By Cale – BrightestYoungThings.com – July 8th, 2007

      Greg Proops is best known for his work on both the BBC and American versions of the improv comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway? You know, the guy who looks like Buddy Holly. He’s also a viciously funny stand up comedian, political satirist/commentator, talented voice actor, and host of his own chat show in LA. Last week he spent a few days in DC to help out with the ACLU Day of Action protest and do a four night run at the Improv. In-between sets he graced BYT with the LONGEST INTERVIEW OF ALL TIME. I’ll try to trim it down some, but it’s hard cause the man is so god damn witty.

Brightest Young Things: How did you get involved with the ACLU?

Greg Proops: I’ve done a couple things for the ACLU. Last year I did a membership conference thing for them. Mostly I went because Deborah Harry was there, which was very exciting for me, because when I was 18, she was my… my everything.

BYT: I think she’s still everyone’s everything.

GP: I agree; she’s fantastic.

BYT: So it’s something you do a lot?

GP: Yeah, I mean you know, they’re a good organization, their hearts are in the right place.

BYT: Did you guys change the world?

GP: Yeah, I think so, I think everything changed after the other day, I think the tides going our way now.

BYT: I would have been there, but you changed the world during 9-5.

GP: Exactly, I changed the world in the day time and it was too hot. It’s hard to change the world when it’s over 100 degrees.

BYT: It was mostly you and a bunch of politicians, right?

GP: It was, Dennis Kucinich, Patrick Leahy, Chris Dodd, and a nun who had been brutally savaged and told her story… cause you know there is nothing more funny than torture, great atmosphere for comedy.

BYT: So were you doing shtick or what?

GP: Yeah, in the beginning, but then I just brought people on, they just needed someone to announce people coherently.

BYT: What’s your favorite memorial?

GP: I think the Lincoln Memorial.

BYT: Lincoln’s always funny.

GP:Yeah, it’s less oblique than the Washington monument… I’m not sure why an obelisk represents the father of our country. I’m not sure if he’s Egyptian or it’s a Masonic thing or what?

Greg hosted the short-lived Comedy Central game show Vs. which pitted two stereotypical groups of people against each other. Greg making fun of the contestants was pretty much the only reason to watch the show.

BYT: So I first became a fan of yours through Vs.

GP: You’re the one.

BYT: Yeah, I was the one guy. Let’s say we’re doing the boxed set DVD commentary – give us a little trivia.

GP: Well my fav episode was the Santas vs Witches, cause they were really witches, and they murdered the last question, which was Beltane. Then we had Harvard vs the junior college people, and the junior college people won, also skiers vs snowboarders, and the skiers were complete assholes, it played so true to form you couldn’t believe it – they accused the snowboarders of cheating, they threw a big bitch fit and then they got wiped out, and that made me happy inside.

BYT: How’d you get into comedy?

GP: I did stand up first in high school, joined an improv group in college, kept doing stand up after that – no one could deter me. And I have no other skills really, so I’m sorta stuck with this now. It’s a little late to switch over to an ornithologist.

BYT: So what are you gonna do when the whole stand up thing peters out?

GP: Petty criminal. I think that is my only other choice. I can’t even type really. Oh, or pirate.

BYT: Vending machine attendant?

GP: The hours are ok, I can’t stand any authority though, I don’t even like don’t walk signs, so it’s difficult for me to hold a real job cause people are like “Hey, can you come in on time?” and I’m like “Hmmm, no, I don’t like it”.

BYT: Is Whose Line Is It Anyway? still on?

GP: It’s on reruns on BBC America and ABC Family, but I don’t watch ABC Family cause I’m cool.

BYT: But there is nothing new?

GP: Well they made two new seasons after we finished taping that they put on ABC Family. We had two whole seasons of 22 episodes, that’s how much we had in the can. And it’s on DVD now if you absolutely can’t watch television.

BYT: So you lived in London?

GP: I lived in London for 5 years.

BYT: Cause you were on both Whose Lines, right?

GP: I was on the English version for 10 years and on the American version for 4 years.

BYT: How do did they differ, I mean, besides the obvious?

GP: Yeah, I mean, we mention Twiglets and Torvill and Dean, and nobody knows what we’re talking about.

BYT: *Blank stare*.

