September 2, 2009
No matter how big a Hollywood star you are or how old you are, when mom says do something, you do it.
"Whatever she says, I do," says 50-year-old actor/comedian Ryan Stiles, famed for his role in Whose Line is it Anyway and his recurring role on the hit CBS comedy series, Two and a Half Men.
What his 83-year-old mother, Irene Stiles, has asked him to do is an improv show to raise money for much-needed renovations to the church she attends -- Richmond Presbyterian Church on No. 2 Road.
"She actually asked me to perform two shows and I had to tell her, 'Hey mom I can only do one, too busy,'" he says laughing, when the News reached him in Los Angeles where he is filming an episode of Two and a Half Men, in which he plays Dr. Herb Melnick.
It's obvious how close the Emmy-nominated comedian is to his mother.
"Yeah, I visit her every two weeks," says Stiles. "My mom was born and raised in Richmond and she's doing great ... she'll probably outlive us all.
"I'm looking forward to performing at the Gateway Theatre ... I have never performed in Richmond."
Stiles lived in Richmond from the age of 10 until 27 and attended Richmond High.
"I was into sports in high school, but I got kicked out of Richmond High at 17 so I never graduated," he says. "However, I still get invites to the class reunions .... I don't know that I want to see how everyone looks now."
Today, Stiles calls Bellingham home. When asked why he doesn't live in B.C., Stiles says: "I love B.C. but you know what taxes are like in Canada."
He was born in Seattle, the youngest of five children (his brother, Rob Stiles, still lives in Richmond) to Canadian-born parents.
"My father was a fish plant supervisor and moved us to Richmond when I was 10," says Stiles. "Richmond sure doesn't look like the place I used to live in. I grew up on No. 5 Road on a blueberry farm and now all the ditches have been filled.
"We used to park our cars at Lansdowne Centre and then we'd drag race along No. 3 Road."
Even though he has to film at least 10 weeks out of the year in L.A., he refuses to live in California.
"I hate the traffic, the smog is terrible and the people are rude," says Stiles, adding Bellingham still has a small town feel but he fears that will change after Vancouver hosts the 2010 Games.
Success came slow and steady for Stiles.
At 17, he worked at his dad's fish processing plant while he pursued his comedic talents performing improv at Punchlines Comedy Club.
"I wasn't particularly funny in high school, but I grew up with three older brothers who were quite funny," he says. "Then, in 1986 I went to Toronto to be part of the Second City comedy troupe."
His big break came in 1989, when he captured the attention of the British producers of Whose Line is it Anyway?
In 1995, Hollywood came calling.
He was Drew Carey's underachieving best buddy, Lewis Kiniski, on the popular show, The Drew Carey Show for more than 10 years.
Over the years, he has appeared in many hit television shows including Dharma & Greg, Mad About You, Corner Gas and Murphy Brown. where he played a monk (1997).
Over the last five seasons, Stiles has appeared on the hit CBC comedy series, Two and a Half Men, playing Allan's ex-wife's husband.
"I did both Hot Shot movies with Charlie so we kept popping up in each other's lives," says Stiles, explaining how he got cast on the popular sitcom. "As much as the show is fun, I could care less about television but it pays the bills."
It's also easy work, he says.
"The producers trust what I do and the cast is great," Stiles adds. "It's one of the top five sitcom shows on television and the higher the show is in the rating the more they stay with the format."
Although, he adds: "Now that the kid (actor Angus Jones plays Jake Harper), is growing up and is a teenager, the script is getting more risqu?."
One might assume that on set is pretty entertaining.
"No, it's actually a pretty subdued set ... now the Drew Carey set was pretty crazy, we'd go in an hour before the show without rehearsing," Stiles says. "When I started Two and a Half Men, I wanted this character to be pretty straight because I had just finished 11 years of The Drew Carey Show madness, but now my character is getting goofier and goofier."
While the idea of getting on stage and improvising would scare most of us to death, Stiles thrives on it.
"Nothing's planned, no script, no hitting marks or delivers, you just fly by the seat of your pants," says Stiles. "You get the crowd involved without embarrassing people like stand up comedy does ... now, stand-up is about the shock value.
"I don't do stand-up anymore, it wasn't like that (Shock value) when we were doing it in the eighties."
When it comes to his show at the Gateway Theatre, the audience can expect 90 minutes of laughter and fun, with no break, he says. "It's kind of like Whose Line but I'm using the audience," says Stiles. "I'll probably make it up 30 minutes before the show.
Stiles still gets a kick out of touring, performing improv regularly at colleges, performing arts centre and casinos with fellow Whose Liners' Greg Proops, Chip Esten and Jeff B. Davis. "The show is called Whose Live Anyway? and we all have tons of fun," says Stiles.