By Jason Scavone – The Daily Fiasco – February 10th, 2011

      Comedy Central in the late ’90s never shied away from airing episode after episode after episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway? Maybe a few Critic eps to break things up. All in all, it was a great period for the network.

      Greg Proops was a staple of the British series, and then the American iteration with Drew Carey, for years before the show’s cancellation in 2006. He’s been a frequent guest on Chelsea Lately, the voice of Bob on Bob the Builder and was just in town to tape Carey’s latest improv offering, Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza, for Game Show Network at MGM Grand’s Hollywood Theater.

      He also just started recording the rat-a-tat podcast The Smartest Man in the World — a breathless run-through of riffs in Proops’ heady, verbose style taped every other week at West Hollywood’s Bar Lubitsch.

      He’ll be appearing at the Palms’ Playboy Comedy Club with gigs tonight, Friday and 7:30 and 9:30 shows on Saturday. We caught up with Proops to talk about the podcast, internet commenters, and the San Francisco Giants.

How did everything go for you last week when you were out here?

      It was groovy. We were doing the Drew Carey Improv-A-Ganza show for Game Show Network. We did that for several weeks. Charlie Sheen came in and sat in with us for one night. That was excitement.

You were there for that show?

      I was. I stood next to him.

How was he?

      He was a nice guy. I can’t speak for his personal life, thank goodness.

He didn’t invite you up to his suite or anything?

      No, but that would have been a decision we all have to face in our lives. Do you want a story to tell everyone forever, or do you want to be calling the emergency room at four in the morning?

Comedy podcasts in general are on the map now. What was your game plan putting together The Smartest Man in the World?

      A comic friend of mine sort of suggested I do it. I always think I know what I come off like, but apparently I don’t. He said, “You should do a podcast called The Smartest Man in the World where you brook no dissent and you know everything.” I was like, “Really? Am I like that?” and he said “Yeah.” The guys came to me, Matt and Ryan, who produce Jimmy Pardo’s Never Not Funny and Doug Benson’s I Love Movies. They hit me with the podcast thing and I said, yeah, I’d love to do it. We did it once in my house. A lot of guys do them in their house. I think Bill Burr does his in his house. There was no air, I thought. I can rattle on. I did Audible for five years before anyone had pods. From 2001 to 2005.

      I found that doing it with a live crowd was much funner. We started doing it in a bar in West Hollywood. Next week we’re at a Comedy Central stage. I want you to hear people drinking. You hear me drinking. You hear people milling around and talking. I think it makes it more lively. As far as the premise of the show, obviously, it’s all a gag. It lets me ramble and rattle on and dissemble, which is what I like to do most of all. Basically sitting there with a vodka and talking about whatever. Whatever comes to me that week. It’s like doing stand-up, but sitting, somehow.

How much prep are you putting into the shows?

      I collect stuff from the paper or wherever, or my wife tells me something, and then I just kind of have at it. I never see the questions beforehand; they hand them to me on the night. I don’t even look at them until I start to read them. I’m really trying to be legitimate about making it all up. I work old jokes into it, obviously. A few routines come to mind over the years because I have 7,000 hours of material. Occasionally I’ll run into something where I think, oh, that joke will go there. But by and large I kind of wing it. Usually it’s about what I’m reading or some nonsense. Or what I’m watching on TV.

With more erudite and referential comedy, are you making a conscious trade-off of sacrificing a broad audience for hitting people who do hit the references even harder?

      It’s possible that I’m doing that, but it’s not the thing I set out to do. I would say to Matt and Ryan the producers, I shouldn’t put this part in, or this part’s too stupid, or this part’s too arcane. They’ll say to me no, it’s you. I think that’s what we’re trying to do. Bill Hicks once said, “Less jokes and more me.” That’s what I’m trying to do with the podcast. I’m not making a conscious decision to alienate anyone, I’m just simply doing exactly what it is I like to do most, and what I can do as a comic, which is that.

