Randy Cordova
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 12, 2007 12:00 AM

Ryan Stiles made his mark as lanky, lovable Lewis on the long-running The Drew Carey Show. Concurrently, he worked with Carey on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, the hit improv series.

But his career isn't all Carey connected: He has a recurring role on Two and Half Men and is touring with Valley native Greg Proops, Chip Esten and Jeff Davis in an improv show that visits Scottsdale this week. Stiles talked up the gig from his home in Vancouver, Wash.

QUESTION: Do people always expect to see you and Drew together?

ANSWER: Actually, it's more (Whose Line co-star) Colin Mochrie and I than Drew and I. Drew does his own thing. Actually, I need to call Drew. I haven't talked to him in about a year. I like to keep in touch.

A: Was it as much fun on the sitcom as it looked?

A: It really was. Drew was great. He never wanted a dressing room bigger than anyone else's. He's the most generous guy in the world. You hear horror stories about shows where the star is a jerk. This was the opposite; otherwise, I wouldn't have worked with Drew that much.

Q: You were heavily featured on two long-running shows. Do you feel typecast?

A: I don't know. Drew was kind of a goofy show. Whose Line was kind of goofy. That's one of the reasons I started doing Two and a Half Men, because it's kind of a straight part. On the other hand, I don't think people want to see me as a murderer or a pedophile. People just get typecast. When you see John Wayne, you don't think, 'Boy, he's going to be funny.'

Q: Improv seems so risky. How important is it to trust your co-stars?

A: It's everything. For those times that I can't think of something, you need the other guys. On tour, we've never brought anybody who wants to be the funniest person in the show. It doesn't work. Nobody wants to set that person up (for a joke). We consider ourselves a group, not individuals.

Q: Improv seemed to get really popular after Whose Line Is It Anyway? Do you take any credit for that?

A: Now, they teach it in high school. It's nothing new . . . we're not doing anything Sid Caesar or Jonathan Winters didn't do. But we've got life experience. Maybe I'm getting old, but I can't sit and watch someone like Dane Cook. It's like it's so hip it's not funny.

Q: Who does make you laugh?

A: The guys I work with. Jonathan Winters. I grew up on Carol Burnett and Tim Conway. Bill Maher can be funny. You know who used to crack me up? Paul Lynde.

Q: You did both the British and Americans versions of Whose Line: How did they compare?

A: There were usually references you didn't get (in England) but you could tell by people's reactions what it was about. Usually it was references to Lulu or Cilla Black. But you learn those kinds of things in comedy. If I'm working for a younger crowd, I'll tend not to do references to Zamfir, "master of the pan flute."

Q: What are your fans like?

A: I get fans associated with the TV shows. We do kind of have people following us around. Some of them come to every show. We're like a cheap version of the Grateful Dead. It's like Antiques Road Show of improv.

Q: And the audiences are good?

A: The crowd gets into it so much. They're invested in it with us, because they come up with ideas. It's very contagious. People won't be disappointed. (pause) Well, unless they're waiting for Drew. Then they'll be disappointed.

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