is a joy! Footnote to the footnote: The book is full to the brim with footnotes. In fact, sometimes they swamp the narrative, but they contain some of the most interesting material. End of footnote.]
Profile Image for Melki.
5,674 reviews2,324 followers
June 11, 2018
Yeah, I know it says memoir right there in the title, but I somehow thought this was going to be a bunch of rants and clever observations . . . much like Izzard's comedy act. Never did I dream that it was going to be an actual memoir, and never did I dream that it would plod along chronologically, from birth to school days to adulthood . . . and, oh MY GOD, was it ever DULL!

I think Eddie's biggest mistake was starting at the beginning, and spending way too much of the book detailing his younger years. I've just finished a much better memoir - Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot - in which John Callahan begins with the major event in his life - becoming a paraplegic, and only includes a brief mention of his childhood.

Izzard probably should have started with the transgender business, and kept his youthful anecdotes to a minimum. Face it, unless you had very colorful parents like the author of The Glass Castle, most childhoods are fairly similar. I was much more interested in the adult Eddie than boarding school/football-playing Eddie.

Plus, a good rant every now and then might have helped.

Sorry, Eddie. I love your live shows, and I'm a big fan of your work in movies and on television, but your life, so far, has not been much of a page turner. Here's wishing you another fifty or so years to clomp around in heels. May you be happy, healthy, and amazing . . . but please don't feel that you need to write another memoir.
Profile Image for Antigone.
494 reviews732 followers
August 23, 2017
At the tail end of filming a documentary on his career, Mr. Izzard's director observed with interest that, for all his verbal dexterity, he never really "said" anything. This insight caught his attention. As the cameras began to roll again, up bubbled the hidden suspicion that his drive to succeed was largely fueled by the hope that this might bring his mother back to life. The revelation surprised no one more than he, and served to seed the idea of writing this memoir. In it, he goes to great pains to set his performing nature to the side and for the first time speak genuinely about the long road it's been for him and how much effort it's taken to become one of the top comedians of his generation.

For those who remain unaware of the work of Eddie Izzard, and happened to have missed his HBO special, Dressed to Kill, I envy you. There is a wickedly intelligent gem of a performance waiting on your horizon that I thoroughly encourage you to experience. There is not much in this world that will set me to smiling broadly, alone, in front of a television screen. And then to laugh aloud...and laugh aloud again. He did this. And it was glorious.

From the book:

When we want to learn something now, we just go to the Internet and type in: I want to learn about soup in Afghanistan. And it gives you all the soup variations in Afghanistan. If you remember the early search engines, like, say, Alta Vista, then you know that when you'd type something in like Soup in Afghanistan, it would show you porn, porn, porn, etc. And you'd go, "No, I was after soup in Afghanistan." Porn. Naked men, women, porn nakedness? "Nope, just soup, mainly in Afghanistan." You couldn't use words; you just had to say, Soup. Afghanistan. Not porn. As soon as you said "not porn" it would say: Ah, you meant porn. Afghanistan porn. Soup porn. They must have just put the entire dictionary into their search request. Anyone who wanted to look for trousers - porn, go to the moon - porn. These porn people will attach the word porn to anything to make money.

Actually, mentioning the word porn here is interesting, because in the old days, whenever you said you were transgender, other people felt you were essentially saying you were pornographic. Perversion was implied and assumed - and that's what I, and everyone else who has come out with any kind of alternative sexuality, have had to deal with. We've all had to fight these negative words and say, "No, actually - member of society."

If there's a more incisive way to illustrate the cultural squeeze-play that keeps people in the closet - I haven't come across it.

This memoir is incredibly earnest, occasionally funny, and filled with heart. It's so easy to be generous with him. And I suspect that's because he's gone out of his way to be generous with me.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
180 reviews25 followers
May 12, 2017
I didn't know much about Eddie Izzard prior to reading this, other than seeing a couple of his stand- up specials & some interviews about the marathons for charity. He's a very funny guy in his shows, but he obviously takes writing his memoir very seriously. This should definitely be shelved in the "memoir/autobiography" category and not in the "humor" section because he talks about some very serious subject matter. I have not seen the documentary he mentions with the same title as this book, but I'm very interested in seeing it now. I got the impression that the book complements the documentary and gives more information about some of the scenes from the film. There are times when the book feels repetitive (we get it, Eddie, you're an atheist!) And he writes with his characteristic humor, but it's more serious than funny, really. He comes across as genuinely motivated to try and make the world a better place and leave it better than he found it. It's inspiring to read about his accomplishments at a time when most of us don't actively fight for what we believe in after a long day of being a cog in the machine of our life. There weren't as many laugh out loud moments as I had hoped, but I'm not really disappointed as I think he has a great message and hope readers will take it to heart.

