|he had to work hard to "get an audience
together." He used to set out a series of tea cozies in the shape of various animals.
"They were very visual. People would look at them and think something was going to go
happen to them," He says. "I'd take ages to put them out. I wouldn't do anything
with them, except this one thing where I'd say, "This is a boomerang hippopotamus.
Wherever I throw it, it will come back." He would then throw the hippo tea cozy
outside the ring of spectators. "I'd repeat, 'Wherever I throw it, the hippopotamus
always comes back,' " he says. "By this time, somebody got the hang of it and
chucked it back 'I told you it always comes back!' I could always get it through to
people." He adds, "If they play with me, it makes it work, and everyone's
("Darling, I'm off to the war," "Oh, don't go, darling, it's so noisy") and observes that all the regional characters and even the working classes seem to speak in the Received Pronunciation of the upper orders. ("I must go, darling," he says in plummy tones. "It's my duty as a Cockney man. As a man of Cockney persuasion. I was born within five inches of Bow Bells. Ding dong, ding dong.") And that leads him to an imitation of Dick Van Dyke's mangled Cockney in "Mary Poppins."
dead, you know," izzard says about Van Dyke, bursting the bubble of laughter.
Then he shakes his head. "No, he's not." he pauses and continues,
"He is...No...He is...No." At each volte-face, which he delivers with
either a dour shake of the head or a smile, the audience's energy switches back and forth
between worry and delight.
Izzard has about him the whiff of comic greatness but none of the presenting symptoms of most inspired funnymen. He is not morose, or aggressive, or chronically insecure. "He's always been a good bloke," says the director Stephen Daldry, who was directing plays at Sheffield University when Izzard, after being kicked out of his first-year accounting course, was hanging around the Student Union and developing such alternative epics as "Fringe Flung Lunch," "Sherlock Holmes Sings Country," and "World War II: The Sequel," which he ultimately took to the Edinburgh Festival. Daldry adds, "There's never been any edge to him."