By Cathalena E. Burch
Ryan Stiles and Greg Proops are improbable opposites:
Stiles is perpetually punctual, calling five minutes before his scheduled interview; Proops, delayed by airport hangups in Vancouver, calls 30 minutes late.
Proops adores stand-up comedy; Stiles says he's not fond of stand-up's "make-me-laugh kind of attitude."
But when it comes to improv, both veteran hounds of the knee-jerk, out-of-thin-air, make-it-up-as-you-go comedy are brothers from a different mother.
"It's too much fun. When the audience senses you're having that much fun, they want to have fun with you," said Stiles, who makes his first Tucson appearance Saturday with his improv troupe, Whose Live Anyway?
"It's pretty furious. It's like (TV's) 'Whose Line' but much faster. More audience involvement, definitely," added Proops.
The quartet of comedians — add in Chip Esten and Jeff Davis — are vets of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" with Drew Carey.
Whose Live Anyway? gives Proops, Stiles and company an opportunity about 10 times a year to sneak away from home, play poker on the back of a tour bus — Stiles is averse to flying more than two hours, so they always travel by vehicle — and play golf.
The latter could explain the Arizona tour in late October; the show will play here, in Scottsdale and in Flagstaff — where golfing this time of year is described by golfers as heavenly.
"You never master the game," Stiles said of golf, and improv. "To me it's like improv: Sometimes you're good, and sometimes you're magical."
Whose Live Anyway? is a 90-minute, fast-paced, audience-driven performance that is about as off-the-cuff, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants as comedy can be. It's hugely driven by the audience and is entirely unrehearsed, Stiles said.
"There really is no prep. I literally make up the list on a napkin five minutes before the show," he said.
"We try to make each other laugh. Sadly, after a hundred years of working together, we still make each other laugh," Proops added.
Proops, who was born in Phoenix and still has family there, is a voracious stand-up comic, traveling around North America to deliver laughs. He was last in Tucson in 2005 when Carey brought his Improv All-Stars' Green Screen Tour to Casino del Sol's AVA.
Seattle native Stiles has never played Tucson. He said he prefers to stay close to home in Bellingham, Wash., with his wife and three kids.
Stiles, who has a recurring role on the CBS sitcom "Two and a Half Men," has been peddling laughs for a living since dropping out of high school as a teen. He's been at it 30 years, he said, including a 10-year run with the British version of "Whose Line" and work in Canadian comedy troupes.
This show takes him out just enough to sate his appetite for large audiences; he also performs almost weekly in his three-year-old Upfront Theater in Bellingham, where little-known improv-ers get up on stage for the fun of it.
The show also gives him a chance to hang with Esten and Davis and laugh along with Proops.
"In my mind, he is probably one of the best stand-ups working right now," Stiles said of Proops.
Unprompted, Proops repaid the compliment: "Ryan is like the Babe Ruth of improv; he hits big, fat home runs."