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Greg Proops: Comedy To Enlighten and Frighten

by Brighid Mooney

Comedian Greg Proops may be best known as the wisecracking, bespectacled improviser on the long-running hit TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, but to those familiar with his work off screen, he's also one of the most intelligent and articulate stand-ups working today.  Armed with a plethora of baroque vocabulary, and varied references to both pop culture and politics, Greg throws down smart, scathing comedy informed by today's most ubiquitous news headlines as well as all of the peculiarities inherent in modern day culture. In between an endless parade of stand-up gigs, Greg also has his own bi-weekly internet show on and has recently starred in Drew Carey's Green Screen show on the WB. Greg tours regularly with the Improv All Stars, frequently hosts his own chat show at the LA club Largo and has been around the world and back countless times to perform his inimitable brand of sarcasm drenched stand-up comedy. After an inspired set at Caroline's Comedy Club in New York City, Greg took some time to talk with Being There about improv, stand-up and the singularity of being a nasally white guy with glasses.

As a comic, you have to tackle a lot of contentious issues and you're allowed to make fun of pretty much anything. Are there any things that are off-limits?

Yeah. I won't bully people who can't defend themselves. Like, I'm not gonna make fun of the homeless or, you know, anything like that.  But I think I take on figures who are public figures that are open to being derided. They're often political figures. They have recourse. I wouldn't smash on anybody who has no way to defend themselves, that would be wrong. Taste is not my barrier. It's more of a moral thing than a taste thing.

What would you say are your greatest strengths as a performer?

Well, when I'm good my greatest strength is that I'm in the moment and I can extemporize.  I think that's my greatest strength.  That's when I'm going good.  If I'm not up my own butt or angry or drunk, or there's an anger, that's ... You've seen me in various states. Sometimes I can focus when I'm drunk.

What are your greatest weaknesses?

Self indulgence. I let myself get angry.

Over what?

The crowd. Their existence is an affront. I get mad when people are stupid or yell out or stuff like that or someone's not listening. I'm making a conscious effort last night and tonight to not be that way. You might have noticed, I'm being really pleasant and effervescent and letting people like me and going slow. I'm not hammering people into the ground for walking in a few seconds into the show, which is my normal mode.

I kinda miss that.

It'll come back. I mean, I'm here all week. It's just, I didn't want to start that way, cause I don't want to be the agita. I don't want an ulcer. It's Christmas, B.

Your stage presence is marked by a lot of confidence, so do you have any insecurities as a performer?

Yeah, you know, I wish I was a better performer, you know. I wish I was more focused and was a better writer and had more marshaled thoughts and was more organized. But it's like in comedy, you know, that's vital. I think I am confident. You have to be confident, that's the key to comedy. Even a diffident, unconfident character comic is confident in their diffidence. You know what I mean? You can't ever let the audience perceive that you're not in control, in my opinion. My favorite comics are always in control, like George Carlin and, you know, Chris Rock. Whoever. Dave Chappelle, Lily Tomlin, you know. Lily Tomlin is like a ballet dancer, if you've ever seen her. She goes from one topic to the next and is really well developed with her opinion.

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