GP: Torvill and Dean were a skating team, apparently wildly funny in England in the 90’s, and Twiglets are a horrible snack food they eat. The English show had a little more air in it, and they let us go on and on and rattle on. The American one got very formal, and by the last year we had stunt casting. And I always say that’s the death knell of comedy. Like we’d be doing a show and all of a sudden Richard Simmons would come on or some female body builder would come on. On an improv show. I was like look, I’m funny, I don’t need a female body builder to make me funny. It’s like when Will & Grace has Cher on, and you’re like, well that’s the end of that. Not that Cher is scraping the bottom of the barrel, but that’s not comedy anymore. Having said that, on the English version Peter Cook did one and I didn’t get to do it with him and I wished I did because he’s a big idol of mine. He got quite drunk, and smoked through the whole show, and he’s wearing a feather boa, and then they made him get up and improvise some rap song or some bullshit, like what’s the worst thing you can do with a comedy genius? They took Peter Cook, who’s possibly the most scabrous, vindictive, fantastically informed comedian of the whole world and make him do a rap song. My two favorite lines in the history of comedy are when Annie Hall says to Woody Allen “Alvy, my Grammy gave it to me as a gift” and he goes “My grammy never gave gifts. She was too busy getting raped by Cossacks.” And then Peter Cook says on the album Ad Nauseam with Dudley Moore, they’re talking about what gives them the horn right, gives them the hard on, oh yeah this gives me the horn, that gives me the horn, Dudley Moore goes “The Bible” and Peter Cook goes “The Bible, does that ever give me the fucking horn, I wrote a letter to the council of churches, I said, Dear cunts in charge of religion, your guidebook or whatever the fuck you call it, don’t half give me the horn” and I think that might be the greatest improvised line in history.

BYT: Let’s start a rumor about Ryan Stiles.

GP: He’s gay, and we just did a tour together in the Northwest and we’re on the bus together, he would tell you we were playing poker and drinking the whole time, but it was a little more intimate than that. The stakes were high, if you know what I mean.

BYT: Now do most people on the show do stand up as well as improv?

GP: No, Drew is the only other stand up, and Paul Mertin on the English show. But I work with all of them, I mean Wayne [Brady]’s done my chat show many times, he’s wildly funny. People have a vision of Wayne, I wish I could get everyone to see him when he’s on my show, cause he’s fucking nasty, and scabrous, and really inventive and tells great stories. He’s not at all the image he portrays on TV. I’m actually friends with every single person who has ever done the show.

BYT: Any music recommendations for the kids?

GP: I buy a lot of old music, it’s sad.

BYT: No no, old is good.

GP: Oh, ok, well I like P-Funk, George Clinton… I like glam rock a lot too, T. Rex, Mott the Hoople, Ian Hunter… His first album rocks super hard for those who haven’t heard it yet, that’s the one with Once Bitten Twice Shy that I believe Great White covered. I like ambient music a lot, like Thievery Corporation.

BYT: They’re from DC you know, you could walk to their club from here.

GP: No way!

BYT: Yeah, so if you’re doing a DJ set there, you’ll be playing some old Eno shit?

GP: I would play a little Brian Eno, also Jah Wobble, I like bossanova a lot too, Sergio Mendes, João Gilberto and all that jazz. Well, and jazz. But when I’m on the plane though I will go back to old David Bowie on the ipod. And I don’t know if this makes me sad but I just downloaded Paul McCartney’s Red Rose Speedway because it was an album I got high to every morning when I was in high school, and it almost holds up. Almost.

BYT: So what would your DJ name be?

GP: DJ Proo, just cutting it short.

BYT: That’s what the kid’s are doing these days I think.

GP: Right, I could be the ProoKitty. One of my friend’s described me as having the tastes of a 65 year old black man cause I love Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight, any kind of funk from the 70’s.

BYT: Well I put you on the guest list for a Britpop dance night down the street if you wanna swing by.

GP: So that’s like Suede and Blur?

BYT: Yeah, Common People.

GP: I lived there during that time, it was groovy, during the Britpop scare of the 90’s, when Blur and Oasis were neck and neck, and it turns out that Blur was the creative group and Oasis were the cunts.

BYT: I just saw Damon and with The Good, The Bad, and The Queen, Paul Simonon hasn’t lost an ounce of cool in 25 years.

GP: Aw man, I saw the Clash when I was 18 at an old synagogue, it was one of the best rock and roll shows I’ve ever seen. I really loved Joe Strummer. Even though earnest liberals can be a pain in the ass, he was like the coolest earnest liberal of all time.

