It's chicken enchilada night at Ryan Stiles' house, and he's manning the stove.
Stiles does all the cooking for his family. He is, after all, semi-retired. But he'll be back on the road again this summer with Whose Live Anyway?, the 90-minute, live version of Whose Line is it Anyway?, which aired on ABC from 1998 to 2006. The group will perform some of the games made famous during their TV days plus lots of new ones.
Stiles is part of an improv rat-pack that includes Greg Proops, Chip Esten and Jeff Davis. Esten and Davis are the go-tos for all things made-up and musical, and their combined musical range is seriously impressive.
For their touring show, four is the magic number. Any more than four people and the audience gets no sense of the cast, Stiles says. "Four is easier to grab on to."
They've taken the show on the road for quite some time now, and it's quite different than the shows done in-studio. There are no commercial breaks to worry about, Stiles points out, and there are no time constraints. It makes for a much better flow and energy, and audience members are encouraged to come prepared with creative suggestions. Big stages also lend themselves to more scenic bits, and the guys are freer to do what they want.
Like pulling audience members of their choice up on stage. Back when Drew Carey hosted the show on air, he would choose who joined the improvisers at the front of studio. But Carey had never performed improv, and when it came to picking audience members, "he's not really that good at that," says Stiles. While Carey would choose young, attractive women for the guys to sing to, the traveling group likes to pick "an older woman with a story and make her a star for the night."
You hear that ladies? Wanna get on stage? Look interestingly old!
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When Stiles isn't on tour or taping shows for the new TV incarnation of Whose Line is it Anyway? -- set to debut on the CW this summer and featuring his buddies Wayne Brady and Colin Mochrie with host Aisha Tyler -- he's providing a space for up-and-coming comic and improv stars at his Bellingham, Washington, venue The Upfront Theatre. Close to Seattle and Vancouver, Bellingham is the perfect spot for a comedy club -- a giant college town. Stiles was quick to grab some college kids to take care of the everyday operations.
As he told them, "If I open it, you have to run it, 'cause I don't know what to do except perform in it." It's been a huge hit. Everybody who performs there comes out of the classes that Upfront offers. "You learn more from being on stage for two nights than taking classes for two hours," says Stiles.
For comedy newbies, Stiles says, the key is "work, work, work. The more you can get on stage, the more you're gonna learn." Stiles and his friends created opportunities to perform, often runnings bits in friends' living rooms. Thanks to his commitment, you can see him on the big stage nowadays.
Stiles and the guys will be here this Saturday at the Majestic Theater. Tickets are available online.