Monday, May 20, 2013
Comedy review: Hilarious men of Whose Live Anyway? heckle Dallas with raunchy improv
The live performance even tops the namesake TV show.
DALLAS If you weren’t at the Majestic Theatre on Saturday night for Whose Live Anyway?, I beg you to heed this advice: Get in your car and drive to Houston, or fly down tomorrow, for the show’s last Texas stop before the show’s cast — Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops, Chip Esten, and Jeff Davis (accompanied by brilliant keyboardist Bob Derkach) — head to points much further north to finish the tour. MUCH further north — like Nebraska, Iowa, Washington state, and Canada.
I haven’t laughed so hard in I don’t know when I as I did Saturday night. The show can honestly be hazardous to your health; at a couple of points my hilarity turned into coughing and I was afraid I’d choke to death. Would have been a perfectly wonderful way to go, though. I’d forgotten how much the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, which ran from 1998 to 2007, made me laugh. Thank the comedy gods, it’s coming back starting July 16 on the CW. Drew Carey has moved on to hosting The Price Is Right, so this iteration of Whose Line will be hosted by comedian Aisha Tyler. Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles, and Wayne Brady will head the cast, with special guests each episode.
In the meantime, those of us lucky enough to go the show Saturday were treated to the live version, with everyone but “the bald guy [Mochrie], the rich guy [Carey] and the black guy [Brady],” as Proops put it. The live show is — I know this is hard to believe, but trust me — even funnier than the TV show, because it can be raunchier (guess how much mileage they got out of the name of an audience member’s honeymoon destination, a place called Peter Island?) and the improvised sketches, games and songs can be longer. With no Carey handing out suggestions, the prompts all came from the audience, who for the most part did their part admirably. One guy eventually got kicked off stage for putting poor Davis into impossibly twisted positions during the “Moving People” sketch, and a couple of women totally stunk at the sound-effects game. Honestly, girl, when Esten asked you to sing, couldn’t you have come up with just ONE song from Nashville? (Billed as Charles Esten, he plays hunky singer-songwriter Deacon Clayton on the ABC show.) A Majestic usher named Melanie refused to play along at all. Boo, Melanie, boo!
Meanwhile, there were plenty of troopers to make Dallas proud. Angela, the woman who went to Peter Island for her honeymoon, took Stiles’ outrageous flirting with good will, and laughed along during a song that made fun of her zebra-skin-print dress. Her husband Adam also remained gentlemanly when Stiles connived to get him up onstage during the encore, so that Stiles could then take his seat in the audience and continue his attempted wooing of Angela.
During the practice warmup for the audience, Proops asked for suggestions of “what you might see on the streets of Dallas,” getting as answers “hookers,” “bums,” and “nothing.” Way to go, Dallasites, to promote the wonders of our fair city. Proops referred to the closest box seat to stage left as the “John Wilkes Booth,” which brought howls, and when he asked for a favorite book and someone suggested Playboy, he replied with “Who says Texas is illiterate?” The locals-ribbing was so good-natured, though, that only a total curmudgeon could have felt offended.
Where else could you get a show that seamlessly connected Haight-Ashbury with Angela Lansbury? That had Neil Young and Celine Dion singing a duet? That ended an improv about a pipe organ and Edgar Allan Poe (a name suggested by an audience member, so it’s not like they could have planned it) with, “and I shall play it nevermore.” And that could make a joke about foreclosure? (When the plucky Angela revealed that she and Adam make their living selling foreclosures, Stiles responded with “Bring out your dead!”)
All four guys were fabulous, but if I had to say, it was Esten who stole the show. Esten embodied, with stunning verve, Dion, the Phantom of the Opera, Batman, and a country singer named Barrel Chest, among others. The best moment in the show, though, came during a sketch using random bits of dialogue passed up by audience members. As Stiles bent over to show Davis a tattoo on his back, Davis opened his sentence and collapsed with laughter before he could read it: “It says, ‘Raise shields before going to warp.’” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it’s done.
To read my interview with Stiles, click here.
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