By Ben Kharakh – Monday, November 11th, 2005

      Here’s a quick Q and A with comedian slash improviser slash animated construction worker Greg Proops.

When did you develop an interest in comedy?

      As a boy watching Laugh-In and all the variety shows. Carson, Cavett, Gleason, Ed Sullivan Show, Sonny and Cher.

What were you like in school?

      Nervous and loud. Spazzy. Short.

What sort of aspirations did you have as a child?

      To be an adult as soon as possible.

Were you incorporating humor into your daily routine in school and college?

      Yes, and made fun of teachers and was always in trouble for it. I spent a lot of time outside.

Were you in some sort of comedy troupe in college?

      Faultline in San Francisco with Mike McShane. Also Proops and Brakeman with my pal Forrest Brakeman.

Did Improv precede standup or vice versa?

      Standup first as a teen with Forrest. then I jumped up on stage for an audience spot at SF State and the leader Reed Kirk Rahlmann asked me to join Faultline. I learned improv from the other kids.

When did you decide to do standup?

      As a teen, me and Forrest wrote an enthusiastic, but rarely funny, act.

When was the first time that you performed?

      In Kindergarten. I portrayed the Big Billy Goat in the 3 Billy Goats Gruff. For money at 18 at the College of San Mateo.

How did that go?

      Killed. It was all students at some rally.

How has your material changed over time?

      I am funnier. More myself. Bill Hicks once said, “Less jokes and more me.” Lenny Bruce said,”I am not a comedian, I’m Lenny Bruce.” I have become more confident and that is 90% of the game. My writing is more descriptive and baroque and I give the audience loads of credit for knowing history and language.

What were the next several years like for you?

      I did the only thing you can do: work. I opened in dives and shit holes. Bars and one nighters, restaurants and colleges. I failed, I sucked, I learned. I drank, and I drove.

What were you doing to support yourself financially at the time?

      I quit my last Joe Job in 1985. I was selling T-shirts and knick-knacks at a novelty store. I never made good money till the 90’s.

What changes have you noticed in comedy since you’ve gotten involved?

      There are more Women and Latins in the mainstream. The changes are largely for the better. Everybody must be heard and allowed to fail.

What changes have you noticed in Improv since you’ve gotten involved?

      We did a TV show and that made Improv way more mainstream. When I started we worshiped the Committee and Second City. We read Spolin and Johnstone. I think more high schools are offering it now. That was not happening in the 70’s.

How would you compare the relationship of the standup comedian and the audience compared to the relationship of the improviser and the audience?

      As a comic I am in control. It is my way or the highway. I give my opinion. I try to connect with everyone in the crowd. With Improv all that applies but one must give and take more. You are sharing the stage and the stage time. There are more assists, set-ups and staging than in solo. We fight and die as a team. In stand up I walk the boulevard of broken dreams.

How do you feel about long form Improv compared to short form Improv?

      I love them both. But I really love jokes.

Are you able to watch Improv?

      Yeah, but I don’t go out and watch it much.

Have people sent you recordings of themselves doing Improv?

      No, actually.

What are the differences between you onstage and off?

      Off stage I live in a fortress of solitude.

How did you get involved with Bob the Builder?

      I auditioned in Soho, London and got it that minute with my nasal voice.

How do you deal with being recognized by fans?

      I dig it. They are always nice. Unless way drunk.

To your knowledge, does Whose Line hold the record for tallest Improv collective?

      Yes we are a college basketball team from 1966. I am the shortest at 6′.

Tell me about your audible program.


Tell me about your comedy show at Largo?

      I get the worlds best guests. Janeane Garofalo, David Cross, Jon Brion, Joe Walsh. We sing we laugh, we actually converse. Little if any show biz talk. The next one is December 12th. Wayne Brady and singer songwriter Loudon Wainwright III

What is this pilot that you are involved in?

      Secret for now.

What projects are you involved in?

      Bob the Builder, Asterix versus the Vikings animated feature comes out soon. Finishing up the Tour with Drew and the Gang, stand up always.

What projects are you contemplating?

      The destruction of Western Society.

Do you enjoy being an adult?

      Very much so. There are no rules.

What do you keep in your house to protect yourself in case of a break-in?

      A defense chicken.

Are there any rumors about yourself that you’d like to start or dispel?

      I am feuding with the Improv All Stars. Drew and I live as man and wife.

Do you have a special message to leave our readers with?

      Never take no for an answer. Do what you do. If you live in a small, awful place, leave. Your parents don’t own you. Be respectful to women. Live. Do not trust the government, they are lying to you. Patriotism is not blind allegiance. Love someone. Read a book. Nobody knows nothing.

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