The talking point about Izzard these days is not 'Can he still cut it as a comedian?'. It's not 'Why doesn't he do TV (television)?'. It's not even 'Did you know, he is a TV (transvestite)'. No, the really vexing question about him is, 'Why does he patently suffer from such heartrending wardrobe anguish?' His sartorial struggle has become ever more noticeable (it used to be just the odd flouncy shirt), but now it's got to the point of becoming a distraction. As he points out, women have 'total clothing rights' and men have, well, jeans and a jumper. So it's not that he shouldn't wear tights or a mini-dress; it's just that if he could assemble his garb with even a hint of colour co- ordination, you might stand a chance of taking in something of what he's saying in the first 10 minutes, instead of simply staring agog at what appears to be an attempt to cross-dress camp businessman with Essex disco girl.
Because when you recover your concentration, you remember why it is that Izzard can play weeks on end in the West End while his contemporaries struggle to fill a pub run of a few days. After a brief hiccup at last year's Edinburgh Festival (when his material was inexplicably patchy), he has put together an entirely new set while hardly taking a break from touring. No other comedian changes his set in toto every six months, and certainly not when he's on the road.
But for Izzard, it's a necessity. As he performs he will endlessly re-mould the material and by the end of a run the show will have become markedly different. It's as much to do with his own boredom threshold as the audience's, so that the entire show becomes a kind of experimental work-in-progress.
At times he takes ideas to such ridiculous, weepingly funny extremes that he has to stop himself dead with a shake of the head. Above all, he plumps for the kind of surreal animal characterisations favoured by the cartoonist Gary Larson: Izzard's logic runs, if bees can make honey then what's so weird about earwigs making chutney? Not so much The Far Side as the far-fetched side.
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