“Whose Live Anyway?” Submitted photo

I’m a fan of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and have had the pleasure of chatting with Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood in the past, so when I learned that a live version of that hit TV show was coming to the Waterville Opera House on April 26, I put in a request to interview one of the four members of this touring troupe (Jeff B. Davis, Joel Murray, Ryan Stiles and Greg Proops). I heard back from their tour manager Morgan Grobe, who said: “Greg is always down for an interview. Let me know if this works for you and I’ll connect you.” Needless to say, it definitely worked for me and I let their tour manager know. The next day I got an email from Proops stating he was in a van and was available, I ended up calling him as he traveled with his tour manager at the wheel.

Q: In your email, you said you were in a van — I take it you’re out on tour?
Proops: Yeah, with all the guys and we’re just heading for Duluth (Minnesota), then we have a week off and then we start off on the next leg.

Q: There does that take you?
Proops: We’re playing everywhere: D.C., Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania — ah, I’m missing a few states.

Q: Have you performed in Maine before?
Proops: We did Portland last year? Anybody remember? (He questions the others) Oh yes, last autumn we did Portland and that was our first time up there. We’ve played every state except Wyoming, Louisiana, Mississippi, and we’re going to Hawaii — we’ve already done Alaska.

Q: You’ve been all over, that’s for sure. Now, about your live show — you don’t go into it with a set plan, right?
Proops: Well, we know what games we’re going to play and we change that around night to night — who’s going to be in what game and what not — but we don’t set what we’re going to say or anything like that. And, obviously, when we sing songs and stuff we’re making them up off the top of our heads. Everything we do is based on audience suggestions, so that’s not anything we can control, nor do we want to; it’s pretty random. It’s way more audience-participation oriented than the television show because you don’t have that piece of glass between you and us.

Q: Right. Now you’re coming to a rather nice venue — a turn-of-the-century opera house.
Proops: Fantastic, we love them! We much prefer the older theaters to the purpose-built ones.

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Q: Is it a lot different doing this in a live situation as opposed to a TV audience?
Proops: Well, it’s more fun, isn’t it? We go from town to town and we do a live show every night and we have a whale of a time. We got a standing ovation last night, I mean, we had a really good time, so I think it’s more fun. TV’s a controlled environment and the TV show’s good fun to do, but this one has a lot more rewards. I’m a big fan of live performing because I think it’s lightning in a bottle.

Q: Yeah, there’s definitely an edge there you don’t have anywhere else.
Proops: Well, yeah, and there’s not editing, you know?

Q: How long have you been doing this live version?
Proops: Drew (Carey) started a little live version in 1999 and Ryan and I have been together on the road since then so we’re into 20-something years and over 30 on TV.

Q: And it never gets old?
Proops: Oh, no — I love performing and I love traveling.

Q: How many shows do you do a year?
Proops: We’re doing a hundred shows this year.

Q: It must be nice to be able to get back out in front of a live audience again after all this time.
Proops: Absolutely! We weren’t able to work for a year and a half, like everybody else — and all the venues closed — so I was stuck at home driving my wife mad. So we’re delighted to get out, and I think people are really excited to come out and see live performing again. I mean, we’re doing really well and people come out in droves and they’re really enthusiastic. I don’t know whether we’re through with the plague but we’re at least on the other side of the worst of it, I think, and I think people are very excited to laugh again.

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Q: And that is needed more than anything else at this point in time — we’ve got to have humor.
Proops: No question, no question.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Proops: Oh, well, just that we can’t wait to get back to Maine — we really enjoyed it. The audiences there were pretty wild; you know, we really do come out and try to hit a home run: we jump and we play and we sing, so it’s pretty lively. And we really want a standing O; we want to light the crowd up, so we don’t just hang around; we’re there to get down. And we’re going to bring people out of the audience, so if you come to the show, you might want to wear something you like and not in your pajamas.

Q: Is there anything we haven’t discussed that you think we should — it is your forum, after all.
Proops: Ah, I don’t think so. We’ve talked about the audience participation, it’s very good value, I think, and the best part of an improve show like this is that it clips along like the wind and, I think, you forget the world for a minute — you get caught up in the moment. I don’t know if a Greek word is appropriate here but its cathartic, you know?

Q: Yup, I do and that word is very appropriate — you nailed it. Thank you for your time, sir, I really appreciate it.
Proops: My pleasure, Lucky.

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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