James Rampton on comedy

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The Independent Culture
Just a few years ago, Lee Evans (below) was being chased off stage by hard-case audiences in dingy clubs in Liverpool. Now he is starring opposite Bruce Willis in a Luc Besson film, and is booked into the West End for a six-week run. Thanks, in no small measure, to a canny performance in Peter Chelsom's Funny Bones, the comedian is on the verge of making it big on both sides of the Atlantic. For all his screen success, however, he remains pre-eminently a live star. He pours so much into his supercharged show that he carries a towel on stage to wipe himself down. "If I went to the toilet now, I'd pass steam," he says as the perspiration seeps through the back of his shimmery jacket. "In fact, I'd whistle."

He is perfectly capable of rat-tat-tatting one-liners: "My neighbour John works for Readers Digest," he muses, "so when he came round I put him straight in the bin." But he is at his best using actions to speak louder than words. He excells as a stale plate of baked beans in a service-station restaurant imploring to be eaten, and puts hilarious conviction into a routine playing a dog waking up after an anaesthetic to the realisation that he's been castrated.

Lee Evans is at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1 (0171- 494 5049) from 5 Feb to 16 Mar