One of the undisputed masters of improv comedy, and the self-declared “Smartest Man in the World,” comedian Greg Proops truly needs no introduction.
But here it goes.
Beloved for his work on the long-running improv comedy series Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Proops’ reputation precedes him. He has performed as a featured guest on the popular TV show since its inception in the U.K. back in 1989, as well as during its run on ABC from 1998-2007, and now during its return on The CW, set to air its 14th season later this year.
The Proopdog — as he’s known to his friends — also hosts his own popular podcast, The Smartest Man in the World, which he tapes in front of a live audience in locations all around the world. In 2015, after 30 years of comedy, he penned his first book, also titled The Smartest Man In The World, based on his work on the podcast.
Currently, Proops tours the country with fellow Whose Line legend Ryan Stiles, as well as actor/comedians Jeff Davis and Joel Murray. Joined live onstage by musical director Bob Derkach, the Whose Live group plays out many fan favorites, taking suggestions from the audience for skits, songs and games for the entirety of their 90-minute, completely improvised show.
Ahead of the group’s stop at DeVos Performance Hall on April 22, Revue got to pick Proops’s brain.
For those who haven’t been to one of your live shows before, how different is a Whose Live show from what fans might know from watching episodes of Whose Line Is It Anyway?
The live show is more fun. The TV version is watching with your face pressed against the glass. We are freer on stage and slightly more risqué. Also we all sing. You be the judge, if that is wise.
How much should audience members expect the unexpected, including becoming part of the show?
Lots and lots. We bring up people for four or five games and we ask the audience to write one of the games.
How much does that audience interaction aspect of the Whose Live show keep things fresh and exciting and fun for you now?
It is fantastic. It keeps the show vital. That and our peppy outlook.
Which is more fun for you: reacting to an audience member who is maybe overdoing it, or working with an audience member who might be shy?
Overdoing. Shy people fail to grasp that the audience really wants to see you win. Break out of your cocoon, little butterfly, and wave your colorful wings for the joy of all.
You, Ryan, Jeff, Joel and Bob have worked together so much over the years. How much do you feel like you can almost read each other’s minds at this point?
We can read each other’s minds and delight in trying to mess with each other. We try to make one another laugh and thank goodness we still find each other funny.
Why do you think the five of you work so well together?
Working with all four of those guys, what would you say is each of their biggest strengths?
Ryan is Babe Ruth; he just points at the fence and hits home runs. Joel is wry and very witty. Jeff is a show-off and Bob scores the show like a movie — listen for his musical puns.
Obviously, since you are The Smartest Man in the World, how much does improv motivate you to just keep learning, both onstage and offstage?
I am always motivated to learn. Part of why we are in the state we are in is people will not educate themselves and don’t feel their leaders should be educated.
What has it been like doing Whose Line again on TV? What did all of you think when CW first said they wanted to bring the show back?
Grand. We are on our sixth season. We also played Edinburgh with the U.K. cast last August, the West End in London in 2015 and 2016, and we are doing the Royal Albert Hall this Christmas. I said it would never work and here we are 28 years later.
Why do you think improv is still such a rare and special way for performers and people to connect and interact?
People crave human contact. Interaction is essential to our survival as a species. That means speaking to cab drivers, chatting with servers. Get off your phone and meet the world. You’ll feel better.
Whose Live Anyway?
DeVos Performance Hall
303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
April 22, 7 p.m. | $37.50 – $57.50
devosperformancehall.com, (616) 742-6500