I received a free advance copy of this book through Penguin's First to read program in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Danielle.
791 reviews387 followers
February 8, 2021
2017 F.A.B. Bookclub pick # I.❤️. F.A.B.

Ramble, ramble, ramble... footnotes galore. I don't know if I would have enjoyed this as much, had I not listened to it.
Profile Image for Christine.
6,550 reviews473 followers
May 31, 2017
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

Back when BBC America show actually British shows instead of movies and Star Trek, I saw my first Eddie Izzard show.

He made me laugh so hard.

To call this book a straight forward autobiography or memoir is slightly incorrect. While the progression in the work is somewhat linear, there are digressions, and in some places, you go two steps back after one step forward.

This doesn’t mean the book is bad. It isn’t. In fact, it is like Izzard is there talking just to you. So, it is really nice.

The other thing is that Izzard is not one of those stars who celebrate or shoves his celebrity in his face. He does not make himself sound extra special or anything like that. He is, in fact, every day, everybody. So, when he discusses his struggles to come to terms with himself, to find himself, to succeed, he is in many ways just like you. Look, I don’t know what it is like to be transgender or TV as Eddie Izzard calls it. Yet, for a straight woman who doesn’t like to wear heels, there is much here. Izzard’s writing lacks that self-inflation that sometimes infuses memoirs. In part, the book feels like he is still trying to figure himself out, and on another level, it gives me the same feeling that reading Pancakes in Paris did. Everyone struggles to discover who they are and make peace with it. Most struggles are different yet similarly. (Yes, I know it is oxymoron).

There are funny insights here too – for instance “Wasps are actually like The Borg from Star Trek” or how real football is more American than people think it is. “Stinging nettles are the Nazis of the weed world”.

And he is so right about warm milk. Warm milk is just wrong in so many different ways.

And Mr. Izzard, you are not the only vomiter, just saying.

The book isn’t just humor – though Izzard’s humor is on full display, it is full of introspection and touching passages. When Izzard discusses his relationship to his step-mother, in particular his attending concerts with her, the emotion shines though. It is a rather intimate and touching story.

Even if you are not an Eddie Izzard fan (and you should be), you will enjoy this touching memoir.

Profile Image for Faith.
1,822 reviews499 followers
May 16, 2017
I'm not a big fan of memoirs or autobiographies. For the most part, I don't really care about anyone else's childhood memories, but this book is a memoir by one of my favorite comedians, so I had hopes for it. Unfortunately I didn't love it. Mr. Izzard has had a really interesting life and I admire his sincerity and willingness to share, but this book just isn't edited very well. I'm sure the author thinks that it is organized, but it isn't. His rambling works very well in his comedy act, but not in this book.

The book covers his childhood, in which the most profound event was the death of his mother from cancer when he was six. "I loved that time—before Mum died. Everything after it was different, and not as good, as if it all happened in a different color." After her death he and his older brother were sent to boarding schools, but he maintained a close relationship with his father. Eddie describes himself, in both the book and his shows, as an "action transvestite" with a wish to express his feminine side. However, most often he refers to himself now as transgender, and about 20% of the book deals with how he handled being transgender and coming out to his family, friends and audiences. That part of the book might be of help to other transgender people, but mostly I think this book is for his fans.

If you are familiar with Eddie Izzard's work you can hear his voice in your head as you read the book and some of it is amusing, but I don't know what anyone unfamiliar with him would make of this book. The book didn't need to be funny, but it shouldn't have been dull and repetitive. There were footnotes on almost every page which were distracting and awkward and mostly unnecessary. Unfortunately, I found much of the book boring, like the part about teaching himself to play the piano. He also has a tendency to treat readers like we are really dumb and explains too much, in footnotes or parentheticals, when the meaning of a term is perfectly clear from the context . The parts of the book that I liked best were those about his career.

He's a standup comedian, actor, pilot and activist who ran 27 marathons in 27 days (including 2 marathons on a single day) for charity. He has a very positive outlook and his message in general is "do more than you think you can do". I'm sure I'd like him very much if I met him and I'm sorry that I didn't enjoy the book more.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Profile Image for Erica.
1,315 reviews432 followers
June 11, 2018
In this book, Eddie Izzard says he was never successfully able to see a counselor.
I sort of feel the audiobook, in all its train-of-thought, rambling glory, is his first therapy visit.
I am not sure whether or not it would be ok to bill him for the session.

Cecily introduced me to Eddie Izzard sometime in the early 2000's, I think. I'd only heard snippets on the radio prior to finding her stack of Izzard DVDs on my desk and a note telling me to watch them. Well, probably suggesting I would enjoy them if I watched them because Cecily is not bossy like I am.
At any rate, it would have been impossible for me not to fall absolutely in love with this guy. He's hilarious and just off-kilter enough to be charming but not so much to be alarming. Like, I don't feel he'd poison a town to exact revenge, or anything. At least, I didn't after watching those DVDs. I can't say I still feel as confident in that statement today.

I want to suggest not listening to him reading his own book but at the same time, I can't imagine reading this book without his vocal assistance, so much would go missing in translation.
Listening to his version, though, means another rambling story tacked on to every page. He just goes to town with his recollections and addendums and footnotes and no one stops him. No one has edited these bits out. Some of them are entertaining or informative or interesting but more of them repeat things he's already said or they don't have anything to do with the anecdote at hand. It's quirky at first but it becomes burdensome quickly. Listening to this is akin to meeting up with your favorite uncle from childhood, the one you thought was the most fantastic person in the world, and then finding out, through hours upon hours of him only talking about himself, that he's actually a bit unhinged and that your adult views do not align and now you will be sure to avoid this creepy uncle in the future.

Yes. Creepy.
This guy is a creep.
He tells a black woman that her experiences with racism should make her more compassionate toward his experiences as transgender (he identifies as transgender and uses male pronouns for himself which is why I am using male pronouns for him. Also, in his lexicon, transgender and transvestite mean the same thing) which is not ok. A white guy wearing makeup and heels in public does not experience the same threat level aimed at him as does a black woman being black and female in public.

He tells a story about how his stepmother, a woman with whom he had a strained relationship (that's putting it kindly. They didn't like each other) confronted him about her re-arranged bras and he denied having anything to do with it but then turns around and confesses that he would put on her bras when he knew she'd be out of the house for at least half an hour. I mean, if they would have had a solid relationship full of trust and affection, it wouldn’t have been a thing but they didn’t like each other and it’s more than rude that he’d adjust her bras to fit him when he couldn’t stand her, it’s creepy and maybe slightly vindictive.

And he makes a schizophrenic joke because he didn't get the memo that we're not making jokes about disorders anymore unless we have the disorder, ourselves.

And he said he wanted to dress in feminine clothing for all the same reasons a teenage girl wants to wear feminine clothing only I'm not so sure he knows why teenage girls want to wear lipstick and heels nor does he understand the pervasive sexualization of the female body and how that differs from personal style choices.

There were many other things that gave me squeebie weebies but there's no need to go on, I already sound petty enough as it is.

My overall reaction:
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Profile Image for SUSAN   *Nevertheless,she persisted*.
501 reviews97 followers
September 17, 2017
More then likely my fault,but I went into this book with so many expectations and I am afraid they weren't met. I found this book without direction,rambling,slow-moving and I am sorry to say, boring.
Wouldn't recommend.
Profile Image for Krista.
1,350 reviews516 followers
May 2, 2017
This is where I exist in society. I am just this guy. I am transgender, and I exist. But I also do comedy, and I do drama, and I run marathons for charity, and I'm an activist in politics. These are the things I do. How you self-identify with your sexuality matters not one wit. What you do in life – what you do to add to the human existence – that is what matters. That is the beautiful thing.

Despite protesting that he's had a basically boring life with moments that were “windswept and interesting” (pace Billy Connolly), Eddie Izzard's story seems ripe for exploration: He lost his Mum when he was young; was sent (unhappily) to boarding school; spent a decade “in the wilderness” trying to carve out a creative niche; built his stand-up into a world-wide phenomenon; has succeeded in dramatic film and television acting (his first love and childhood ambition); has raised millions of dollars for charity with his marathon running; all while having the courage to express what he calls his “alternative sexuality” (described as an “action transvestite”; a full man with half a girl thrown in; able to switch from “girl mode” to “boy mode” and attracted to women, he's essentially a male lesbian). Nothing about this is “basically boring” but his memoir, Believe Me, kind of is. I was pleased to have received an ARC of this book (so quotes may not be in their final forms) and I suppose there's hope that some parts will be tightened up before publication. As is, it was just okay.

As a professional storyteller, I expected Izzard to be able to translate the spoken word onto the page, but I had so many problems with his writing. This is a representative example of a frequently dull and meandering style:

I took grades six and seven on the clarinet, and ended up with grade eight merits. You could get a pass or a merit or a distinction, but I never got a distinction because my sight-reading was so crap. I hammered my way up these endless grades playing music that really didn't interest me at any time, though the occasional Mozart clarinet concerto was quite beautiful and created a wonderful sound even if I was making it. If you watch Out of Africa you can hear Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A Major, which is beautiful. Even the animals think so. I think I could play that now and achieve a more beautiful sound, because you have to put emotion into it and I feel that I can now play with emotion. I even listened to a recording of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A Major in the mornings in Africa when I was there running my marathons in 2016.

More issues: Izzard frequently repeats himself about peripheral details – he writes again about listening to this Mozart concerto during his later chapter on the South African marathons – and these don't serve as comedic call-backs (if that was his aim?), they just made me sigh, “Yes, I remember you saying that. And that.” He uses far too many distracting footnotes that either tell a related story that could have found a spot in the body of the book, or he defines words that don't need defining, even on this side of the pond (“wee” means little and “gigs” means shows; really?). Related to this point, he writes that when he first came out to a friend, her reaction was “cool (positive)”: if he felt the need to define which meaning of “cool” he was using, why didn't he use a better word in the first place? Izzard writes early that he knows there is no God – I have no issue with that – and then he makes frequent reference to God (or rather “god” since he writes that he refuses to capitalise the name of something that doesn't exist) simply to reinforce his nonexistence. Writing over and over “Thank god (except there is no god)...” just comes off as childish in the end. Also strange: There's a chapter on Izzard's mental image of the universe (it's an expanding sphere(ish), so that if you headed off in any direction and had infinite time, you'd end up back where you started; it eliminates the need for borders to the universe and erases that place where god might exist), and this feels so out of place in a memoir, so self-important and pleased with its own cleverness, that it comes off as sophomoric. And a last note: I understand that Izzard is a globalist – he has performed stand-up in French and German in order to eliminate cultural barriers – and that he has worked to oppose war-mongering nationalism, but I take issue with him describing Brexit and the election of Trump as acts of “hate”. Izzard might consider that the same free and liberal society that has allowed him to safely walk around in a skirt and heels might feel threatened by an influx of people who would fight to eliminate that liberty; there are certainly places in Britain, France, and Germany where he wouldn't be safe expressing himself today (not to mention his birthplace in Yemen).

So, to the skirt and heels bit. I absolutely believe that it took immeasurable courage for Izzard to begin openly expressing his sexuality back in the '80s, and he does a great job of linking his successful coming out to his successes in other areas of his life (he has always imagined the most impossible thing and then went ahead and did it; who would even imagine running 43 marathons in 51 days [in middle age] on five weeks of training?). And while Izzard doesn't owe me any more explanation of “action transvestism” than he feels like offering, I simply would have benefited from more. He writes that despite there being no current scientific proof, he believes his desire to wear skirts and heels is genetic – but don't call that a genetic predisposition to dressing like a woman; he considers the actual clothing and makeup to be gender-neutral (like trousers and jeans for women). And this despite his girl mode/boy mode days and feeling like a lesbian; him using “transvestite” and “transgender” interchangeably; if he is expressing something gender-neutral, why does he consider himself to be part of the LGBT community? I entered this with a positive heart (as Izzard requests) and a desire to understand, so if I leave without understanding, I think the fault must lie with the writing.

In the end, I don't think that Believe Me is particularly well written, and despite Izzard protesting in the beginning that he doesn't think of his life as all that interesting, he seems to have focussed his memoir on the boring bits; gliding over the “windswept and interesting”. It's always rewarding to see how much time and hard work it takes for an artist to become an overnight success, so there's definitely value here, but I'm considering these three stars a rounding up.
Profile Image for Sara .
1,414 reviews155 followers
December 12, 2017
I listened to this almost every morning I took my 14 year old son to school. It took us a few months to get through it but the experience was worth it.

