Get ready to laugh — and laugh and laugh and laugh — when members of Whose Live Anyway? present an entire night of improvised comedy on the spot at the Granada Theatre on Wednesday, November 9, in a special night of live comedy, presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures. Widely renowned as some of the best improvisators working today, the troupe of the Emmy Award–nominated TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway? — veterans Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops, Jeff B. Davis, and Joel Murray — will have you splitting your sides, rolling on the floor, with your legs figuratively pulled and chains yanked, from a night of cunningly fast comedy, wonderful wit, and spontaneous song.
Whose Line Is It Anyway? began in the U.K. first as a short-lived radio series that later led to a television series, which ran for a decade until the U.S. version first aired in 1998. Proops, who first joined the show in its British incarnation in 1990, has also performed frequently on the U.S. version and considers the troupe’s intensive familiarity with one another as the secret to their success and still-sharp comic smarts. “It’s really a group consciousness. We’re all there for the greater good of the whole, we make each other laugh, we’re not bored with each other, and we still make each other try hard every night — we can bounce back with each other with our eyes closed,” he said in a recent interview with The Santa Barbara Independent. More importantly, not one of them fears making a fool of himself — in fact, they very much welcome the opportunity. Improvisation, Proops said, “is a chance to clown a lot. We really go fast and furious; we try to be loud and big and fast and make you laugh harder than you ever have.”
Rehearsals? Not in the least. “We’re coming onto 40 years [of being improvisators] — we know what we’re going to do, we have a drink and we make fun of each other, and if it’s bad no one says a word; we know what we did wrong,” he said. The framework of the games assists, sonnet-like, in building a foundation from which the creativity may bloom. “A little bit of structure doesn’t hurt improv at all; it gives you parameters you can build inside. Within each game you’ve got an Islamic tapestry — an endless variety of designs you can weave within the game — and that’s where the freedom is,” he said.
Proops has been all over stage and screen, from appearances in the Star Wars franchise to a memorable take voicing the Harlequin Demon in The Nightmare Before Christmas (which Proops recently reenacted live with Danny Elfman, Pee-wee Herman, and others at the Hollywood Bowl). When not inventing spur-of-the-moment scenes from the draw of a hat or an audience member’s outta-nowhere suggestion, Proops has developed a reputation as being among the most intelligent comics with his Smartest Man in the World podcast. Known for skewering political figures, Proops said the bright side of the very dark comedy that is the recent election is that it has exposed the bigotry in our midst. “The bright side of Trump is it’s cast a light on who’s a white supremacist and who’s a misogynist in America; they can’t hide, they can’t pretend it’s otherwise, and no one can hide under a rock anymore,” he said.
Whether politics will be on the table is anyone’s guess at this November show, where just about anything can happen. To use a cliché: Expect the unexpected. “We will lie on the ground and sit on each other’s face, and I feel so good about that in my career, I don’t mind being a clown,” Proops said. “Being able to do bloody anything for laughs, and being willing to fail, is part of what makes people love us and why people stick with us, and we don’t let them down.”
Whose Live Anyway? takes place Wednesday, November 9, at 8 p.m. at the Granada Theatre (1214 State St.). For more information, visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu.