LONDON — As accusations of anti-Semitism plaguethe British Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, the party has a prominent new voice as it tries to steady the ship: a comedian better known for his whimsical stand-up shows and appearances in Hollywood movies.
The comedian, Eddie Izzard, who has described himself as “a straight transvestite,” took a seat this week on Labour’s governing body, after his predecessor was forced to quit over her support for a candidate accused of Holocaust denial.
Mr. Izzard, 56, may be known for laughs, but he is serious about politics, a longtime Labour supporter who has run for a position on the party’s National Executive Committee twice before.
“We must stamp out completely the stain of anti-Semitism,” he said. “I have campaigned against hate my whole life and will continue to do so wherever it rears its ugly head.”
From comedian to activist to political campaigner, here is the arc of Mr. Izzard’s unusual career.
Mr. Izzard was born to English parents in what is now Yemen, and grew up in Northern Ireland. He performed in the streets of London in the 1980s, and then embarked on his career as a stand-up comedian.
“His brand of seduction aims directly at the head, not below the belt,” a critic for The Times wrote of Mr. Izzard’s “Sexie” show, when he performed it in New York in 2003.
Mr. Izzard has long delivered shows in French, which he speaks fluently, as well as English. And in recent years he has performed in German and Spanish, as well.
“I’ve got this weird thing which is, for one thing, making the stuff universal,” he once told The Independent in Britain.
Though he is most famous for his comedy, Mr. Izzard also has significant acting credits to his name.
He has appeared in the Hollywood blockbusters “Ocean’s Twelve” and “Ocean’s Thirteen,” and in television series such as “The Good Wife” and “Hannibal.” He recently acted opposite Judi Dench in “Victoria and Abdul,” a British period drama.
Mr. Izzard embraces challenges — like performing in other languages — with a certain fervor.
In 2009, he ran 43 marathons in 51 days to raise money for charity, and in 2015, he ran 27 marathons in 27 days in South Africa, as a tribute to Nelson Mandela’s 27 years in prison.
He has been a vocal Labour Party member for years, and was a prominent campaigner for Britain to remain in the European Union, though he ended up on the losing side of that issue.
In 2016, he toured 31 cities in 31 days to “persuade people, particularly young people, to vote” ahead of Britain's referendum on its European Union membership, calling his campaign “Stand Up For Europe.” He clashed with Nigel Farage, a prominent campaigner for a “Leave” vote, over housing and immigration during a BBC debate in the weeks before the referendum.
Not one to shy away from extravagance, Mr. Izzard added the Union Jack and the European Union flag to a perfect set of blood-red nails while he was campaigning.
Mr. Izzard, who has described himself as “a transvestite,” “a transgender guy” and “a wannabe lesbian,” has been open about his identity since the age of 23.
Being trans, he has said, has informed his politics: In his campaign for the Labour Party position, he spoke about coming out in 1985, and declared that he had “always fought for the campaigns that I believe in, even when they are unpopular or I’ve been advised against it.”
Mr. Izzard has maintained that he has “boy genetics and girl genetics,” and that he does not believe in calling dresses “women’s clothes.”
He has said that coming out prepared him for the ruthless world of politics.
“Well, how much hate did I get for being a transvestite? It’s very, very high,” he said in an interview in 2013. He then added that people had referred to him as “that.”
“You know, if I can deal with that, then politics is easy,” he said.
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