Drew Carey’s Improv-a-ganza is a brand new show on GSN, filmed live at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and staring Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops, Jonathan Mangum, and Kathy Kinney, who all took the time to talk to us. They are joined on stage by Drew Carey, Wayne Brady, Chip Esten, Brad Sherwood, and other familiar faces of the improv circuit. Those of you who know what funny is will remember them from Whose Line Is It Anyway?, the originally British improv show that first graced America’s TVs from 1998-2004. If you didn’t catch it during it’s original run, it’s still airing now in reruns on ABC Family. You really need to watch it sometime. It cures cancer.
Okay, maybe not cancer, but it cures a frown, and makes any mood you’re in a little brighter. In my opinion, that’s worth a lot. Hopefully Improv-a-ganza can do the same… Now if only I could get them to get rid of my debt collectors…
Q: Can you give us some details on what we can expect from ‘Improv-a-ganza’ and how it’s different from ‘Who’s Line is it Anyway’?
Colin Mochrie: Sure. Unlike Who’s Line, there isn’t a host per se. Drew Carey has his name on the show, of course, which didn’t mean enough for him to show up for this interview but still–
Kathy Kinney: I’m sitting in for him.
C. Mochrie: So it’s more like a taping of what our Vegas shows were, where everyone takes time, everybody has a chance to introduce the scene, set up the characters. So there’s no host that way. Also, unlike Who’s Line, Ryan and I would always work together, you know, Brad and Wayne would always do the songs. So it’s really mixed up that way. We got a chance to work with everybody. I got to do a couple of singing games, which I–Who’s Line I think was contracted not to have me sing. So it has many, many differences.
Ryan Stiles: Can I add a couple?
C. Mochrie: Yeah.
R. Stiles: Also, on Who’s Line, a lot of the suggestions came down from the producers on cards that Drew read. We still didn’t know what the suggestions were, but because we don’t have that, everything comes from the audience and we–I think we use the audience more in this show too, and we can take our time with scenes. In Who’s Line we just needed to be boom, boom, boom, everything just kind of gaggie, but we can kind of work through scenes here. It’s a little more fun that way, so we can explore characters and stuff. I’m making it sound like theatre; it’s not. It’s still funny, but we just have more time in this show. We have a big stage. We’re not confined to a little eight by twelve foot stage where we have to stand in a line and speak. We can actually move, so it’s just more fun for us to do.
K. Kinney: I just want to add one, too. Because it’s improv, and we rely on the audience, having this unbelievable energized audience in this Las Vegas Casino, and these are people from all over the world, the heartland, Europe and everywhere, and we’re feeding on them and they’re feeding on us, and so there’s this sense of almost–it’s almost like a Cirque Du Soleil show. You just jump and you fly, and it’s really just a different energy than–
Greg Proops: She does that, literally.
K. Kinney: Yeah, literally I jump and I fly. You’ll have to tune in, though, to see it.
TTC: About that energy filming in Vegas–and I hear there was an incident with a drunk woman in the premiere episode–do any of you have any crazy stories to tell about filming in that environment?
Jonathan Mangum: Colin?
C. Mochrie: Yeah because I’m the guy… No, yeah, I tend–the beauty of improv is once you’ve done the scene, it’s like gone forever, so you never really remember anything until you see it, you know when you’re flipping through the channels. I can’t think of anything except for the drunk woman, who I have to proudly admit I picked her.
J. Mangum: For me, thank you.
C. Mochrie: I’m very well known for my ability to pick the best possible person for any scene. You know, it was dark. I didn’t realize she had her pants over her head.
J. Mangum: You’re just naturally attracted to drunk women.
C. Mochrie: …
G. Proops: Didn’t we have–we had a guy at one point that came up on stage in one of the shows that was really drunk, and we were playing the game “moving bodies”, where they move the performer. And I think it was Chip, and I think that they were–you know, normally you would grab someone’s leg to move it forward to make them walk, and I think this guy was like punching his butt as hard as he could, and he was a big muscle guy and we all were like ‘whoa’. We were a little worried.
C. Mochrie: A little worried, but no one jumped in.
J. Mangum: No, because we wanted to watch Chip suffer, of course.
K. Kinney: Yeah. But well, I think Chip turned and like was going to deck him or something. Scared him enough, but–
G. Proops: We also did have slightly older woman in an incredibly short skirt.
J. Mangum: Yes.
G. Proops: We had to put a towel over her at one point actually.
C. Mochrie: Yep.
K. Kinney: I think they’re running that promo. I was watching some poker, high stakes poker, and they’ve got a commercial for the show, and it’s Jeff singing, Jeff and Jonathan, you and Jeff singing, and Jeff pulls the towel off her lap.
G. Proops: You ripped it off.
K. Kinney: Yeah, he rips it off and she’s going to turn around and he says ‘no, don’t turn around, we’re on a Game Show Network, not the pay per view’. So it was pretty funny.
Q: Now you guys have known each other for a very long time, and you guys definitely have a rapport with each other. You know each other’s timings. How do you prepare your guest stars so that they can feel like they’re really a part and they can work well with you guys?
C. Mochrie: Oh, that’s something especially for Jonathan Mangum.
J. Mangum: Oh? I’m sorry I missed a bit of that.
C. Mochrie: Oh.
J. Mangum: So can you–
K. Kinney: …Greg?
J. Mangum: I was in a circus parade.
K. Kinney: I was going to say we–I mean, in the past we’ve simply made fun of them in the green room and then given them a drink, but does anyone else have anything to add to that?