Greg also played a small role in Star Wars Episode I, as one of the pod race announcer’s two heads.

BYT: So, I was trying to think of some funny question to ask you about your role in Star Wars, but I just felt sad.

GP: Well I was in the Phantom Menace, which of all the pictures of course has the strongest plot. A lot of it was destroyed in the studio, there was a horrible accident and much of the plot was destroyed. I ended up in the part of the movie where the Jedi are stranded on a planet, and rather than use their Jedi powers to fix their ships, they enter a six year old child in a death defying race. So there is plenty of logic informing the scene that I’m in. George, you know, could have hired some Star Wars fans to write the movies, but he wrote them himself, because he wanted to make sure there would be Jar Jar Binks and lots of good comedy.

BYT: And two-headed sports announcers – hilarious.

GP: Yes, yes, thank you.

BYT: What other voice work have you done?

GP: Bob the Builder. If you’re under 5, I’m hot with the under 5’s. If you have a 2 year old, which if you’re cool you don’t, so you don’t know who Bob the Builder is, but he recycles, it’s all very right on. His girlfriend looks almost identical to him, they’re kind of pansexual, the only difference is she wears earrings.

BYT: So is he wearing some sort of construction outfit?

GP: Oh yeah, he wears a hard hat, he’s so, so Castro St. He’s got work boots that are orange, and little jeans, and a flannel shirt, and he wears his phone on his belt and answers “Hello, Bob the Builder!” That’s the voice, I’m doing the voice.

During tonight’s performance, Greg kicked out two audience members in two separate incidents during the show.

BYT: How often do you kick people out?

GP: I’m glad you asked that – never. Tonight was a real atypical show. That woman at the beginning, it wasn’t so much that she was wildly drunk and unpleasant, which she was, but she was literally staring at the ground. I don’t know what I said at the top of the show, the weather in DC was bad or I didn’t hate gays, and she was staring at her menu, and that’s when I went: “show’s up here”. And then I realized she was gonna fight me on this. And I don’t know if you heard what she said, but she goes, “I used to love you, until I saw you and you haven’t said anything funny” and that’s when I went “please fuck off” and I tried to give her money even. Normally I don’t do that at the top of the show, cause I want the audience to like, actually allow me to tell jokes for a few minutes without turning them into the fucking crowd that wants to have me crucified, but I knew she was never gonna stop looking at the floor, you know what I mean, it was a test of wills, and her will was in that drunken foggy haze where you can only see in a circle, and I knew I couldn’t penetrate it without actually physically getting in her face, so I had to make her leave. And then the rednecks at the end, I believe I gave them every chance.

BYT: Oh, everyone wanted you to kick them out an hour earlier.

GP: I was like Pontius Pilot, I went to the Sanhedrin, the Sanhedrin advised me, I still tried to wash my hands of it, and then at the end I had to take full responsibility.

BYT: It gave you some good material though, although I didn’t want to laugh too hard because I was sitting right next to them and I didn’t want them to punch me.

GP: Yeah, I just don’t like talking to the crowd very much, because I have my own shit I wanna say, and I don’t really care about people’s stupid ass underdeveloped ignoramus opinions, I mean, I care about people’s opinions, but not those people, because their’s consisted of “Woo” and booing the Dixie Chicks. So clearly they hated women and had small dicks and whatever, and all through the country music bit they were yowling and squealing, and when I said to them “will you please, I’m asking you, man to man, as a human, will you please shut up”, and the guy went “no”, that’s the end, cause I’ve given you every logical recourse and at that point I have to put the hammer down. So it doesn’t happen very often but I’m glad you saw it because it gave you a different idea of how I can work. (*laughs*) To be honest, if I would have just hammered on the drunk chick for an hour, the crowd would have loved it more than any material I could have ever prepared.

We’re then interrupted by some fans that want me to take a picture of them with Greg, he kindly obliges.

BYT: I cut their heads off in the picture. *laughs* Kidding – so you were saying you’d rather not interact with the audience?

GP: Well, I have material prepared, you know.

BYT: Right, but you’re also famous for improv.