Having Eddie read his very personal book to me was amazing. I loved that his humor came through as he read and as he gave us extra long footnotes. The footnotes may be my favorite or the fact that he would google things live while he read to make sure he had information right.

I've been a fan of Eddie Izzard for years and have seen his comedy live which is nothing but pure hilarity and delight. The man is highly intelligent, humble and stunning with how he performs.

This book was so many things but bittersweet is the first thing that comes to mind. I know there are events in ones life that can shape our future indefinitely and for Eddie is was the passing of his mother from cancer when he was just a small boy. The effect it had on him as a child losing his mum and the effect it has had on him through his entire life broke my heart. It's never easy getting over the death of a parent at any age, I still have moments of extreme grief having lost my father 20 years ago.

But while this was bittersweet it was beautiful to hear the man tell us his story; as a boy through boarding school, how he left uni and the pursuit of an accounting degree, how he found comedy and worked his way through street performing and beyond, how he realized he was transgender - his coming out - his insane drive to run 27 marathons in 27 days, becoming a political activist and all the personal history that builds the character of the man who makes me laugh like no other.

I had many moments that brought tears to my eyes from an experience he shared because I got it. I got it and it made me pause for a moment and think how basic human beings are with what they need and want in life. I'm not talking monetarily or who dies with the most toys wins, I am talking about the basic human need to be loved and wanted. To know that someone out there would miss you if you left and that you make a difference in someone's life. It was sad to know Eddie still struggles with his personal relationships but refreshing that he totally owns up to all of it.

I never did find out what a Jazz Chicken was, other than that beginning deal with him being silly about it. I will just imagine a smoky dark club with chickens on stage via Gonzo from the Muppets playing me some jazz while maybe Rizzo and the rats snap their fingers...paws...toes? Whatever. I digress.

This was a great listen and I have the book as well so all the pictures were a treat to see.
Profile Image for Bill.
893 reviews160 followers
September 16, 2017
I've been fortunate enough to meet the wonderful Eddie Izzard a couple of times. The first occasion was at a stand up gig in his very early days. He was so unknown that only three people (including myself!) stayed behind to meet him afterwards.
I only went to see him when a friend of mine said "Do you want to come to a gig to see a transvestite comedian ? The first time I saw him he was wearing a taffeta ball gown. He's really funny." And with those unforgettable words I was introduced to the world of Eddie Izzard. Thanks, Mark, I'll always appreciate it.
I read Izzard's first autobiography (Dressed To Kill) way back in 1998 and found it very entertaining, so I was really looking forward to this one. Believe Me opens with a lot of chapters devoted to his early childhood memories & many of these are fairly serious though quite engrossing.
Unfortunately this book never really gripped me as much as I hoped it would. He's certainly a very interesting person & has done some amazing things in his life, but sadly this autobiography is decidedly average.
Profile Image for Amy the book-bat.
2,089 reviews
July 3, 2017
I enjoy Eddie Izzard's stand-up comedy and was interested to learn more about him and his art. Listening to this memoir as an audio being read by the author is an interesting journey. He adds a lot of "footnotes" that have a tendency to take him offtrack. A few times I thought a better title for the book would have been Footnotes. I am now curious to see the differences between the print and the audio versions.
Profile Image for Alex in Spades.
842 reviews34 followers
October 16, 2021
I loved Eddie since my older brother showed me one of his stand-up sketches on youtube, and from that moment I wanted to know more about this awesome human being. I love his comedy, his crazy/abstract sense of humor is totally up my alley, I also this that he's amazing for his charity work, and just being this great positive person.
Profile Image for Patrick.
14 reviews5 followers
February 17, 2018
Oh my, where do I start? First, I’m a big Eddie fan and I have been for years, but I listened to this on audiobook and it was probably the worst audiobook that I’ve ever experienced. The thoughtless rambling, and constant footnotes were excruciatingly painful. Sometimes he’d start into some weird story and I didn’t even know if it were part of the book anymore, and after 30 seconds of madness, he’d say “oh, that was a footnote there”. I mean, what the??? When he was reading the book and staying on track, it was great, but it wouldn’t last for maybe more than a minute and I’d get hit with another useless footnote. I have a signed copy of the actual book, so I may catch back up there. I stopped at chapter 9 because I couldn’t take the insanity much longer. It was to the point that I actually started to hate my drive to and from work because I kept giving the audiobook a chance, only to be let down again and again. Why I went so long, I’m still trying to figure that out. I’m guessing because I’m a fan, but for Pete’s sake, enough was enough...
Profile Image for Chris Steeden.
427 reviews
August 9, 2019
I have seen Eddie Izzard many times. The first show though was Definite Article in Oxford so he had been going a while before then. There was one time where the finishing touches were being put to his Glorious DVD and they just needed some more shots of him and the audience. There was a tiny snippet in the London Evening Standard to come along to the Hammersmith Odeon and be part of it one morning. We went along. I was working just round the corner from there at the time. It was fantastic and I was able to grab a few words with Eddie. Nice chap he was too.

