ESCONDIDO — Whose line is it anyway? The answer hardly matters with this group of improvisational actors who have shed their fears and nerves, performing without any script night after night.
Getting rid of the fear is what improv’s all about, said Greg Proops, one of the actors that’s performing later this month with Whose Live Anyway?, a live traveling version of the U.K. and U.S. TV improvisational show, Whose Line Is It Anyway?
As a college student at San Francisco State University, Proops caught his first glimpse of an improv group and what they could do.
After watching the performance, he thought that was something he could do, and so attended another performace the following week, where this time he volunteered to be in the show.
“I did it and I joined them the next day,” Proops said.
Already a comedian, the teen-aged Proops saw the fun, the spontaneity and danger of improvisation, and was drawn to it.
Later, after college, while Proops was working a gig in Spokane, Wash., with Tom Kenny (who would go on to be the voice of Spongebob Squarepants), he got a call from a friend, saying this English show is in town and they’re auditioning.
Producers for Whose Line Is It Anyway?, were in the U.S. looking for talent.
At the time, Proops wasn’t able to make the audition, but the producers would return the following year, and he got the job.
Proops would be a part of the cast for the show’s 10-year run before it was brought to the U.S. where it was on the air for four years on ABC. The show is now in its fifth year on the CW Network.
Now Proops, with Ryan Stiles (most well-known for his role on the Drew Carey Show), Joel Murray and Jeff B. Davis are bringing their improvisational skills — the singing, the games, their energy and audience-interactive experience — to the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.
But that doesn’t mean every night is a good night for improv.
“It can go any which way, but with our group it doesn’t really, because I have Ryan Stiles in the group, so it’s like having Babe Ruth — he just points to the fences and hits a homerun,” he said.
“If we don’t get a standing ovation, we’re disappointed,” Proops said. “We really go out there trying to really whip it up.”
Proops, who’s also an author and host of his own podcast, said what people don’t understand when they first start to do improv or go on the stage is that failing is a big part of it.
“And that failing well is a big part of improv as well. We never go out and set out to fail, but we also know how to make that happen if it is going to happen.”
Improvisation, though, isn’t just for the stage, Proops explained.
“I think that what people don’t realize is that they’re improvising all the time,” he said. “Every moment of your life you’re improvising — you’re improvising when you’re talking to your boss, or you’re dealing with your significant other. It’s not something that just remains in the realm of people improvising on stage. We’re always improvising all the time and that’s what people don’t think about. We just codify it and put it up on stage with games and whatnot.”
Whose Live Anyway? is Nov. 12 at the Center for the Arts, Escondido.
Tickets range from $25 to $65 and are available online at artcenter.org or by calling (800) 988-4253.