By Jami Philbrick – I Am Rogue – November 14th, 2011

      Comedian Greg Proops may just be The Smartest Man in the World, or at least he pretends to be on his extremely funny and popular podcast of the same name. Proops is an improvisational comedian that is best known for his work on both the UK and US versions of Whose Line is it Anyway?. But he’s also appeared on such shows as Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Chelsea Lately, Drew Carey’s Green Screen Show and Flight of the Conchords, as well as lending his voice to popular films like The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. But now the comedian, who is constantly on the road making appearances, has truly found his voice with his groundbreaking weekly podcast The Smartest Man in the World.

      The podcast is recorded in front of a live audience each week and usually takes place during one of Proops’ sold out shows. I recently had a chance to speak with the comedian right before he took the stage in Cleveland for one of his performances. The interview was only supposed to last ten minutes but because he is such a fascinating person to talk to, and very gracious with his time, Proops and I ended up chatting together for almost an hour. It would be impossible for me to include everything we talked about in this article, but I have attached the audio below so that if you’d like to hear the entire interview, you can. We discussed an assortment of topics in addition to his podcast including stand-up comedy, politics, the Republican debates, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Sarah Palin, The Ohio Players, the Oscars, Eddie Murphy, Ellen DeGeneres, Star Wars, George Lucas, Winter’s Bone, comic book adapted movies, romantic comedies, Judd Apatow, Wes Anderson, Zach Galifiankis, and the trappings of success.

      I began my conversation with Greg Proops by asking the comedian about his podcast and how it came to be. “I don’t think anything I’ve done in comedy over the last twenty years has been as exciting for me as the podcast,” said Proops. “I’ve only been doing it for about a year but I was asked to do one and I thought, what would I do? So I talked to a friend who said, ‘You know, you’re the smartest guy in the world so you should call your show that and take questions but just never be wrong.’ I thought that was hilarious so that’s how that happened,” he explained. “We’ve been able to go around the world with it, which has been enormously gratifying and it’s as fun as it could be. I’ve gotten more attention for doing this than anything I’ve ever done. It’s come out of nowhere and it’s changed my direction as a comedian for sure.”

      I followed up by asking Proops if he thinks that the podcast has raised comedy audience’s awareness of him as a performer. “I’ve found when I started doing podcasts that unbeknownst to me there is a legion of people who didn’t like Who’s line at all, and didn’t think I was funny, but all the sudden they do think I’m funny,” Proops laughed. “So I think it has raised my profile. A lot of teenagers listen to it so I do feel responsibility to educate them on topics from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s that they might not be aware of and illuminate those subjects for them. What has happened is I think that after a lifetime of comedy I’ve found the one thing I’m good at, sitting with a drink and talking like I do in a conversation,” Proops continued. “What you are getting from the podcast is what you would get if you were hanging out with me and I think that is the awesome part about it.”

      Proops is no stranger to talking to live audiences after his twenty-odd years of stand-up comedy, as well as his very popular comedy chat show that he used to perform at the Hollywood club Largo. The show featured music by Jon Brion and some excellent guests including Flight of the Conchords, Jason Schwartzman, Russell Brand, Jack Black, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Joe Walsh, Lewis Black, Eddie Izzard, Kathy Griffin and Sarah Silverman. I asked Proops if he feels like The Smartest Man in the World podcast is really just an evolution of his old Largo show. “I totally think this is the next evolution,” he replied.

      “I did the talk show at Largo for years,” he continued. “I had tons of great guests like John C. Reilly and Adam Corolla, and every comedian in Hollywood. I loved doing the talk show, and it was a labor of love for me putting each one together. The booking of it was simple. I never pre-interviewed anyone or told any musicians what to play because my guests were so good I’d just let them go. When you are a virtuoso … you know you don’t tell Dave Grohl how to play the drums. You don’t tell John C. Reilly how to tell a story, and you don’t tell Fiona Apple how to sing. They are going to do it because they know what they are doing. For me that was chemistry. The podcast is a little more of a free fall,” he explained. “I got very tired of the booking aspect. I did it all myself. I never used publicists. I found them useless. I would just call Jeff Goldblum and ask him to come over and do it. With this, the cast is already there.”

      Finally, I asked Proops if there have been any topics discussed on his podcast that he has been surprised to talk about. “Yeah, I talk about myself more than I thought I would,” he answered honestly. “I’m not real confessional as a comedian. I’m not personal like say Margaret Cho. With the podcast I have to be a bit more personal and I’ve become a bit more comfortable with that. Also I can address a lot more about politics than I ever could in my stand-up. When you are a comedian I think your main goal is to be funny and not just get up and talk about politics, which would make you a politician. But on the podcast I can weave it in and out and I don’t have to be funny with every point I make.”

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