The worst comics reinforce the status quo, giving us a thousand reasons–sometimes funny–not to wake from our dogmatic slumbers. But English performer Eddie Izzard is a comic bomb thrower. From the moment this statuesque blue-eyed blond steps onstage, looking fabulous in heels and a tasteful outfit (the time I saw him he was wearing a marvelous Chinese tunic over black vinyl pants), he sets about shaking up the straight, square world. His most obvious rebellion is against prevailing attitudes about what men may and may not wear in public, exploring what it means when a man does put on women’s clothing. But once the hilarious, strong-willed Izzard has made his case for accepting “professional executive-model transvestites,” he sets to work on other, more deeply hidden issues: English taciturnity, American ignorance, the rise of gun violence. In his last show, Dress to Kill–broadcast as an HBO special in 1999–Izzard focused on Americans’ appalling ignorance of their own history and perhaps TV-inspired tendency to judge someone’s veracity first on how he looks, second on his tone of voice, and finally on what he says. An anthropologist friend once told me that when transvestism proliferates in a culture, it’s a harbinger of tremendous social change. But even if this weren’t true, Izzard’s sharp mind and sharper tongue might make it so: he strikes blow after blow for freedom, creativity, and the right to wear lots of eye makeup and deep red lipstick. Royal George Theatre Center, 1641 N. Halsted, 312-988-9000. Opens Tuesday, March 14, 8 PM. Through March 25: Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 PM. $35-$40.

–Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lee Locke.