By Andy Wade – Daily Sun Staff – Monday, October 15th, 2007

      Flagstaff is about to get a whole lot funnier: The cast of ABC’s “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” is coming to the Orpheum Friday night for a 7 p.m. improv show called “Whose Live Anyway.”

      Comedians Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops, Chip Esten and Jeff Davis will perform several of the same improv games from the TV show, in addition to new scenes and games. Stiles, who also starred on “The Drew Carey Show,” and Proops, who was born in Phoenix, spoke with the Daily Sun last week.

How do you guys usually prepare for a live performance?

Ryan: Everybody kind of does their own thing. Chip’s usually reading a book, and Jeff’s on the phone. I make up the list on a napkin 10 minutes before we go on, and we just go. I guess we’ve done it for so long that we kind of just turn it on when we get on stage.

Greg: We usually sit backstage and hack on each other for an hour or two. There’s no big giant process of any kind. We really bring a lot of energy to this four-man show, ’cause it’s such a small cast. We really hit the stage running with the four of us.

How do your live shows on tour compare with the TV shows?

Greg: This show’s a lot more interactive than the TV show, and a lot more fun for us to do. On the TV show, there were producers, and they told us what games we were going to play and how we were going to do them. With this show, we get to do that ourselves.

Ryan: The good thing is that we haven’t got Drew (Carey) there slowing down the action. We obviously don’t go over to a desk and take points and that kind of stuff. We can do a lot of games that we really weren’t able to do on “Whose Line.” You’ll see some of the same games, but a lot of different games that we don’t do on “Whose Line.”

We do a lot more scene work than we would on “Whose Line.” We don’t do game-y stuff where we take props and think of what that prop looks like. We tend to do more scene stuff so we can develop characters. It doesn’t sound as exciting as “Whose Line,” but to me, it’s much funnier. And we mix it up to keep it fresh for us.

How much does each show differ?

Ryan: It changes every night. Every suggestion comes from the crowd, and we use the crowd in the show a lot more than we did on “Whose Line.”

Greg: Every bit of dialogue is different. And we improvise all the music, so that tends to be completely different every night. I think even you’ve seen us before live onstage, it’s a different show from the last one you saw.

Ryan: We try to keep it more lively. We’re on a bigger stage, obviously, so we try to keep it more physical. And (we do) a lot more music than we did on “Whose Line.” It’s great for us. It’s the only time we see each other during the year, so we really click when we get on.

How does the crowd affect the tone of the show?

Ryan: We always have good shows. We never worry that something’s gonna go down, it’s just how well it’s gonna go. It sounds cocky, but after you do it for 30 years, I think it’s like any job. After 30 years, you’re just gonna be a really good plumber. It’s just the more you do it, the better you get at it. Our main thing is just to have fun when we’re out there. Despite what people say, they really want to laugh, so you really have to mess up bad not to have a good show.

Greg: We totally depend on the crowd. They tend to be really, really enthusiastic and supportive and loving. We just get the best crowds on the road. People are very excited to be there. It makes it fun for us, because enthusiasm is what carries the day, isn’t it?

Ryan: (Improv is) kinda like golf. You really enjoy doing it, but you’ll never be REALLY good at it. It’s never gonna be perfect, you know? You always learn new things, and there’s always stuff that makes you laugh onstage, especially with this group of people. You could never master it. You just try to get better and better.

I think if you’re having fun, the audience sees that. They want to have fun, too, as opposed to standup, where there’s kind of make-me-laugh attitude when you walk onstage. They really want the improv to work, because they’re suggesting what you do. They’re really with you. It’s a nice, warm feeling, actually.

What’s your favorite part of the show?

Ryan: The funnest part of the show for me is the music. Chip and Jeff are incredible singers, and they’re just really quick. They do what I could never imagine doing.

Greg: We do lot of physical comedy. We jump around a lot. I do love that part. I like all of it. I’m always trying to learn to be a better improviser all the time. But what I do is different from what Ryan does, and Chip, too, and Jeff. Everybody kind of has their own way of doing it. I like watching the boys sing, because I think they’re fantastic.

How do you guys play off one another when you’re performing?

Ryan: I always know that if I can’t think of something at that particular moment, one of the other three guys is gonna come out and do something. So its a real trust factor.

Greg: I think mostly we all have what we like to call the craft. But we legitimately just try to crack each other up. With this group, there’s no resting cause there’s only four of us. There’s anywhere from two to four people in every scene. So if you’re not in one scene, you’re in the next scene. There’s not really a lot of sitting on the bench.

Ryan: We used to tour with nine, 10, 11 guys, but you found that you were just standing on the side a lot in those big shows. With four people, we’re onstage all the time, so it’s the perfect amount of people. There’s no show-offs in this group. If you have someone that wants to be the funniest in the show, it’s not going to work.

How do you feel about Drew Carey taking over for Bob Barker on “The Price is Right”?

Ryan: He’s just a friendly guy. What you see on TV is how Drew is. There’s no false pretenses. I think he’ll do well. And I’m sure he can molest the spokesmodel just as good as Bob Barker could.

Greg: I’m thrilled. I couldn’t be more happy for him. Two words: Coattails, baby. Coattails.

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