He has been uproariously funny but there was a time when he had a dip. Just my opinion of course. We bought a DVD of his (I think it was Stripped) after he got really huge and did not laugh once. Then we went again to a show a couple of years ago and he was back on form. We were at Cliveden recently which is where the Profumo scandal all started and this book was in the secondhand bookshop there.

I read the paperback version and the footnote text was tiny. I had to put it right up to my Serious Readers light. This probably says more about my eyesight though.

What of the book then? It’s OK. Solid enough. If you are looking for a comedic autobiography then this is not it. It is a fairly straightforward re-telling of Eddie’s life from the start until 2017 with some of his observations on the universe and god. I knew most of the information so there was not much that was new to me. It flowed well and was a nice easy read. Some readers could gobble this book up very quickly.

That being the case it gets an average 3 stars. I listened to the Joe Rogan podcast with Eddie after finishing this book which was a good accompaniment.
Profile Image for Bridget.
1,138 reviews72 followers
March 9, 2019
I've always liked Eddie Izzard's rambling style of stand-up and enjoyed movies he has acted in. When I saw this audio book was available I hoped I'd enjoy it, especially as it is read by the author. The audiobook is different to the printed book, Eddie goes off piste a lot, looking things up on the interned, chatting with the listener rather than sticking to the script. There are footnotes galore and it does feel like quite a personal experience as he tells you of his childhood, the sadness of his mum dying when he was little, packed off to boarding school at 6 with his little brother while his dad worked overseas, his life has had lots of complications and sadnesses. Eddie is nothing if not tenacious though, he wanted a life on the stage from a very early age and he has made that happen. This is the story of how he made it happen even though he was rejected and struggled to make a name for himself.

Along with his struggle to get known for his craft, there is his sexuality. I loved the way he talked about this, frank and straight up, Eddie is a brilliant advocate for himself and for his community.

This is long and rambley and at times not very cohesive but I really enjoyed it. What a guy, he has done so much and stuck to who he is and what he believes in and is often hilarious. Loved it.
Profile Image for Jazzy Lemon.
738 reviews91 followers
November 14, 2022
From such sad beginnings, Eddie has also had such a beautiful life. Thank you so much for sharing Mr. Izzard.

If any of you feel inclined to read it don't skip over the footnotes as they are often some of the funniest bits!
459 reviews393 followers
January 10, 2018
Ok, so I love Eddie Izzard, my husband and I have watched his stand ups several times over and they just stay funny and entertaining to us.

I wasn't sure what to expect out of the book, sometimes comedians autobiographies read much like their stand ups, other times they read much more like a standard biography.

This one definitely has Eddie's stand up vibe to it. I listened to the audiobook and he went off script on basically every page leaving you with long "never ending" foot notes.

I've read some reviews from people who say the book is too rambling and they were going to try the audiobook - sorry folks, but it gets more rambly. He actually had someone google something for him in the audiobook recording session and they kept it in instead of editing it. That kind of stuff.

That said, I don't mind the rambling, it's part of the charm to his stand up, and since I listened to the guy perform the book himself it all worked out just fine for me.

He's pretty honest about his childhood, and where he did well and when he did embarrassing shit, or immature shit. The parts about the death of his mother were rather emotional, some of the stories from his boarding school were rather funny or awkward and all the while it was entertaining, I definitely had some laugh out loud moments.

I'm not giving it 5 stars though because it jumped around a LOT, for example when he was talking about his mother he would tell a story where she died... and then later on go into a memory of his mother before she died, so the timeline was jumping back and forth and it was a touch hard to follow at points. I may have actually done better with the book in this respect.

