EDDIE IZZARD
by ANDREW CLARK

Back in 1989, London's alternative comedy scene was beginning to buzz about a young comic who was flooring crowds at Raging Bull, a late-night show that took place above Soho's Paul Raymond "Festival of Erotica" strip club.

His name was Eddie Izzard. His weapon was his imagination, which the former street performer gave absolute free rein. A picture, which ran in Time Out, showed Izzard tangled in a web of heavy ropes, but it was the joyous and unfettered way he captivated audiences that made him the city's most promising stand-up. This was no small feat, considering that the crop of new comedians included Mark Thomas, Jeff Green, Sean Hughes and Jo Brand.

Two years later Izzard broke big. Since then, the 33-year-old Brit-com has appeared in his own sell-out West End show, David Mamet's new play Cryptogram, as well as Edward II. He's also appearing in Carrington, the first film by playwright Christopher Hampton. Last year, Izzard played Montreal's Just for Laughs Festival. Tonight, he plays Yuk Yuk's Superclub, ostensibly to prepare for his upcoming Just for Laughs dates. (July 28 and 29 at the Centre Interculturel Strathearn.)

I strongly encourage anyone who likes comedy to drop whatever they're doing and catch Izzard's Yuk Yuk's show. If you can't catch his Yuk Yuk's show, then I suggest you make the trip to Montreal -- Izzard is that good.

But before you go, let me dispel two myths that surround him. First, there is Izzard's transvestism. He likes to wear women's clothing. It has nothing to do with his comedy. He doesn't do a lot of transvestite material. Yet you've probably read in our city's daily newspapers plenty of "clever" leads and headlines all hooked into Izzard's penchant for ladies' attire. This "bloke in a dress" stuff is so old it's got mould on it . Leave that kind of juvenile crap to this city's journalists.

Myth number two is that all of Izzard's material is unrehearsed and improvised. This simply is not true. Yes, Izzard improvises, but he improvises around subjects he's been mulling over. He knows what points he's going to hit but is unafraid to make big diversions. Watching an Eddie Izzard show is like taking a drive with a very witty, likeable guy who isn't afraid to turn off the motorway and head into uncharted territory.

At present Izzard is contemplating Roman history, specifically professional mourners and Pliny the Younger. "I just keep going off on flips," Izzard says by phone from London. "I'm not sure I could be bothered to improvise all the time."

Eclectic, sharp, stylish, wild, yet completely under control, Izzard exemplifies the best in Britain's Pythonesque tradition.

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