By Matt Nippert – New Zealand Listener – April 24th, 2004

      He strides the Atlantic like a colossal jester, a regular and 14-year veteran of both the British and American versions of TV’s Whose Line Is It Anyway? Looking eerily like a 44-year-old Buddy Holly, Proops the Californian was invited to perform at Prince Charles’s 50th Royal Birthday Gala. He has voiced movie characters in Nightmare Before Christmas, The Phantom Menace and next year’s Asterix and Obelix. Cutting his teeth at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, he sold out there for five straight years. One critic says his tongue could fillet a fish, and this week he comes to New Zealand to headline the Comedy Festival and perform solo shows in Auckland and Christchurch. The Listener caught up with him in his “poisonous” home town of San Francisco.

How different will your stand-up performance be to what we know of you from Whose Line Is It Anyway?

      I’m a little more honest with my political opinions. I think people will be won over by my genial personality, and then later horrified and probably angry. If both can happen in the same night, there’s going to be plenty of excitement.

Are you worried that late-night repeats of Whose Line mean that you’ll never be able to walk down the street unmolested?

      It shall never die. I’ll be opening petrol stations on the strength of it until I die – or so I hope.

What’s the difference between English and American humour?

      If you were asking this question in England, I’d say the English are very intelligent, and understand satire and parody – and Americans are idiots. Since I’m in America, I’ll say English people aren’t very bright – and Americans enjoy a good laugh. I haven’t been to New Zealand yet, but I’m sure you have the best sense of humour in the southern hemisphere. It’s just a guess I’m willing to make.

Isn’t that just public relations arse kissing?

      Oh, I’ll get to you later. I’m even-handed; first I stroke, and then I harm.

Have you seen The Office?

      Yes. I adored it, thought it was tremendous.

What’s the American remake going to look like?

      We’re going to make hash out of it. It’s one of those typically English ideas that’s almost perfectly realised. English comedy: it’s the comedy of reaction, it’s nothing but error, nothing but uncomfortable silences.

Wouldn’t adding a laugh track break this silence?

      You’re supposed to fill in the silences with your own laughter, you don’t need to be told. There’s a problem TV networks have here. They feel they need to be a friend of yours, they need to provide a character you can root for. And in comedy that’s not true at all, we’re all sophisticated and get what humour is. In The Office, who are you supposed to be rooting for? You’re certainly not rooting for Brent.

Living in England for five years must have exposed you to cricket. What do you think of our summer game?

      It seems absurdly complex, like some Japanese board game. I like the idea of playing sport in white trousers, I think it brings an air of class. The sweaters are delightful, who doesn’t like a V-neck jumper? Very manly.

American politics are dominated by two parties, yet your home town almost elected a Green candidate as Mayor last year. Is this odd?

      In San Francisco, it’s not. No one is left enough for us. I’d rather have this kind of politics than one fascist versus another fascist. There are no Republicans here, so it’s a fairly unique case, it’s an island of Democrats. Sister Boom Boom ran for mayor several times.

Did she come close to winning?

      Yeah. He was with a group of drag queens called the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and you can still see him around town. He ran as Sister Boom Boom, and then an ordinance passed that said you had to run under your own name. Which is a shame, it takes all the fun out of democracy.

But you don’t perform under your own name, do you?

      I’m not running for office, and I changed my name by deed poll. It used to be Smith, which was too ethnic and not nearly scatological enough.

What was the kerfuffle at town hall like when thousands of gay couples lined up to marry?

      It was fantastic, but I’m from San Francisco, so I’m poison. I believe you should be able to do whatever you want with your appendage and put it anywhere you like. It’s not as though heteros are doing such a great job – Robert Blake, Britney Spears, O J Simpson – gay people aren’t going to mess up the sacred institution that we’ve venerated. So I’m all for gay marriage. And steroid use. At the same time if possible.

Didn’t George Bush only fall back to those two “problems” after the mission to Mars got aborted?

      Apparently, and I didn’t know this at the time, but there’s oil on Mars. So it’s imperative that we get there. My understanding is Osama bin Laden is also hiding in a Martian canal. Mars was such a sketchy idea that he dropped it a week after introducing it. Which will give you some kind of idea what thin ice these jokers are skating on.

      Gay marriage and steroid use at the State of the Union: it’s a good thing everyone has a job, and we’re all so rich and happy and at peace. These are the perfect times to be bringing up these important topics.

How can Bush be defeated?

      He could resign, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. He could be impeached, but apparently he didn’t do anything to merit being impeached – like having a blowjob in the Oval Office, or having a property deal in Arkansas go bad. Apparently, lying about the reason for starting a war and killing lots of people isn’t an impeachable offence. He could lose because he wasn’t that popular last time. I believe there is still that group of people out there who didn’t vote for him. There’s also his assertion that he’s a war president. I’ve never heard anyone ever run on a platform providing war for the people.

And a war that will never end?

      A war that will never end, against an enemy we don’t know who they are, or know where they are. Except we know one thing; they’re not in Iraq. It doesn’t make sense to me. I think maybe if you like The Passion of the Christ it all makes perfect sense.

What was all that Passion about?

      If we see a breast, like Janet Jackson during the Superbowl, the fabric of our society is bound by the very thinnest filament and we’re liable to go on a serial spree of having sexual congress with farm animals. However, watching Christ being treated like Rodney King and beaten up for three hours is apparently a deeply moving experience.

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