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break down barriers between peoples. And that is the thread that runs through what Mick Perrin and his team do.

‘It started with Eddie, as most things do!’ Mick says. ‘He has always said, and I have agreed with him on this, that comedy is universal. What works here will work in America, will work in Australia, in Scandinavia, in Russia or Japan. Obviously comedy splinters because some countries prefer different types of comedy, but if you believe comedy is fundamentally universal, there’s no reason a big star here in the UK shouldn’t work in, say, Scandinavia, so we set out to prove that. We started in 2004 in a very small way, in a pub/club seating about 150 to 200 people in Gothenburg, in Sweden. A very well know local comedian started, and Eddie and I watched from the back and realised we could understand more or less what was going on from his mannerisms – very much like an English comedy set – so when Eddie went on, doing it in English, the audience were on it, almost ahead of the lines. Of course their English is very, very good, but we were blown away by it.’

And so the realisation grew that, in marketing terms, here was a fantastic opportunity for a promoter like Mick Perrin to increase his potential audience from a few tens of millions in the UK to hundreds of millions across continental Europe and beyond. Izzard, by now a recognised star in the USA, had already performed to non-English speaking audiences with experimental performances in Paris – in French – in 1997 and 2000, but this was something altogether different. The established routes to market, which broadly assumed that an English-speaking comedian could only succeed in an English-speaking country, had been subverted by the Internet. And nobody,

apart from Mick and Eddie, really understood this.

‘When you go to these countries, you realise there is a comedy scene going on where there wasn’t one before,’ Mick says. ‘They never had stand-up comedy until they started watching guys on the Internet doing comedy in English. So now they’ve got their own scenes going on, with their own stars who are now getting on TV. And the audiences want to see the superstars from America and the UK. We saw that in St. Petersburg, with Dylan selling out in two hours. So we put a second night on and they sold out in another two hours. It was the same in Estonia.’

Dylan is Dylan Moran, the talented Irish comedian who shares this belief in the potential for comedy to cross cultural barriers. ‘Exchange between cultures has long been a sign of health and freedom,’ he says. ‘Where it is not possible, there will be fear, privation, anger and lots of guns. The freedom to laugh is a symptom of health. Before you can laugh you have to have dialogue. The rest is bullshit with canned applause.’ His tour to Russia was a first and as risky, if not more so, than Izzard’s first gig in Sweden. ‘The local promoter insisted on simultaneous translation, which most comedians would say no to,' Mick says, 'but Dylan said, whatever

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