By Sam Whiting – Chronicle Staff Writer – Wednesday, November 17th, 1999

      The most entertaining analysis of the San Francisco mayoral election runoff may come from a local exiled to Hollywood — Greg Proops, the improv master — when he opens a three-night stand at the Punch Line tomorrow.

      “I can’t vote there, so all I can do is try to poison it,” says Proops, sounding particularly poisonous during a midmorning phone call.

      A regular on the San Francisco stand-up scene for most of the 1980s and ’90s, Proops moved south to find work in the movies and television a year or so ago. He is a recurring guest on Drew Carey’s improv sketch comedy show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”, which airs at 8 p.m. Thursdays on ABC. Proops is also the host of Comedy Central’s “VS.,” which is on at 12:30 P.M. Mondays through Thursdays.

      “VS.” is a game show that pits natural enemies against each other — soccer moms versus dominatrixes, female bikers versus male nurses, Goth chicks versus beauty queens, bodyguards versus paparazzi and his favorite, “Beverly Hills, 90210” versus Compton 90220. Proops’ job as host is to stir up the animosity. He gets in quick riffs, like ordering a soccer mom “down on your knees, you van-driving slut,” so she can be flogged by a dominatrix. But “VS.” doesn’t allow — time for him to latch onto a topic and, encouraged by an audience, ride it all the way out the way stand-up does.

      “It’s nice to be back in San Francisco,” he says as if already here, “to be with people who do what people do — lying, cheating, running for mayor.”

      Willie Brown has seen Proops perform, and Proops remembers the time “he came out to Comedy Day (in Golden Gate Park) wearing a Panama hat like he was a card dealer in pre-Castro Cuba,” he says. Proops has known Supervisor Tom Ammiano since they both came up through the San Francisco stand-up scene, though they didn’t hang out. “I don’t have any anecdotes where we were out drinking and tried to knock over a phone booth,” Proops says.

      It will take him three nights to cover all the angles on the local political scene, and he’ll return for New Year’s, performing at Cobb’s Comedy Club. That will be an eight-night run, but his topic is longer. “The millennium is a great pretext for me to sum up the last 2,000 years in comedy,” he says, “which predates my first joke.”

      At 40, Proops has traded his Buddy Holly look for “kind of a Bobby Rydell phase.” His scrambled-egg hairdo is now a “coif-a-billy pompadour” and his thick-framed glasses are wire rims. He always wears a suit “because I’m an adult,” he says, and to display repugnance for the sophomoric style down south, where men his age wear shorts and backward baseball caps out at night.

      He much prefers the sophistication of London, where he performs regularly and was an original member of the English version of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” The show is popular with teenagers, and Proops guesses Prince William may have even dragged his old man to watch it.

      That’s how Proops, a graduate of San Carlos High, thinks he came to perform at the Prince of Wales’ gala 50th birthday celebration.

      “I’m not a big imperialist, but when you’re invited by the future king of England to perform, it would be churlish to say no,” Proops says. At rehearsal, the house band was the audience for his set, “and it killed,” he says. “If the band likes you, you know you’re too hip for the room.”

      Especially that room on that night, a year ago. “The prince goes to the royal box just like it’s 1643,” he recalls. “All these people who are wearing Cartier diamonds are sitting there. My act consisted of telling them they were cheap, they were drunk, and they couldn’t provide good service.”

      Proops’ wife, Jennifer, watched Prince Charles and reported that he laughed at a joke, though not about being drunk and cheap. He liked one about the poor service provided by grocery baggers.

      That was enough for Proops. At a post- show reception, Proops was introduced and followed the obligatory “Happy birthday, Your Royal Highness” with an unexpected “you rock,” to the stiffest, least-rocking person in the civilized world.

      Irreverence has always been his style. Since leaving San Francisco, his recognition factor has increased through television and a bit part in George Lucas’ “Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace.” He played Fode, a two-headed alien.

      Proops got to meet Lucas on the set and got a “Phantom Menace” fleece jacket. He keeps it in his closet to prove he hasn’t gone “Hollywood.” “I’m still a jerk,” he says. He’ll be happy to prove it this weekend.

      “I’m inviting the people of San Francisco to turn off their VCRs, turn off the Internet,” Proops says, “put down the wineglass and get out and see some comedy and deal with the fact that you are human.”

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