By Rachael Recker – The Grand Rapids Press – April 30th, 2010

      On his way to the Forest Hills Fine Arts Center, improv veteran Greg Proops sneered (most likely) as he sent out this foreboding message into the Twitterverse: “Grand Rapids takes the test tonight.”

      Testing their sold-out Grand Rapids audience Thursday evening were Proops, who at one time channeled a Shakespearean Julia Childs with a tortured childhood, as well as rhino hair-applying Ryan Stiles, ’80s singing (and almost falling off the stage) sensation Chip Esten and overconfident German ski instructor Jeff “Klaus” Davis.

      The live improv show modeled after the comedy TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” features games that are driven by audience suggestions.

      So with Proops, Stiles, Esten and Davis peppering Grand Rapids with test questions, how were our answers?

      Well, as always, we manage to bring up Amway. “Yeah, that’s hard to avoid here,” Proops said.

      And one of us thinks “Avatar” is a film genre.

      But we did manage to provide some eyebrow-raising and challenging ideas for the troupe, including an obscure local occupation — co-occurring disorder therapist, or whatever it was.

      And when we were asked for a small town in Michigan, did we say Grand Haven? Nope. Try “Belmont.”

      And when asked to come up with a Michigan-based soap opera title, we put our most optimistic foot forward.

      “The Poor and the Homeless!” someone yelled.

      “’The Poor and the Homeless.’ So I’m going to take it you’re not from the travel bureau,” Esten quipped.

      Many of the evening’s best moments came when audience members were asked to go on stage, as when two women were asked to move Stiles and Esten around the stage while the two comedians pretended to be hanging out in the ’60s in various scenarios. At one point, “Whitney” directed Esten’s hand, which was holding an imaginary lit, err, cigarette of sorts, right into his eye.

      “You’re right. Drugs and eyeballs don’t mix,” Esten said to Stiles on stage.

      But it seemed as if Grand Rapids audience members Kristen Klotz, 24, and her boyfriend, Robert Roper, 26, were tested the most. Both were asked on stage at two separate points and provided running jokes throughout the show.

      “I was hoping that someone else would volunteer,” Klotz said after the show about being hand-picked by Stiles. “I was nervous to have to think on my feet.”

      Roper, who was picked to go on stage during the encore performance, tried to prevent the inevitable.

      “I tried to avoid their sight. I tried to act nonchalant,” he said.

      It didn’t work.

      But what did work, ultimately, was a show that was a laughing affair. The four get a passing grade.

      As for us, well, hopefully Proops et al. found us interesting enough. When asked for a form of theater, where else are you going to find an audience that suggests “Japanese Monster-Fight Theater”?

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