Wednesday, April 04, 2007

An Improv-able Visit Backstage

As I mentioned on the show recently, my wife and I had the good fortune to be able to meet Drew Carey and the Improv All-Stars backstage -- well, more like below stage -- in between their two shows March 24th at The Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet. I'm the one in the Vic Mackey meets Simon Cowell black shirt. My wife is the smiling woman on the right.

The woman that isn't really smiling all that much is Kathy Kinney, who joined me on the morning show a few days prior to the event. She played Mimi on The Drew Carey Show. Don't let the look fool you, she was very pleasant, as they all were.

Greg Proops, who also hopped on the phone lines with me for an interview (transcript coming) a few days prior to the show is the dude on the far right. Our visit was quick, although we could have stayed a little longer. They were scarfing down their dinner, however, and we didn't feel it was appropriate to sit around and watch them eat.

It was actually Proops' idea for us to meet them in the first place. Following our interview the other day, Proops suggested we head backstage and say hi. He told me to talk to their publicist Michael Mills to set it up. I'm not usually one that tries to line up a lot of these kinds of things, but I'm a fan of these guys, so what the hell, I emailed Mills -- or "Millsy" as Proops calls him -- and off we went.

Once Mills knew we would be at the 6:30 show, his plan was for my wife and I to meet him at the side of the stage right after the show ended. As we got to the stage following the performance, we noticed a group of about ten or twelve people standing off to the side near a door that we assumed led to the dressing room. We figured we would join that group for a mass meet-and-greet, which would have been fine.

Honestly, I wasn't expecting that much anyway, after Mills had emailed me a day or two before the show warning me that he didn't know who would be hanging around after show number one because they "had a dinner planned." Great, this is Mills' way of creating the excuse for everyone to not be there, except for their limo driver, or wardrobe guy. That's the pessimist in me.

After a minute or two of waiting by the stage, Mills showed up. He approached me and introduced himself. I asked about the group of people gathered by the side door, and he said they were friends and relatives of Laura Hall (the piano player with the group, and on Whose Line Is It Anyway) who is from this area. Then Mills said it would be easier for my wife and I to just head to where we were going by going up on stage, and avoiding that group.

Ok then. Now I was starting to get excited. It was only five minutes after the show was over. Maybe everyone from the show was still here. See, we had thought that "a dinner planned" would be something at a nearby restaurant. You know, they do the show, then run across the street to some private room where a nice meal would be waiting for them. Something like that. Well, the nice meal was catered to The Rialto.

Mills took us down a couple of flights of stairs, and next thing I know I'm being introduced to Proops. He was walking in our direction, I shook his hand, he seemed to remember me, and before he got away, I got a picture with him. At this point, I've also realized that everyone from the show, except for Sean Masterson, who I'd never heard of anyway, was down in this same room as well. They were all having their dinner before they had to get ready for the second show.

After the picture with Greg, Mills told everyone who I was, and then my wife and I went to each of them and said hello and shook their hands. The group was sitting at a bench table, four on each side, sitting across from each other. For us, hardly minglers with celebrities on any basis, let alone a regular basis, this was a pretty cool moment. NO ONE else was there. No other fans, groupies, posse, nothing.

A few seconds passed after the initial introductions, and Chip Esten said to us that we should get a bite to eat if we wanted. Nice guy. It made us feel welcome, even though we both knew we probably wouldn't stay too long. A few more seconds passed, then I asked if they would be so kind as to pose for a picture. They all got up and took the picture at the top of this post.

Drew was the first one over to me. He asked if I was the guy from the radio. I told him yeah, and he thanked me for doing the interviews and plugging the shows. He asked me to mention is anyone wanted to buy pictures from the show, they could get them online here. After the picture was taken, they all went back to their seats to continue eating. Chip then told us that we should at least have a piece of cheesecake. Who knows, maybe he popped for all the food and didn't want it to go to waste.

As tempting as it was to grab some food and hang out with everyone, we both felt it was best to let them have their time to themselves. We graciously declined the food, and after they apologized for not being able to mingle a little more, I apologized on our behalf for interrupting their meal. We said so long, and walked out of their with some amazing memories. Of course, two minutes after we left, we were kicking ourselves for not sticking around longer.

Oh well, I think we did the right thing. So, to Drew and the Improv All-Stars, thanks for a hilarious show. But even greater thanks for the backstage hello -- the real highlight of the night.

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