If you like Eddie Izzard and want to know more about him, I would recommend this as long as you know ahead of time that it wanders a bit.
Profile Image for Katie Harder-schauer.
777 reviews49 followers
June 30, 2017
I received a copy of this book through Penguin's First to Read program in exchange for an honest review.

I guaranteed my copy of this book because I am a fan of Eddie Izzard's stand-up comedy so I jumped at the chance to get to read his memoir. It mostly didn't let me down. I do think that my experience with the book would have been improved by listening to the audiobook rather than reading the book. While I'm familiar with Izzard's comedy style, I think the humor would have been more effective delivered by him via audio. And I may splurge and buy the audiobook at some point to test this theory.

While I fully understand the concept of a memoir, I have come to expect that memoirs by people I know as comedians will be funny, and Believe Me was not nearly as funny as I was expecting it to be (this may have been helped if I'd had the audiobook). However, this may be due in part to the fact that Izzard is not strictly a comedian. In fact, he apparently has a passion for drama, so I learned something new, which is always a good thing.

Read the rest of my review on my blog. --> http://justanothergirlandherbooks.blo...
Profile Image for Pip.
93 reviews2 followers
August 2, 2017
3.5 stars. This book is Eddie doing Eddie. I listened to it on audiobook and enjoyed his rambling but it really is that. A mammoth ramble.
Profile Image for Samuel.
226 reviews30 followers
September 5, 2020
End of endless footnote. I never thought I would read a book where I enjoyed the footnotes even more than the actual book. And this book has a lot of them, especially the audio version read by Izzard himself. Most of them seem totally improvised and reminded me a lot of his stand-up style. I have seen a number of Izzard’s live shows over the years and have always been a fan of his brand of surreal comedy. This memoir on Izzard’s life was definitely interesting and entertaining, with a couple of LOL moments, but perhaps not as consistently funny as I had expected.

A large part of this book relates to Izzard’s childhood and growing up in various places (e.g. Ireland, the Middle East). These bits were interesting on the whole, but could’ve done with some better editing I feel, as they tended to plod on a bit after a while. My favourite parts of the book were Izzard writing about his journey to make it as an actor and his ups and downs to becoming a successful comedian – first as a street performer and later in the stand-up scene. It was also interesting to hear Izzard’s thoughts about alternative sexuality (a term he prefers to use, because being dyslexic he has difficulty saying LGBT+), and him talking about his experiences coming out as a transgender person. (In the book, Izzard describes himself as an ‘action transvestite who doesn’t like frilly things' - LOL.)

The book is also strangely informative on a wide range of subjects, because Izzard seems to know a lot of random stuff and has some wonderful theories on how the world, life and the universe work. What lets the book down slightly is that I would’ve hoped Izzard to have delved a bit deeper and been more personal and confessional about his life. It sometimes felt like he was holding back on revealing too much. 3.5 stars rounded up.

Note: As other reviewers have pointed out, it is definitely worth getting the audio version of this book for all the extra content (i.e. Eddie going off on a tangent in his 'endless footnotes').
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,693 reviews279 followers
August 20, 2021
this book felt like Eddie was talking to you in an one way conversation but liked as it gave you an insight into his upbringing and the start of his career.
Profile Image for Heather.
578 reviews8 followers
June 29, 2017

I'm a huge Eddie Izzard fan.  That's a requirement for listening to this audiobook.  If you think he is slightly funny or if you aren't really sure if you know who he is, read the book but don't listen to the audio yet.  I've never experienced an audiobook quite like this.  I think it is an audiobook that only could have been made by Eddie Izzard.

He is reading his book but he keeps getting distracted.  The tape just keeps rolling as he goes off on tangents - things that he remembers about what he was talking about in the book but didn't write down; new things that have happened since he wrote the book; or just things that have popped into his head that are more interesting right now than the printed words of the book.  These include asking questions of the audio engineers and getting out his cell phone to Google the answer to questions he has. When he realizes how far afield he's gone, he signals that he's heading back to the text by saying, "End...Of...Footnote."  I'm going to use that phrase from now on to close any rambling monologue I have.

Even as a fan I was bored by the beginning of the book.  His mother died when he was six and he was sent off to boarding school.  This is important but all the details of his childhood were not necessary.  I wanted to hear about how he got started performing and his later life.  Once he got to these sections, I was much more interested.

