Comedy

Lee Evans Lyric Theatre, London
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The Independent Culture
Usually only Andre Agassi gets to throw his towel into the adoring crowd at the end of a performance. But comedian Lee Evans did it after his show last Sunday - indicating not that he's about to win Wimbledon, but that he has reached Agassi-esque levels of adulation. The fans' applause - more Centre Court than Shaftesbury Avenue - was justifiable, too.

Evans has outgrown the cliche he once was threatened to be saddled with - "the Norman Wisdom of the Nineties". There's much more to him than stumbling over his feet and his words. He's even a film star now, making his highly- praised debut in Peter Chelsom's Funny Bones, released last week.

He made a joke of the ornate surroundings at the Lyric Theatre - "massive, innit? You could fart in here and two years later two blokes cleaning the chandelier up there would say, 'Have you farted?' " - but he seemed right at home there. He got the audience on his side first by shooting with a blunderbuss an actor in the front row using a mobile phone and then by employing that old Dame Edna standby of humiliating the bloke who goes to the loo half-way through the show.

In this high-octane performance, the former boxer even managed to turn his perennial problem - the fact that he could sweat for Britain - into a source of laughs. "If I went to the toilet now, I'd pass steam," he said, as the perspiration seeped through the back of his shimmering maroon jacket. "In fact, I'd whistle."

The 1993 Perrier Award winner can throw out one-liners with the best of them ("My neighbour John works for Readers Digest, so when he comes round I put him straight in the bin"). But his best moments came when he used actions to embellish the words. He did a marvellous routine as a plate of old baked beans in a service-station restaurant begging to be eaten, and he looked like a senior civil servant at the Ministry for Funny Walks as he acted out a man trying to keep the change in his pocket still while approaching a charity-collector.

And which other comedian could so convincingly portray a dog waking up after an anaesthetic and suddenly realising he's been castrated? The man has Funny Bones.

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