By Sean McCourt – The Golden Gate XPress – September 5, 2004 11:23 PM

      Comedian, Bay Area native, and former SF State student Greg Proops is a seriously funny man – and he also makes fun of some serious issues.

      Best known for lending his side-splitting improv skills to the hit TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” Proops has also provided voices for several characters in films, appeared in sitcoms and specials, and hit the stage doing his satirical and biting brand of stand up comedy where he tackles everything from schlocky pop culture to the upcoming presidential election, leaving nothing unturned or free from examination under the scope of his scathing humor.

      After attending San Carlos High School and College of San Mateo, Proops started taking classes at SF State in the late 70s, and quickly found his niche and his talent for improv comedy; a group called Faultline would put on shows at campus, and at one point during the festivities, invite an audience member up on stage to join them.

      “I went, and I watched, and they had an audience spot, and then I went the next week, because I thought ‘I could do this,’ and I jumped up,” says Proops.

      “I did a spot and then they asked me to join. We used to play Mary Ward Hall; there was a cantina (there) and that’s where I started doing improv in 1979. I never went to the Groundlings, I never went to Second City, I never took a formal class – I learned from my buddies. And I’m still friends with several of them today.”

      While at SF State, Proops studied acting, and was involved with several plays in the Theater Department, but also took full advantage of his new surroundings. When initially asked what he did at school, Proops replies, “Drugs, chasing around, drinking” before reflecting and commenting on his coursework.

      “I never graduated, and there’s a lesson there – and that’s that college isn’t very important and that you don’t need an education to succeed,” he says wryly, before adding, “I wished I had, but I just didn’t pull it together. I probably left in ’82, I never got a degree. I know that’s a sad state of affairs, but I never did, and I expect at this late date I’m not going back to get those credits.”

      “I’m glad I went (but) I learned everything from the other kids to be honest. Oh, I guess I had a couple of good teachers,” he says, bursting out in laughter.

      “What it taught me most of all was to be motivated on my own, and I think that’s the most important lesson one can learn.”

      In addition to self-motivation, Proops says that his time spent at SF State also helped cement his viewpoints on important issues, most of all politics.

      “I think it was vital in my political outlook, which was already developing. I’m from the peninsula, so it’s not like I’m from some hotbed of redneck-ness; coming to San Francisco just reinforced what I already believed, and guided me along that path of being a gigantic poison liberal and lefty.”

      “I live in West Hollywood now, and West Hollywood as you know is the liberal bastion of Los Angeles, and it’s too right wing for me, let me put it that way, as that’s how poisoned I am. I think they’re too rednecky here, in my neighborhood, my gay, Jewish neighborhood, it’s too rednecky for me.”

      On top of performing his comedy routines both on and off campus, Proops also participated in College Bowl, a radio quiz show produced at the school, where one year his team won the state championship – an experience that seems to have paid off in the long run, as later on in his career he has appeared on and won programs including “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” “The Weakest Link,” and “Rock N Roll Jeopardy.”

      But as Proops explains in his signature deadpan, “They haven’t let me be on “Celebrity Jeopardy” because I’m apparently not as big a star as the cast of JAG or whatever; somehow I haven’t qualified. I was an alternate however last year.”

      It’s that mocking and sarcastic banter, mixed with impeccable timing and intellectual wit that has won Proops both quiz shows and thousands of fans around the world.

      After putting in his time honing his skills, racking up stage time, and making various appearances in television and movies, Proops moved to England and starred on the original version of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” which became a hit on British TV, and was eventually adapted for American viewers, with Drew Carey hosting the new show, where many American fans got their first big taste of Proops’ considerable talents.

      Some people may also have heard him do voice work in films without realizing it at first, such as in “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Brother Bear,” and “Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace,” which Proops says, once again in his signature tone, is ‘as you know, the finest of all the Star Wars movies.’

      The success of “Whose Line” has brought Proops and his work to the mainstream public’s attention, a fact that he uses to voice his opinions, and support causes he believes in, such as the recent release “Rock Against Bush Vol. 2,” a compilation put out by local label Fat Wreck Chords in an effort to educate and empower young and disenfranchised voters and, above all else, remove President Bush from power come this November.

      He contributes a short stand up segment about Bush on the DVD portion of the release, and says that he relates to the punk attitude and mentality when he was living in San Francisco in the late 70s and early 80s, he remembers how exciting it was to go see the Dead Kennedys and other punk bands of the time.

      Along with his displeasure with the way the country has been run the last four years, Proops also has a healthy distrust of the mass media, and questions the ethics and reasoning of major news corporations.

      “We have to hear nonsense like, ‘This is a close election’ and ‘Kerry’s behind in the polls’ and all this crap – meanwhile, half a million people were marching in New York before the (Republican) convention even started, so you tell me what the fuck is going on. You didn’t see half a million people marching in Boston did you, and there’s a reason. Because it’s not close, and I would urge the readers of the Golden Gate [Xpress] to remember that everything you see on TV, and everything you read in the papers, is to be taken with a gigantic teaspoon full of salt.”

      Up next on the horizon for Proops, in addition to his stand up tour, is “Drew Carey’s Green Screen” show, which debuts Oct. 7 on the WB. As he explains it, “The Green Screen show was Drew’s idea – it’s improv with animation, so we improvise something, and they illustrate it. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s like, basically the best getting stoned show I think on TV, is what’s going to happen.”

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