One thing I was curious about when picking up his book was hearing how he discusses his gender identity.  He's famous for his "Executive Transvestite" routine.  I always think of this when people on Twitter get angry about the use of the term transvestite.  Eddie came out publicly in 1985.  He still uses the terms transvestite and transgender interchangeably when referring to himself.  I think of him as a person out living his life openly in public while others are fighting over terminology that he doesn't care about.  I think if he was coming out now he would most likely be identified by others as genderfluid based on his descriptions of his life.

He's an amazing person who has performed standup all over the world in several different languages, has raised millions for charity by running insane amounts of marathons back to back, and has had many serious dramatic roles in TV shows and movies.  He still thinks that he is a boring person who has made a choice to try to make himself more interesting by getting out and doing things.  You could do worse.

 This review was originally posted on Based On A True Story
Profile Image for Rossdavidh.
507 reviews142 followers
August 22, 2020
So, first of all I should say that mostly what I knew about Eddie Izzard before reading this book was:
1) "cake or death"
2) "do you have a flag?"
3) cross-dresser
4) my wife wants our book club to read his memoir

It turns out that he has a great conversational style of writing. I am particularly fond of his footnotes. I believe there was also a point when he wrote something like 'I just went downstairs to ask Dad if he popped the question to Mum or the other way around, and he said it was him', which really makes you vividly imagine the book as an experience where a human being is just typing out what they know of their life (or their parents'). It was a very informal, relaxed, and enjoyable read.

That said, I'm not that into memoirs, so around 2/3 of the way through the book I was thinking, "so far so good, but I don't see how he's going to tie all of these plot threads together into a cohesive whole", and of course he doesn't. Life isn't really like that; life is incoherent, for the most part. It's why I prefer history or science books, to memoirs. Generally speaking, I could divide the book into:

1) childhood: interesting
2) wilderness years: interesting
3) achieves success: boooorrriiiing
4) running a ridiculous number of marathons in South Africa: interesting

Having said that, if you're going to read a memoir, Izzard's is a good one. He explores very well how the circumstances of his childhood, and his early career as a struggling street performer and then comedian (what he calls his "wilderness years"), helped to shape who he is now. He does a good job of explaining not only what he did, but why (what he was thinking at the time), how the world worked (e.g. how the London comedy circuit in the late 20th century worked for a would-be up and coming standup comedian), and why and how he was able (eventually) to succeed in making a career in it.
Profile Image for Daria Zeoli.
83 reviews55 followers
June 26, 2017
I very much enjoyed this memoir by one of the most unique people I've ever heard of. I became familiar with Eddie Izard through his early comedy specials, and I loved learning about his early life, his road to comedy, and his activism. His writing style felt very chatty, and I chuckled when, at the end of the book, he mentioned how it may have been like having a conversation with someone who doesn't let you get a word in edgewise.

Izzard is open about how losing his mother at a young age impacted him. He also goes into some depth about coming out as transgender, and what that means as he identifies as having both "boy and girl genetics."

I definitely recommend this book. I hope to someday see a standup gig of Izzard's live!

Thanks to NetGalley for a review copy of this book!
Profile Image for Devann.
2,433 reviews131 followers
July 13, 2019
@ Everyone giving this book low ratings and saying 'it's just him talking about his childhood' like ...you do know what a memoir is, right? This isn't some extended stand-up routine in book format, it's a book about someone's life and experiences. Granted it was a bit slow at the beginning, but I think it was important to start with his early childhood to really understand some of the things he talked about later and I really thought the book picked up when he started talking about his sexuality and coming out in particular. Also I would really recommend listening to this on audio book because he adds in a LOT of additional footnotes and asides and also it's just a lot of fun to listen to him talk.
Profile Image for Amanda.
840 reviews344 followers
June 21, 2018
I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook and highly recommend those who love Eddie Izzard's stand up to listen as well. The experience was like listening to a 15 hour show. I have even more respect for him/her than I did before and will return to this memoir when I need to be cheered up.
Profile Image for Morgan.
1,681 reviews74 followers
Want to read
May 24, 2017
When you get the notification from netgalley that you're approved and you think, "Well it certainly isn't the Eddie Izzard one...what is it?" BUT THEN IT IS.

Profile Image for Kate.
2,027 reviews78 followers
July 4, 2017
I freaking love Eddie Izzard! So glad I listened to this one on audiobook. A must for Izzard fans, or just anyone that needs to learn to believe in themselves.
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