GP: Yeah, but I mean, I improvised a lot of jokes the last show, but I want to do it on my terms, not because I’m dealing with drunk people who are incoherent. I’d rather deal with all the interested engaged people who paid money and want to see the show. I’ll deal with them all night, it’s people who stare at the floor and say I used to love you and now I hate you – because what, I like gays? And that was clearly why, something fucked her off immediately. I’m telling you though, the manager and I had a chat after the show, as you might imagine, and he said she grabbed the servers ass when she was seated, he said she was too drunk and we shouldn’t have served her, so that’s where we were.

BYT: It’s a little harder though to kick her out at the beginning when much of the crowd didn’t really know what was going on.

GP: Much harder, and then oh my god is he angry? Because nobody wants to see you lose control. And that’s what I said to the crowd, wouldn’t you rather see me be cock sure than unsure? In my experience the worst thing that can happen to an audience is for a comic to lose confidence or get angry. You don’t want to see real emotions up there, you want to see a show, I mean I am being real but if I crumbled because someone said they didn’t like me you’d think I was the worst comic you’d ever seen. Believe me, it’s worse for the crowd than the comedian.

BYT: Sure, the whole cringe factor.

GP: Honestly, the crowd wants you to be funny, they’re on your side ’til further notice. That’s why it was a little dangerous to throw her out, oh, two minutes into my act, but then the audience got it, I think.

BYT: We were with you. So Patton Oswalt and Stella are doing the indie rock clubs, it seems like you would make a good fit for that kind of thing.

GP: Well, I do, in Los Angeles I have this chat show at Largo, on July 13th I’m doing my next one with Michael Penn. Last month I did one and it was Aimee Mann, Drew Carrey, Greg Palast who wrote “Best Democracy Money Can Buy” and “Armed Madhouse”, and John C Reily came on and told stories about Hollywood that were hilarious. Oh, and I’m going to Bumbershoot, for your indie rock connection. Colin Haye will be my musician there, never mind he’s in Men at Work and shit, he’s perfectly charming, if you ever get a chance to see him you’d really enjoy it. Musicians as you know, because you interview a lot of them, some of them aren’t so articulate, they’re better on stage, but Colin is like glib and fantastic. I should probably do a little more I guess, indie rock club action…

BYT: I mean, it doesn’t need to be indie rock, it’s just that the crowd that would go see you there, you wouldn’t have to deal with, you know.

GP: Yeah, it would be hipper.

BYT: So I have an audible.com subscription.

GP: Oh my god, you’re the one.

BYT: Yeah, and I saw you had something on there.

GP: I used to do a show on audible for ages, I did two different shows on there for a couple years each, it was just ranting and raving each week. I switched it over to TBS, they have a web site called Super Deluxe.

BYT: Yeah, there is a Adult Swim connection there?

GP: Right (Bob) Odenkirk does it and Richard Belzer, Maria Banford, and now I’m gonna have a show, I think it’s going to be launched on the 4th of July. It’s still just me ranting and raving about shit every week but now it’s on the miracle of the video webernet.

BYT: I have like a gold membership to audible.com or something so your shows are like a dollar thirty-seven a piece.

GP: Well, I mean some of them are a little dated, cause it was like the first four or five years of Bush, that’s when we started. You know, right after 9/11 I did one too where I said the president was a fucking asshole and apparently people got upset or whatever. I said he was a coward cause he got in a plane and flew around, where was he? Even Reagan would have stood on the steps of the White House. People got mad “he’s not a coward!” Oh right, that’s why he flew around the country and didn’t show up in Washington then came to New York three days later after all the trouble had blown over. So lots of ranting but some of it’s pretty funny, it’s a lot of stream of consciousness. So then I hit on loads of celebrities in it too.

BYT: So worth a buck thirty-seven is what you’re saying.

GP: Well, yeah, and some of them are long too, I mean you’re getting a lot of fucking material for a dollar. So it’s a bargain if you can handle shit that’s about Rumsfeld from 3 years ago. I tried to stay on Cheney’s ass basically when no one was, now everybody hates him, he’s quite a good one to bring out on stage, but the first three or four years when Halliburton was just making money hand over fist in fucking over the government and the people all over the country, no one was really saying anything about it. Two weeks ago 22 billion dollars disappeared, disappeared, but we know where it went. Cause he’s gonna buy a new house. So that was the kind of thing that upset me the most, that the troops were being given food that had like live rounds of ammo in it and shit and that it was basically profiteering.

BYT: Yeah, the Halliburton truck drivers would be driving around Iraq with nothing in their trucks, putting their lives in danger just cause they could charge it.

