‘Whose Live’ brings ‘Whose Line’ to stage
Greg Proops sees the legacy of the improv series “Whose Line Is It Anyway” in every city where he performs.
“I think every high school and college in the country has improv groups because of ‘Whose Line,'” Proops said during a phone interview from a tour stop in Alabama. “I don’t say that to be bold. It’s true. And we always get an improv group (in the audience).”
A live version of the improv games popularized on that show comes to Packard Music Hall on Wednesday with “Whose Live Anyway?,” featuring Proops, Ryan Stiles, Jeff B. Davis and Joel Murray.
Counting the original incarnation of “Whose Line” that aired on ABC, the more recent version for the CW and Drew Carey’s “Improv-A-Ganza,” Proops has done about 100 episodes of televised improv comedy, according to his IMDb page.
Stiles, who also co-starred on “The Drew Carey Show,” has appeared in about 270 episodes of those series.
Jeff B. Davis has been seen on about 80 episodes. Murray is best known for his work on television sitcoms. He was a regular on “Love & War” and “Dharma and Greg” and had recurring roles on “Shameless,” “Two and a Half Men” and “Still Standing.” He’s also appeared on such dramatic series as “Mad Men” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
“We can toss the ball back to each other with our eyes closed,” Proops said. “We’ve been doing this since 1990. Joel is the new guy, and he’s been here since 2012.”
Despite that familiarity, the show features four guys who crave getting a laugh from their stage partners most of all, which keeps the show fresh.
The show incorporates many of the improv games featured on television, Proops said. One television fixture the live show avoided was “Hoedown,” where the comedians had to make up a hoedown song inspired by an audience-suggest topic. After years of ignoring audience requests, Proops said they’ve started doing it as an encore and he’s grown to enjoy it.
“On the TV show, they don’t let me sing all that much,” Proops said. “I actually can sing.”
Proops’ voice will sound familiar to audiences of all ages, whether they’ve ever seen an episode of “Whose Line” or not. He voiced multiple characters in Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and Frode in “Star Wars Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace” (as well as other characters for the “Star Wars” television spinoffs). Preschoolers know him as the voice of “Bob the Builder”; their parents might know him for his contributions to “Stripperella.”
Proops has a distinctive voice — he said it’s been described as sounding as if he’s on helium — and it makes him identifiable even to those who are less familiar with his face.
“I get it all the time — ‘I thought it was you, then I heard you talk and I knew it was you,'” he said.
Because of the popularity of “Whose Line” with younger audiences, the performers try to keep that in mind. It’s unscripted, and Proops can’t guarantee that a four-letter word won’t be uttered, but the show is designed to be family friendly.
Political and socially conscious subject matter often is a part of Proops’ standup comedy and his podcast, “The Smartest Man in the World,” but it’s generally avoided at a “Whose Line” show.
“Here’s how I feel about it — I’m in a band and you play the songs. My podcast and my standup are much more about what’s going on in the world.”
If you go…
WHAT: Whose Live Anyway? — Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops, Joel Murray and Jeff B. Davis
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Packard Music Hall, 1703 Mahoning Ave. NW, Warren
HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $32.75 to $77.75 and are available at the Packard box office and through Ticketmaster.