"Whose Live Anyway?" brings big laughs to Flagstaff

Illustration by Aleah Green

"Whose Live Anyway?" is a touring comedy show where audience members are tagged to participate in an entirely off-script, 90-minute act. This interactive improv act leaves audience members crying with laughter from the quick-wittedness of the cast.

The show is hosted by four comedians from a variety of backgrounds, who employ lighthearted banter, controversial squabble and all-around silliness. The cast features comedians Greg Proops, Jeff B. Davis, Dave Foley and Joel Murray. The four individuals came together to put on a performance for a night of laughs.

"Whose Live Anyway?" started 20 years ago and began with Proops and comedian Colin Mochrie. Proops said former "Whose Line is it Anyway?" TV host, Drew Carey, asked the pair to take on a live stage in Las Vegas. Over the last few years, the members have added more show dates. Proops said he completed over 100 improv shows in 2018 alone.

He has done mostly comedy among other pursuits, such as hosting a podcast titled "The Smartest Man in the World," becoming an author and voicing several animated characters in films, such as "Brother Bear" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

Out of all his pursuits, Proops said he cannot put his finger on what his favorite is, though he has created many memorable moments on tour with "Whose Live Anyway?" some of which became memorable in unconventional ways.

“One time in Canada, we were on tour, and we bring people out of the audience, interview them and sing a song to them, and Canadians are so shy that we realized once we brought them out that they weren’t going to say anything,” Proops said. “They were paralyzed with fear. Mind you, they volunteered to come on stage, yet they sat there shaking. So, we were like, ‘OK you can go back,’ and we had to go get someone else from the audience. American crowds really aren’t like that.”

The memories don't fall short for audience members either. The crowd feeds off jokes that hone in on local knowledge. Each member does their research on the area they are touring, creating interactions between the cast and crowd during performances. For Flagstaff’s show, the first suggestions for topics included trees, Patagonia jackets and hippies, which the cast members used to create jokes.

The localization of material appeals to each crowd in intimate ways. It resonated with first-time attendees, including third-year graduate students, Courtney Roush and Nancy Peterson.

“They seriously do their homework on the place,” Roush said. “It was all hilarious. I just wish it went on longer.”

Much of the live act is as silly as the show it was based upon. The show hosted skits, such as parody jeopardy, and used randomly selected lines as fuel for skit material.

“It’s like the show, but things go on longer,” Peterson said. “The skits went on longer, the bits went on longer, the songs went on longer and they make it Flagstaff specific, which I really liked.”

In one skit, Davis took a volunteer on stage, who then got to enjoy humorous, on-the-fly lyrics from Davis' serenade. The audience usually cracks up while Davis sings about the person’s name, hair and anything else he can come up with on the spot.

The show concludes with an encore that ties together many of the jokes the audience and cast have built together throughout the duration of the evening. The live adaption does not disappoint and left local audience members wanting a second encore. Proops said this is achieved every show, and cast members aim for their best performances each time.

“The show is good fun, and you forget about the world for an hour and a half,” Proops said. “There are political jokes here and there, and we do bring people out of the audience, so if you come to the show, don’t be surprised if you get volunteered to come on stage. It’s super interactive, and we really do try to get a standing ovation every night."

Although the show encourages audience members to suggest topics of humor, the group does not accept racist or hateful suggestions. Proops said this typically does not happen during the improv tours, although if it does, he has no problem telling rowdy attendees to keep it to themselves.

In addition to telling rambunctious audience members to keep it down, Proops doesn’t shy from letting his politically controversial flags fly. He has a passion for a wide variety of topics, which he fully covers in his podcast. These passions also show in his improv performances through quick and witty jokes about politics and other culturally relevant topics. Proops said he pokes fun on stage, but off stage, he uses his platform for more than comedy. He has been very vocal about his feelings toward civil rights, feminism and other social issues.

“[My wife] Jennifer and I are of the opinion that, with this election coming up, it's really important to center women, and particularly women of color,” Proops said. “Women are underpaid – that’s a fact. I’m not making it up.”

In addition to his support of feminism and civil rights advocacy, Proops said he uses his platform to stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves.

“I have the privilege because I’m a middle-aged white guy,” Proops said. “I have a platform, and people listen to me, so I feel like I have to use it to try to remind people that immigrant children shouldn’t be put in detention and women should be voted for ... A lot of people want to talk about sports, boxing or all of the tired comedy things people talk about.”

In addition to Proops' actions and outreach in sensitive topics, the whole cast from "Whose Live Anyway?" have been key participants in the Phoenix-based charity event Comedy for Charity. This is an annual event created by comedian Suzie Sexton that raises money for victims of violence.

"Whose Live Anyway?" gives back every night by bringing big laughs and quotable moments to attendees in many cities. Audience and cast members alike adore the live tour that will sweep through the rest of the states before finishing in June 2020. Tickets can be purchased on the Whose Live website.