October 17, 2007 - 11:33PM
Chris Page, Tribune
There are run-of-the-mill “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” fans, and then there are Whosers.
They’ve seen every episode of the improvisational comedy show, both the British version, hosted by Clive Anderson, that spent the 1990s in perpetual rerun on cable’s Comedy Central, and the American adaptation on ABC, hosted by Drew Carey and canceled in 2003, though its reruns still play nightly on cable’s ABC Family.
The Whosers have favorite scenes. They have favorite players. They build detailed — if not somewhat disturbing — tribute pages on the Web.
And they’re usually first in line for tickets whenever the “Whose Line” performers put on a live show.
“They follow us around,” says actor/comedian Ryan Stiles, a veteran of both versions of the show (and probably best known as the sidekick on ABC’s “The Drew Carey Show”).
“It’s kind of like the Grateful Dead. On a much lower scale.”
Catch the Whosers in their natural element tonight in the East Valley, when Stiles and three fellow “Whose Line” performers ply their improvised trade on the stage at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Stiles will be joined by fellow “Whose Line” vets Greg Proops and Chip Esten alongside Jeff Davis, who made his debut on the American series.
For those who didn’t spend their formative years yukking it up to Stiles and company dishing out on-the-spot comic riffs about dating videos, infomercials and parties gone absurdly awry, it might be difficult to explain how “Whose Line” proved to be the funniest show on television.
But rest assured, Proops says, the live show is even funnier.
“It’s a lot like the TV version,” he says, “but it’s a lot more immediate. There’s not that line of glass. We’re there, sweating in front of you.”
Though Stiles says he’s making his first visit to Arizona (“I had to look it up on the map,” he jokes), the “Whose Line” guys aren’t strangers to the Valley by any means. Proops, who was born in Phoenix, spent a stint last month doing stand-up at the Tempe Improv.
And in January, fellow “Whose Line” stars Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood do their own improv show at Phoenix’s Celebrity Theatre. That duo last performed here in November.
For Stiles, doing improvisation is in his blood; he even built his own improv theater in Washington, where he and his family live. Occasionally joining his fellow “Whose Line” players on tour reminds him just how popular the TV show has been over the years. (“You’ll get a 24-year-old girl saying she started watching it when she was 7,” he says.)
Stiles may get respect from the Whosers who grew up watching him, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to his own children.
“They think I’m goofy and more of an embarrassment than anything else,” Stiles says of his three children.
“I showed up to my son’s career day, and I told the teacher I’d do some (improv) games with her,” he continues. “And she said, 'What’s that got to do with plumbing?’ My son was too ashamed, so he said I was a plumber.”