By Karen Sorensen – Sun-Times Media – April 30th, 2010

      If you plan to attend the “Whose Live Anyway!” show at Elgin Community College, comedian Greg Proops offers these words of advice: “Wear your best shirt.”

      No, there’s no dress code and you won’t be thrown out if you turn up in your less-than-best duds, but you may very well get pulled onto the stage as part of the improv show and, well, you wouldn’t want to be embarrassed, would you?

      “We love to pull people out of the audience. It’s a very interactive show,” Proops says. “All of your TV friends will be there, but it’s a little more interesting than what you’ve seen on TV. We play games, have contests, just do a lot of things for laughs.”

      “Whose Live,” which will be presented May 2 at ECC, is based on ABC’s “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” the improv show hosted by comedian Drew Carey that aired from 1998 to 2006. Proops was a regular on that program, as were Ryan Stiles, Chip Esten and Jeff B. Davis, all of whom are part of these shows as well.

      The American show was modeled after the British show of the same name, which aired from 1988 to ’98 and on which Proops was a regular.

      In fact, although he had been doing stand-up comedy since 1982 — he’s recognizable for his onstage appearance of trademark pompadour and orange-tinted glasses — this is the show that put him on the map as a comedian, he says.

      Proops, 50, lived in Britain for more than four years during the course of the program, and while many things are the same — “we all speak English” — coming up against “British sensibilities” had occasional challenges, he says. That said, it was always fun to joke about the Brits’ love of “rain and horrible and cold weather” and their “long-suffering” natures, he says, laughing.

      Stiles, Esten and Davis all appeared on the English version of “Whose Line,” and Proops has been doing improv with Stiles for more 20 years, he says.

      “We know each other pretty well, and we do make each other laugh,” he says. “Ryan is pretty much game for anything, and we all have our (specialties). I’m the sexy one.”

      Proops says stand-up and improv are definitely two different animals, he says.

      What’s nice about improv is you don’t have to prepare material or worry about how much new content to mix in with old in order to satisfy both long-standing fans and newcomers, he says. Improv is spontaneous and no two shows are alike since almost everything they do is generated by the audience, he says.

      The goal of both, however, is the same — getting the audience to laugh and forget their problems for awhile, he says.

      “Comedy is a very accessible level of entertainment,” he says. “People want to laugh.”

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