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Comedian Eddie Izzard tracks down long-lost relative to Lincolnshire in BBC documentary

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: February 16, 2013

  • Reunited: Actor and funnyman Eddie Izzard with and Anna Dixon

  • Keeping it in the family: In BBC1's Meet The Izzards, the comedian traces his genetic roots back to Africa

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Comedian Eddie Izzard will reveal how he tracked down a long-lost relative to a Lincolnshire village in a new BBC documentary.

He is best-known for his sell-out comedy tours and appearing alongside Brad Pitt and George Clooney in Ocean's Twelve and Thirteen.

But last year, Izzard embarked on a personal journey to trace his family history from its origins in Africa, 200,000 years ago, to modern day Britain.

Using cutting-edge scientific methods, he managed to discover dozens of his DNA cousins, including Henry Speer, who lives in Nettleham, just outside of Lincoln.

And the results of his findings will be broadcast during BBC 1's Meet The Izzards, two one-hour specials, on February 21 and 22, at 9pm.

Mr Speer, 68, who was a partner in an international law firm for 30 years and, more recently, a champagne importer, said: "The producers told me before filming what the programme was about, but they wanted it to be a surprise when he turned up at my front door.

"When Eddie Izzard banged on my door knocker I'm afraid I was rather underwhelmed.

"I had not known much about him – I just thought he was a comedian who got a few laughs by swearing a lot.

"But once I met him, I found him quite impressive and much more interesting than I had thought.

"It turns out we have a common male ancestor around 1,000 years back, so he was keen to find out if I and my close family had inherited any similar traits.

"As with Eddie, we have people in my family with red hair. Acting was also a common theme – interestingly, he had made a film for Channel 4 in which he starred with my nephew Hugo back in 2003.

"My family have origins in Scotland and Northern Ireland and I did some DNA testing to see if I was related to people in America with the same name.

"As a result of this, the programme makers could see that I had the same haplogroup as Eddie and we were, as he says, 'ancestral cousins'."

Izzard discovered his ancestors left Africa 70,000 years ago and helped populate the rest of the world.

The comedian explained that he wanted to film the documentary to help him understand how he "became" Eddie Izzard.

He said: "I was very keen to film a documentary following my own DNA because it not only tells me who the hell I am, but also, as we go back thousands of years, who everyone else is."

BBC 1's head of documentaries, Charlotte Moore, who also commissioned the programme, said: "We're thrilled that Eddie will be fronting this very special two-part series on BBC One.

"It's a fascinating project – a unique travelogue with a strong science proposition and all underscored by Eddie's wit."

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