By Dana Oland
Edition Date: 06/07/07
Ryan Stiles does not have diabetes. He says the "not" with emphases. It's one of those "facts" that appears in his random online bios and has become the object of long strings on fan chat sites and an amusement to Stiles, who will perform in Boise this weekend.
The rumor probably started when he used "diabetes" as a joke on "Whose Line is it Anyway?" an update of a British improv TV show that brought Stiles and improv comedy into the mainstream conciseness.
In the game called "Helping Hands," co-star Colin Mochrie provides Stiles' the arms for a skit. During the fun, Mochrie begins shoving chocolates into Stiles mouth.
"I really shouldn't (do this) because I'm a diabetic," Stiles says.
Now the rumor is all over the Internet, a virtual world Stiles knows exists but as a confirmed Luddite, he doesn't mess around with.
"I'm computer illiterate," Stiles admits. "I still write scripts with pen on paper. I just can't see it. It doesn't make sense to me on the screen."
Perhaps his disconnection from everything wireless makes Stiles' comedy particularly wired. He's tactile, physical and inventive in a way that has earned him a reputation as one of the best and funniest improv comedy guys in the business.
Stiles and his improv buddies — Greg Proops, Chip Esten and Jeff Davis — will come to Boise this weekend for "A Night of Improv" at the Velma V. Morrison Center, a performance Stiles promises will be interactive, entertaining, deeply funny and faster paced than the television show.
"This is a smooth, slick show. If you like ‘Whose Line,' this like is 10 times more fun," Stiles said in a telephone interview from his home in Bellingham, Wash. "We do more situational stuff, and the sketches go a bit longer."
Stiles started with the British version of the show in the late 1980s. Then he and fellow comedian and friend Drew Carey produced the show for U.S. audiences in 1998.
Initially fueled by Carey's success with surprise hit "The Drew Carey Show," "Whose Line" made stars out of regulars Mochrie, Stiles, Wayne Brady and many others, who landed rolls on Carey's show.
The show became a hit, reintroducing the idea of improv as viable entertainment for everyone.
"I get people saying all the time that they play these games at home with their kids," he said.
Today, thanks to "Whose Line," Stiles really doesn't have to hustle to work anymore.
"I try very hard not to live in L.A.," he said. "I'm only there when I'm working. When I was doing ‘Whose Line,' I barely saw my kids, now I'm with them every day."
Stiles, 48, does make occasional appearances in Southern California.
He plays a recurring character on "Two and a Half Men," and does guest appearances on and writes and pitches ideas for a variety of other shows. Otherwise you'll find him with his wife and three children at their lake-side home in Bellingham. Or at The Up front, an improv comedy club he founded in 2004. A slew of volunteers runs the club, teaches improv classes and performs.
He also does the occasional performance, like this one in Boise, with his "Whose Line" comrades. Life is pretty much the way Stiles wants it.
"I don't like to fly, so we travel on a rock-n-roll bus," he said. "We all pile in and it's a blast."
His lifestyle only works because he doesn't seek fame, he said.
"If you're not into fame, it makes things a lot easier. I've never been into it. It's always odd to me when people are or they use their kids for PR. I try to keep my kids completely out of it," he said.
Stiles was born in Seattle and grew up in Vancouver, B.C. He became a standup comic at 17 and dropped out of high school. Then his career and life took a turn when he auditioned for Second City Improv Comedy Troupe in 1986. From there his focus remained tightly on improv, a genre for which he is a natural.
"I listen well. That's the main thing. That's what all these guys do well," he said.
He also goes for the situation with the unflinching ferociousness of a lion tamer, mob boss, newscaster, country singer or gay dentist … whatever the skit calls for.
Stiles prefers improv to standup now. It's more immediate and connected to the audience and there is almost no preparation work.
"It's spontaneous. I can write down what I'm doing on a napkin a half hour before the show," he said. "You know, this is nothing new. Actors have been doing improv forever. During ‘The Honeymooners,' Jackie Gleason never stuck with the script."