He's one of Britain's most popular comedians, he's
cracked telly and is breaking
into movies. So why does
LEE EVANS reckon he's rubbish?
Words: Peter Ross
EVANS AFTER ALL
HE GETS KNOCKED DOWN, BUT HE gets up again. you ain't never gonna keep him down. Seeing Lee Evans live is akin to watching the bastard offspring of a Weeble and a spacehopper leaping about on a trampoline in elastic boots.
Physical comedy is a woefully inadequate description of what this bug-eyed. big-cared thirtysomething from Southend actually does on stage. He leaps. he lunges. he lands on his arse: he punctuates one-liners with pratfalls and slapstick. His whole routine is one big banana skin gag waiting to happen.
‘I wish I could just stand there. but. for me. a gig is like a marathon. It‘s one and three quarter hours of running around and falling about.' pants Evans. ‘1 know me limitations — I‘m not a brilliant stand-up. Paul Merton can stand there and tell a gag. btit l have to shove off on a tangent and go into the physical thing. It's not good for your heart. but I can‘t do anything else. unfortunately.‘
Such pronouncements — gabbled in llustered tones. aitches dropping like bombs on Coventry — seem more like a genuine lack of confidence in his own abilities than calculated self- deprecation. But you don‘t win top comedy awards by being crap. you don‘t get to make movies with Bruce Willis by being uncharismatic. and
you don't pack ottt the Playhouse for
two nights without giving the public
the laughs they want. livans seems scared by his own popularity.
'l don‘t read praise in the press because it makes you change into a spam.‘ he says. ‘The real you goes out the window. then you can‘t write anything and everything’s tip in the air in some kind of dreamland. So you always have to be real. I mean. fucking hell. there‘s people dying in the world..
This attitude may stem in part from the crisis Evans endured following his Perrier win of 1993. when. keen to prove that he des- erved the acco- lade. he wore himself out gigging and suffered a breakdown. But. the roots of his fame aversion go deeper. all the way back to his upbringing on a rough council estate.
‘l‘m frightened of going back there.‘ he admits. ‘I’m worried about having no money and all that again — that was horrible. I've got inner demons that I‘m always fighting: I'm scared of failure. but I always try to face my fears. If someone told one of my mates on the council estate that they couldn‘t do something. they’d be. like. "Oh yeah‘.’ Who says?" I‘m the same. (‘oming from where I do just gives you a bit more drive. I think.‘
And what drive. livery day livans
gets up and goes to his office. a small
room piled high with books. where he
sits and writes jokes. He goes home to his wife Heather and daughter Mollie at around two or three in the morning.
It may be rooted in insecurity. bttt this . I grindstone-nosing has paid off. A I Having broken all London box- ’ (2;... office records with his live show and cracked telly with ‘ programmes on [TV and (‘hannel 4. Iivans is becoming an increasingly familiar face on the silver screen. After Funny Bones. The l'i/‘I/I li/t'mwtl and .l~lnusvluutt. he has a sizeable part as a caddish linglish gent in There 's Soviet/ting About Mary. starring Matt Dillon and (‘ameron Dial.
But he's still turning up his nose at international stardom. ‘l‘m not an actor. I’m a pleb.‘ he claims. ‘I would never like to forget what I am. I'm a stand-up. that’s what I do. In my crappy little life. that‘s what I've found that I’m quite good at.‘
For a comedian who spends so much time leaping into the air. Lee livans has his feet firmly on the ground.
‘I don't read praise in the press because it makes you change into a spam.’ Lee Evans
Lee Evans (Fringe) Edinburgh Playhouse (Venue S9) 557 2950, 4-5 Sep, 8pm, £14.50 (£13.50).
2/ Star: 1.“, 80:: ")98 THE LIST 17