J. Mangum: You know, I think the thing we don’t want to do is make them look bad, so we do everything we can to help them. We set them up, or we leave them alone, and a lot of people are kind of nervous to get up there. Even actors don’t necessarily improvise, so it’s always kind of scary for them and we kind of sense that, so we kind of lead them through it, but we want them to look good so–
R. Stiles: Plus, improv is always, always ‘yes’, and so any idea they have, we’re going to completely accept, so they almost can’t look bad as long as they just have ideas.
G. Proops: I’m always trying to emphasis to our guests the enormous sense of gratitude they should be feeling that they’re allowed to be playing with us, and that maybe they should be thinking about a little more than their own needs.
C. Mochrie: And yet they rarely do.
Q: Kathy, what it’s like being the only woman in the cast?
K. Kinney: Well, you know–
C. Mochrie: I’ll answer this.
K. Kinney: Yeah, I have a bigger dressing room, which is just a joke because I don’t really have a dressing room. You know, I feel like–I feel very honored. I feel happy, funny. It’s–I don’t feel funny. I mean, I feel okay. I think that I just fit in. I just fit in, and it is like family because we’ve all been together so long. I’m not out there trying to–I’m a good ensemble person. I’m a team player, and I think that that’s what makes it a good fit for me. And Drew Carey owes me money, and so I’m always going to be there until he pays that debt off.
J. Mangum: And we don’t have to play women, which is great.
K. Kinney: Yeah. Yeah, because I am a woman, but sometimes I get to play a man, because we’re doing improv. So we’re gender bending all the time there. Sometimes we just play animals who have no gender, like frogs or tadpoles, things like that. So, I just feel–I’m just happy. I’m happy to be there and have a job.
J. Mangum: Are you drinking, Kathy?
K. Kinney: I am but it’s called dandy blend. It’s dandelion weed brew stuff.
Q: On ‘Who’s Line is it Anyway?’ you had guest stars like Robin Williams and Whoopie Goldberg, for instance. This time around you had Charlie Sheen (on the second episode, airing April 12th). Who’s the dream guest star for the future?
K. Kinney: Oh, Ryan?
R. Stiles: Oh, boy. Wow. I’d love to see Morley Safer up there, although I don’t think he’s going to get up.
K. Kinney: Yeah. I was thinking Hillary Clinton but–
C. Mochrie: Oh, yeah.
R. Stiles:I don’t know. That’s the great thing about shooting in Vegas too, the people that go through Vegas. I mean, not only the people that do shows there, but the people that go on weekends are–so the chances of us getting a lot of people to come and guest on the show are really good because it’s improv. We can just ask them five minutes before the show and get them up there. So, yeah, we’re always kind of excited about who might show up that night.
K. Kinney: You know who I miss? I miss Joe Walsh.
R. Stiles: Joe was fun. Yeah, we’ll probably get Joe on eventually.
K. Kinney: I wish Joe would come back.
R. Stiles: I’m sure he would.
K. Kinney: Joe Walsh, he’s a funny guy. Jonathan, do you have any? Who would you like to see?
J. Mangum: Oh, boy. Who would I–well, who’s in Vegas now? Who could we get to come do it with us?
K. Kinney: Celine Dion.
J. Mangum: Celine Dion could do it. The cast of–
R. Stiles: I’d love to see Teller do a narration scene.
J. Mangum: Teller would be great.
G. Proops: Jeff works a lot with Eric Idol, so you know some of those people hang out once in a while so–
K. Kinney: And I flew behind him once. I sat behind him in an airplane and kicked the back of his seat all the way to New York, so maybe he’d do it for us.
R. Stiles: You know, it’s funny the people who love improv. I mean, even with Who’s Line, you know, Paul McCartney said it was one of his favorite shows. Johnny Depp said he would never do TV again, but if he did, he would do Who’s Line, so I mean–
K. Kinney: Wow.
R. Stiles: There’s a lot of people who want to do it, so it’s just a matter of–
J. Mangum: Katie Couric is looking for a gig.
K. Kinney: Yeah. Yeah, Katie Couric. […] God, if Johnny Depp came, I might not be able to talk.
Q: And how was it doing improv with Charlie Sheen?
R. Stiles: I’ll answer that. It was great. I mean we didn’t–we weren’t even sure if he was going to come up. He came to see the show and we asked him to come up and do a game with us, and usually when you ask actors like that, they’ll go, ‘Oh, gee I don’t know. I don’t think I could possibly’, and Charlie was like, ‘Let’s do it. It sounds like fun’. So you could hear him in the crowd. He sat in one place. He laughed at everything, even the stuff that wasn’t funny, and he was great. We just had a good time doing it, so it was fun that he came up. It’s so different than what you know Charlie for, and I think he carried himself pretty well.
C. Mochrie: Yeah.
R. Stiles: And I’m not saying that because I have to go back to Two and a Half Men, because I don’t.
K. Kinney: That’s right.
I want to say thank you so much to Ryan, Colin, Greg, Jonathan, and Kathy for taking the time to talk with us about their upcoming show. Drew Carey’s Improv-a-ganza premieres tonight, April 11th, on GSN, and runs every weeknight. I can’t wait! What about you?
JD – Sr. Staff Writer
If you’d like to follow JD’s TV stories from TTC and beyond, you can follow her on Twitter at @JDeckerTV.