Glorious is an appropriate tour-title for a man who in less than 10 years has gone from playing to a handful of people in Covent Garden's piazza to audiences of thousands in venues such as the Labbatt's Apollo and the London Arena. Eddie Izzard has progressed from street-performer to stadium- filler within a decade. Fresh from triumphs in New York and Paris (where he was road-testing the effect of recent French lessons), he is now undeniably one of our top live comedy draws.
That he has reached this pinnacle is testament to the power of imagination. Izzard's shows are not traditional "a funny thing happened on the way to the gig" monologues, but a baggy collection of tangents, where standard- issue gags come second to surreal observations. Izzard may be the only person in the world who could turn the idea of minah birds flying in a jet into a hysterical comedy routine.
As showcased in his two previous West End shows, Unrepeatable and Definite Article, the act is decidedly not about telling jokes. "It's highly-crafted rubbish," he muses. "It's like a motorway journey. I know where I'm going, but I try to come off at side-roads and look around because I get bored on the motorway. It's also like changing channels. The act is influenced by TV. I'm a TV junkie, which is ironic because I'm known for never appearing on it. I get all my history from it; I'm fascinated by history. The future has already been written in our past. My stuff is an enjoyable fusion of the Carthaginians fighting the Romans and Tweaky from Buck Rogers in the 21st Century."
A performer who reckons he has to pack in twice the work now as he missed out during the 1980s, Izzard is also developing a healthy sideline in straight acting. On stage, he has starred in David Mamet's The Cryptogram and Edward II by Marlowe, while on screen he has acted in Aristophanes and Damien Hirst's Hanging Around. The world awaits with bated breath the release of Velvet Goldmine with Ewan McGregor, Christopher Hampton's The Secret Agent, and The Avengers, in which Izzard appears as "Second Bad Guy" alongside, of all people, Sean Connery.
Expect more of the unexpected from this man who meticulously plans out his career. "You've got to keep moving and twisting to remain interesting," he says. "If you hit it big in comedy, you do get stuck. Audiences are reluctant to accept you in anything else because they want their hits of laughter. So I'll just keep changing. If you ever think that you've got it, then you're dead."
The British leg of Eddie Izzard's Glorious tour opens at the Labbatt's Apollo, Hammersmith, London W6 (0171-416 6050) on MonReuse content