      Marc Maron has got the interview thing covered, and everybody else has their little corner and I thought fuck it, I’ll just do the one thing I can do. As far as mainstream, you know, my goodness. I was on Whose Line for 14 years, we’re doing this Drew Carey thing for Game Show Network. I do Chelsea all the time. I feel like I’m hitting the mainstream plenty. I’m not trying to alienate them ever, but I also think those who like it will come to it.

      It’s funny, the first week it got posted, a lot of people freaked out. A lot of negative comments. The horrible thing about the internet is that it’s so democratic. Any moron with a computer can leave comments. When you go to YouTube and you go to a video you like and the first comment underneath it is “THIS IS GAY.” You think, “Oh Jesus Christ, you really took time out of your busy day of being a moron to write ‘This is gay’ for the whole world to see?” So the first week it came on and people were like, “The Smartest Man in the World is the one who turns this off.” And “It was the first, hopefully it’s the last.” It was like, well clearly you didn’t like my politics or they didn’t like the jokes or they didn’t get it or they weren’t patient enough or whatever. By now, two months into it, it’s almost all positive feedback. I think we’ve winnowed out the people who aren’t comfortable with it, and that’s fine with me. I’ve always felt as a comedian if you’re hitting 70 percent of the audience, you’re hitting about as many as you can have. Anyone who makes everyone laugh, by the very definition of their act, isn’t doing it right. Or they’re a circus act.

Does it feel like there’s a circuit for comedy podcasts now?

      Very much so. I just did [Chris] Hardwick’s last week, The Nerdist, which I know is a really well-listened-to and respected podcast. I’ve done [Kevin] Pollak’s and Marc’s and Jimmy Dore’s and Jimmy Pardo’s. I think all the comics end up doing each other’s, which is the fun part. Many of us know each other over the years and respect each other. I think Maron does a fantastic job. Obviously, it should be a TV show, but then it wouldn’t be a podcast anymore.

      Show business is always a couple of years behind. They’re just getting the idea that people don’t really care about TV as much as they used to. That’s just occurred to them. The idea of podcasts and that you can build a huge following and have lots of listeners. Put it this way: The question you always get asked in Hollywood is “How do we monetize this?” I don’t always think about monetizing. Sometimes you think about, “What could I do that would be funner than fuck? What could I do that would be funny?” That’s what I’m always thinking about. What could I do that would be really funny, that people I like would like.

      I think eventually you’ll see the top podcasts become vehicles for other things that are more showbizzy, like TV and junk like that. That’s going to take a while. You saw the Twitter, Shit My Dad Says turn into a sitcom based on nothing, really, other than William Shatner. So right on, he’s fantastic. Why not hang a show off it?

      The people that run show business move quite slowly. They like to think they’re in the moment and that they’re anticipating everything, but actually, they don’t know fuck about shit. Because one, they don’t go out in the world. I’m playing every week live in front of human beings, so I know what human beings like, week to week. Because I like, tell them things. And if they don’t laugh, then I get that they don’t like that, you see. But the idea that you would actually interact with other people in order to form an opinion? That’s not what show business is about. It’s focus groups and – I don’t mean to into a big thing about show business. I don’t care, but it always makes me laugh.

If the came at you and wanted to turn The Smartest Man in the World into a TV show, would you jump at that?

      Hell yeah. Of course I would. I think it would be a great late-night thing because it’s shabby. Because it is a bunch of people drinking in a room, it’s not that challenging. Visually, it might not be the most arresting thing you’ve ever seen.

Is this the absolute worst time of year, between the end of football and the start of Spring Training?

      Not for me this year, because my beloved Giants won the World Series, so I don’t want the season ever to start. I just watch the videos over and over and wear the T-shirt. I had a drunk party with a couple of my loser high school friends and we just watched the whole World Series over again.

Did you go to any of the playoff games?

      I went to the one playoff game against Philly when Matt Cain beat their ass. It was sublime.

They’ve got a lot of young pitching. They should be primed for a pretty good season.

      Yeah, we picked up Miguel Tejada because Honus Wagner wasn’t available. I think you’re right. The young pitching is mad. This [Madison] Bumgarner, he didn’t even play on the team until August, and if you saw him pitch in the World Series, he looked like Walter Johnson. Just all poise up there.

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