Monday, April 09, 2007

Greg Proops

Thanks to Greg's suggestion to me after our radio interview, my wife and I were able to get back stage a few weeks ago to meet the gang from Drew Carey's Improv All-Stars.

Here's what Greg and I talked about on the morning show...

Mike Williams: Are there still unaired segments of Whose Line Is It Anyway? I know you guys filmed so many games, have they all aired by now?

Greg Proops: That’s a good question. We did the show for years, and then ABC Family started airing them and I think they got two whole new seasons out of it. I think we’ve had about 50 news shows come out since we stopped shooting. And now BBC America shows the old English ones that we made for America as well so there’s millions of things floating around. Plus there’s two DVD’s out that will probably have stuff on it that I haven’t even seen.

MW: There’s an uncensored version within the DVD’s, right?

GP: There’s an uncensored version where there’s adult language and a couple of goofy things that happened that ABC couldn’t put on. They had a censor in the booth because we couldn’t submit a script beforehand, because we had no script. So they would actually have a censor watch the show, but nothing too awful happened.

MW: Whenever you would come on, it always seemed like you were the trouble maker.

GP: I think the censors felt that way as well (laughs).

MW: Yeah, there was always that little sly smile, and it just seemed like there was a little more of an edge to the show when you were on.

GP: How kind of you to say, thank you. Yeah, I think there was. Heaven knows she (the censor) looked at me with a jaundiced eye. I can’t help it. I don’t know what it is in me. There’s an imp that lives inside of me that has to be set free.

MW: You mentioned the BBC version, and that’s kind of where you got your start in television a long time ago meeting up with Mike McShane and then getting noticed by the creators of the British version of Whose Line back in the early 90's, right?

GP: That’s right, my goodness you’ve done your homework. I don’t like to talk about my age, but I was 11 when I auditioned for the show, and I did it through the age of 20. I’m from San Francisco and Mike was too, and we both got on the show from there back in 1948 when it went on the air originally.

MW: There’s such a different feel between the two shows.

GP: I think so, yeah. I think the English version had more air to it. The English version had 24 minutes to it, compared to 22 because of commercials. I think the American one was more of a breakneck pace and the English ones had a lot more relaxation to it. They’re both good, and they’re both very fun to do. Heaven knows Ryan and Colin were on all the English ones as well. I’ve loved working with everybody, and I still work with everybody, from both shows. When I go to England I work with all the English guys.

MW: Do you go over there to voice Bob The Builder?

GP: I do, sir. I’m hot with the under-fives. If you have a two-year old, you’ve heard me talk and do the Bob The Builder voice. People will say, "Do the Bob The Builder voice," and I say "I am doing it!" I did a funny voice when I did the auditioned and they said ‘no, just do your voice," so I guess that means I’m funny.

MW: Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood came through town a few months ago, you’re on tour now with Drew Carey, Chip Esten, Jeff Davis and the rest of the Improv All-Stars, and I know Ryan Stiles will be joining you for some shows in June, so it’s good to see that even after Whose Line stopped making new episodes, it’s great to see that you still have the improv bug because the fans certainly enjoy watching all of you perform.

GP: Yeah we work together all the time, I can’t shake these guys. Ryan comes along with us for a few shows in June, then I’m doing some shows with Colin and Brad later this year. I work with Wayne Brady all the time, too, and I can’t stop seeing Drew, I can’t get him out of my life. It’s been fantastic, we’re all still friends – if that doesn’t nauseate your audience too much.

MW: Well that’s just it, everyone involved with Whose Line, and some of these other projects really seem to get along. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of competing, or one-upmanship going on – even with a big star like Drew, who from what we’ve heard is very generous, it just seems like everyone gets along really well.

GP: Drew’s a lambchop, we couldn’t do it without Drew. He hates it when I say that. I’ve thanked him before on stage and said, "he’s the reason we’re all here,"and he’ll say, "no I’m not", but of course he is. But we do get along, and we all do our own thing, too. I do standup on my own. We all have our own bag. Ryan is a gentleman farmer. Brad is an international gangster. Chip this year was on The Office, and The New Adventures Of Old Christine, so he’s all over the map.

MW: Well you’re pretty busy, too, on TV Guide Channel we’ve seen you pop up on the red carpet...

GP: Yeah, yeah working with Ms. Rivers, and Ms. Rivers. I do a live show in L.A. with a lot of these same guys helping out here and there. I can’t get away from any of my television friends, Mike.

MW: Did you have favorite games on Whose Line?

GP: The ones that I was in I really enjoyed. The ones Colin and Ryan were in, not so much.

MW: I always loved Foreign Film Dub, but you never did it enough.

GP: I loved Foreign Film Dub, I always thought that was pretty funny. I also liked Film and Theater Styles. I actually like doing the live shows more, Mike. I know the TV show may seem more glamorous, but the live show’s much more fun because we get to hang out together, and we actually do hang out together, we’re friends. It’s like being in a gang. A gang of actors who are smarty bootses.

MW: What actors, comedians, or TV shows make you laugh?

GP: I love Entourage on HBO. I like Absolutely Fabulous. My favorite comedians are Margaret Cho and Louis C.K. To be honest, when we’re doing the show I like to watch Drew and Ryan. They make me laugh.

MW: How hard is it to keep a straight face on stage?

GP: I never keep a straight face. I break more than any comedic performer since Harvey Korman. I made up my mind a long time ago that I’m not that great of an actor and I can’t hold a character, and also if you do something funny, I’m going to laugh at it. I laugh a lot, so the answer is yes, I have a difficult time keeping a straight face on stage. Especially when you have the weak concentration level that I do.

MW: Overall, do you feel that comedy as a whole is in good shape – standup, TV, movies, are we in a good time now for comedy?

GP: I think so. Because of Whose Line, or at least with Whose Line being one reason, you’ll find that high school kids, college kids, kids all over America are having improv groups which is very exciting because it’s good fun. Everywhere I go there’s loads of standup going on. I just like to see intelligence and opinion in comedy. When I do improv, obviously, that’s not my job, but when I do standup on my own it is, and I think that’s important. I like to see a little content as well. I grew up in the generation of George Carlin and Richard Pryor, Robin Williams and Lily Tomlin, and I really respect that kind of comedy, when there’s content and it’s funny.

MW: Any advice for aspiring improv comedians out there?

GP: Find a local comedy club and get as much stage time as possible. Ryan lives in Washington state and he opened up an improv theater there, and all the kids in his town come out an do improv all the time, and he sits in with them, and I think that’s beautiful that he keeps it going and all those people get a chance to do improv with someone like him, and on their own, too. I think that’s the real critical key to it. You never get better unless you do it all the time, and you have to do it with people that are better than you. At least that’s always been my key (laughs) is to do it with people that are better than me, and I try to hang with them.

MW: The computer age has spawned a lot of comedy, too.

GP: Oh yeah, there’s sketch shows and entire episodes of comedy online, plus youtube and sites like that. People are a lot more resourceful about creating their own comedy, and I think that’s fantastic. It’s awesome to have a million different ways to do it. When I started we still have to dance in front of a fire wearing animal skins.

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