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Lee Evans: Same World, Different Planet

The British comedian's physical prowess can't make up for his tired observations. logo
Lee Evans
Lee Evans is one of Britain's most popular comedians, but if he has any recognition in this country at all, it's for two projects with Nathan Lane: the film Mousehunt and the London production of The Producers, in which Evans played Bloom to Lane's Bialystock. One suspects his new stand-up act, Lee Evans: Same World, Different Planet, which is making a brief appearance at 37 Arts, is an attempt to catapult Evans into a higher plane of fame stateside. Unfortunately, despite his gift for physical comedy, this 100-minute intermissionless show wears out its welcome surprisingly quickly.

Evans, a self-professed "monkey boy," proves to be an incredibly limber and energetic performer, bounding around the stage (and sweating up a storm) with the force of a hyperkinetic child who's forgotten to take his Ritalin. He is masterful at facial contortions and silly walks (to borrow a phrase from another British comic, John Cleese). But even here, his repertoire is limited, so the same schtick gets repeated numerous times throughout the act. Surprisingly, the one burst of freshness comes at the very end, when he does a very funny mimetic-type dance to the lyrics of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Unlike his more cerebral counterparts, such as the great Eddie Izzard, Evans sticks to purely observational comedy -- the kind that works best as a three-minute bit on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He jumps randomly from topic to topic, rarely sticking to any one subject for any extended period. Occasionally, a good quip will emerge -- his description of jockeys is first-rate -- but he's not really focused on one-liners.

The largest section of his show has to do with airlines and airports, oft-covered topics about which Evans has little new to say, though he can get substantial chuckles from his delivery. A bunch of different men-versus-women routines -- including the old bit about men being afraid to ask for directions -- seem remarkably uninspired. Moreover, Evans tackles such practically antique subjects as giant pepper mills, old people in Florida, and the uselessness of hotel bellboys. He also crosses the line into tastlessness with jokes about the homeless and canine flatulence.

Harnessed into the right acting role, and working with a strong director, Evans would probably be an extremely engaging performer. But as a one-man band, he sounds flat.

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