By Dan Pearson – Mundelein Review – March 26th, 2009

      Greg Proops won’t be bringing his pet ocelot to the Zanies Comedy Nightclub in Vernon Hills on Saturday, March 28.

      Ocelot ownership is the item in his bio that generates the most interest in interviews, but actually not a single sleek nocturnal feline of the South American rainforests resides in the Proops hacienda in Southern California.

      “It is, of course, a joke,” confessed Proops, one of the core group of comedians who brought the often hilarious art form of improv comedy to American prime time television with “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

      “You would think since I changed the name of the ocelot 52 times maybe the press would get the joke, but it seems to be the most interesting thing about me,” quips Proops.

      That and the fact he has in his contract that he has to wear glasses.

      “I am the one with glasses on ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?'” he explained. “I am not the tall one, I am not the bald one, I am not the black one or the fat, rich one, although he has glasses too.”

      Proops, an Arizona native who grew up in San Francisco, said he never considered contacts of the ocular variety. “I don’t care who knows, my eyesight is still bad.”

      But seriously folks, Proops, who started writing comedy routines at the age of ten, said he often speaks in jokes. “I am pretty smarty-bootsie,” said Proops who has won academic tests of knowledge on “Win Ben Stein’s Money” and “Rock n’ Roll Jeopardy.”

      Proops said he finds Zanies is a great place to work because the audiences are fairly attentive. “Unless it is the Friday night late show and then they are just drunks with multi-colored bubbles coming from their heads,” he declared, only half joking.

      Proops, who will performing at Zanies in Chicago on Thursday and Friday, said he got into stand-up comedy in the early 1980s as a profession for the same reason as most people. “Just a crying need for attention every 15 to 30 seconds,” said Proops.

      He describes his approach to stand-up comedy as talking about what he cares about in “a lot of extended, adjective-laden sentences.”

      “I am loquacious,” he admitted, “and they always tell you to go through your act with a red pencil and take out all the superfluous words. Well I don’t have anything but superfluous words. I am dictating a novel and the audience is there as my mental stenographers. I tend to rhapsodize and then a little bit of profanity to bring it back home.”

      Least you get the wrong idea, Proops added, “I don’t talk about sex so much. I am interested in sex, but I am not interested in sharing that with the audience.”

      Among his current topics of interest will be — no surprise — the current economic crisis. “Even though I am screaming liberal from San Francisco, I don’t take sides,” he insisted. “A comedian has no obligation to represent all viewpoints. We are jesters, we are not ombudsmen. So no matter who is the president, it is my job to make fun of them.”

      With his background in improvisational comedy, Proops said he often writes on stage and there is no fair guessing when he is doing new material in the moment. “I try to take an idea up there and beat it to death and clean it out like a piranha attacking a capybara in the Orinoco. Hopefully it is a glistening skeleton by the time I get done with it.”

      In addition to his incisive mind, Proops has also built up a reputation as a snappy dresser. “I am a grown-up and I am trying to get across grown-up ideas and I don’t want to look like I just walked out of a frat party kegger,” he declared. “I really stay with the suits and ties. It makes you look professional, it shows respect for the audience and it is a look that I am comfortable with it.”

      Proops said he enjoys fielding interview questions suggesting that his material may be too smart for the room. “I have done standup for over 30 years and no one has come up to me and said `you are too smart for me, I didn’t get anything,'” he said, then added wryly, “But yes, I probably am.”

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