GP: It’s been going on for years, and that’s the thing I object to the most, well, aside form everything, but I mean, I just think that’s heinous.

BYT: By the way, I don’t do a lot of heroin, that was just allergy testing. *Pointing to my arms*

GP: If you did heroin in neatly spaced rows like that, you’d be my idol. I defy Iggy Pop to show you that in the 70’s.

BYT: I’m an OCD heroin addict.

GP: It’s like agriculture.

BYT: How are you getting in shape for swimsuit season?

GP: I bloated up like a toad over the last couple years. Last year I was in Germany and I was doing a Travel Channel show at the World Cup, and I realized when I saw myself on camera that I had a giant Easter Island head and tits. I grossed out so hard I finally stopped eating fucking cake every minute of the day and mostly I stopped drinking beer… all the time.

BYT: What other comics are you a fan of?

GP: Dom Irrera, Louis C. K., maybe one of the greatest comics ever. Uh, Dana Gould, he’s just started back doing it a lot, he was executive producer on The Simpsons for a while, he’s the sharpest writer, keen, perceptive, emotional, he can do all the things I can’t do.

BYT: Doug Stanhope?

GP: I love Doug Stanhope, he fucking lives it. He had great 9/11 jokes, you know, the policeman are heroes – no they’re not, they’re doing their fucking job, that’s funny, that’s the thing that makes people go crazy and throw shit at you, and for that I worship him. All these comics I’m talking about have great craft. I loathe seduction on stage. I don’t care if I like you. Like, I love Bob Dylan. Likable? I don’t think so. Never once not ever. Work is what we’re watching. So this idea that you have to be this lovable all around, if I could be I would be. Drew Carrey is lovable. Kevin James is lovable. People come and they love ’em.

BYT: My mom loves him.

GP: Right, if your mom loves someone you know they’re fucking lovable. I’m not lovable, I can’t do it. George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor. Now, having said that there are people who are lovable who are still fantastic like Lily Tomlin. I love Margret Cho, I think she’s lovable. I find that people get really upset about Margaret Cho. She’s a woman, and she’s Asian, and she’s way gay friendly and talks smack. That upsets, especially straight guys, “she’s not fucking funny”. Oh yes she fucking is. She’s just not Sarah Silverman. And Sarah Silverman’s a genius, but it’s easier for straight guys to accept Sarah Silverman. And if she reads this on the web she’s gonna go “you cocksucker Proops I thought we were friends.” I just mean that when she does a dick joke straight guys relate to it. Although Margaret has jokes like “Do you ever blow a guy just to get him to shut up?” I mean it doesn’t get any better than that, that’s fucking hilarious. “I got dents in the back of my throat, I just want to spackle them over and start afresh.” Margaret I looove.

BYT: I haven’t seen her around in a while.

GP: She’s in good form, I worked with her a bunch of times this year, she’s on the road with Debbie Harry. It’s like an all girl, queer girl, riot girl thing. I don’t get invited. I’m the straight guy who people think is queer – I can’t even play my might be queer credentials to getting on the tour. I think she’s brave, and I love bravery.

BYT: So anything else you want to promote?

GP: Well I’m gonna be at the Montreal festival, I’ve got a couple albums out, they’re on iTunes, one new one called Greg Proops Joke Book, I did that one in Minneapolis. I was fighting for sobriety that weekend, so it’s pretty good.

BYT: Do you ever get writer’s block?

GP: All the time.

BYT: Have any tricks to get over it?

GP: No, I mean, smoke a joint, try to think of some new stuff you can add to some old shit, you know. I have election material now that I’m adding to all the time.

BYT: So who do you like in the running?

GP: You know, I’ve been going around and around on this. Politically I’m probably closest to Dennis Kucinich, cause he is an old time populist liberal, and I like Chris Dodd cause I think he’s surprised everyone with his veracity and intelligence, and Joe Biden who is absolutely qualified to be president, and extremely capable man, but I’m gonna go with Hillary. I want a woman, I don’t care if she’s Bill’s wife, she should be president. So that’s who I’m going with. Barack Obama is very intelligent though, but I’d rather see a woman than a black man, I think we’ve waited too long, we’re about a 100 years overdue on this. If Ireland and India and Canada and England can all have a women, golly, Germany has a woman, Pakistan had a female dictator, what’s hipper than that?

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