By Michelle Talsma
Published on 10/18/2007
If you want to see a comedy show where the audience members are just as important as the comedians, look no further than “Whose Live Anyway?” The improvisational comedy act, based on the popular television show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” takes the show’s well-known comedians, places them on stage, lets the audience write out suggestions, and then lets the laughs begin.
“Drew is not there slowing down the action,” jokes improv comedian Ryan Stiles, referring to the television show’s host Drew Carey. “We have 90 minutes on stage and aren’t counting up points or anything. We love moving around the stage and are able to do a lot of games that aren’t on the TV show.”
The live show differs from the television-based version by being more music-oriented and truly using all of the audience suggestions since there’s no commercial breaks or point counting. Although the live tour started a few years back showcasing 10 or 11 comedians, it’s now down to “four guys who just love to do improv,” says Stiles.
The cast members—Stiles, Greg Proops, Chip Esten and Jeff Davis— are all individually recognized as nationally (and internationally) famous comedians and are what Stiles dubs “the best at what they do” when it comes to improv comedy.
From standup to improv to television, between all of the comedians hitting the stage during the show, most of Hollywood’s biggest comedy acts are covered. Stiles says that with only four cast members, there’s no one star in the show, so the audience can really get a sense of the cast. What’s more is that all of the cast members are great friends who have been performing together for years, and since getting together can prove challenging, they make the most of their time while on tour.
“We’re all on such different schedules that we rarely get to see each other,” Stiles says. “This tour gives us a chance to get together and hop on a rock ‘n’ roll bus, where it’s such a hoot; these guys really make me laugh.”
The “Whose Live Anyway?” comedy act, much like the television show, specializes in family-friendly entertainment. Since it’s live, the cast members may get a little PG every now and then since they aren’t aware of the topics ahead of time, but overall the audience members can range from ages 8 to 80 with no problem. And, at the end of each show Stiles says the audience is usually waiting outside to hang out and chat, which adds to the informal, family atmosphere.
“We have never had any complaints from parents at any of the shows,” Stiles says. “From trying to buy my son comedy CDs, I know how hard it can be to find family-friendly entertainment. It’s a show people can take their kids to.”
Bringing improv comedy to a whole new generation is one of Stiles’ favorite things to come out of the TV show and subsequent tour. Despite his success as a standup and television comic, improv is what he loves and does best.
“I did standup for years and years, and the audience has this sort of ‘make me laugh’ attitude,” Stiles says. “With improv, the audience is actually interacting with you.”
Stiles also notes that since the television show’s popularity, many of today’s popular sitcoms are more improvisational than scripted, and that now there are improv classes available.
“Everyone knows what improv is, and anyone can do it,” he says.
Stiles prefers to keep the tour to the West Coast since he doesn’t like to fly (“I don’t like to fly, I don’t have to, so I don’t,” he says) and enjoys playing mid-sized towns.
“I love playing in cities that are few and far in between,” he says. “Every town has the same size local theater, so we get the same number of people either way, but the audiences in smaller towns are just happier to see us.”
Stiles says he looks forward to playing in Flagstaff because he’s never been here before and enjoys playing in college towns because university-aged students always come up to him and tell him how they grew up watching the television show.
“How comforting, I’m the Tim Conway of my generation,” he jokes.
Stiles says he the “Whose Live Anyway?” tour is becoming a rare commodity, as all of its stars are getting so busy that eventually he foresees them not being able to get together anymore. But, for now he’s enjoying hanging out with his best friends and having the freedom to do improv — the comedy style he loves best.
“I need to be on stage and in improv there’s instant feedback. It’s like a drug,” Stiles says. “This is our show, and is exactly what I love doing.”