Greg Proops Discusses Buck-A-Beer, Singing with an Orchestra and Bringing His Smarts to JFL42
Published Sep 20, 2018"The world has always been coming to an end," Greg Proops says without a hint of irony. "There've always been evil old white men, that's just a given, right? So you just have to realize that they're always going to be there. The fight is renewable and it goes on."
While the current American government has shocked most of us into frustrated resignation, Greg Proops remains highly engaged. He's been obsessed with the U.S. Congress for more years than he's been a member of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and he's always excited to lampoon his next deserving target.
"[U.S. Senator] Mitch McConnell is an albino cave salamander who doesn't believe that women or poor people exist, or that guns are a problem," the comic offers. "If you're talking about who's done the most collateral damage over the last 30 years in politics, Mitch McConnell would be that person. And of course, he has a hilarious cartoon look: he has no chin, google eyes and he wears weird glasses, so he works on many different satirical levels."
Though he's not a fan of Doug Ford and his Buck-a-Beer platform — which "isn't so much a policy as much as it's something your drunk uncle says to you at a Canada Day barbecue" — Proops is looking forward to coming to Toronto.
"Canadians know the score I think. When I went to Dallas a couple of weeks ago, a woman told me I was brave to talk about gun control. So that's where we're coming from. It's a little frightening."
Standup isn't the only thing on Proops' schedule this fall: he's also going to be singing at the Hollywood Bowl. As one of the voice actors for Nightmare Before Christmas, he gets to be part of a live concert version of the film in October, along with Danny Elfman, Catherine O'Hara and Ken Page.
"It's as close as being in an opera as I'm ever going to get. John Mauceri, who was Leonard Bernstein's protégé, is the conductor. I stand right next to him during the whole thing, every moment of it, and it's absolutely exhilarating," says the comedian who also voiced Bob on Bob the Builder. "I laugh like a child the whole time. In rehearsal, I'm as ecstatic as I can be without drugs. I'm right by the first violin, so when the music starts, it goes right to your chest."
Performing with an orchestra is unforgettable, but Greg Proops insists that it's not the flashy, glamorous experiences that make him feel satisfied with his career: it's the projects where he has complete creative control and "there's no show business, there are no meetings."
Occasionally nicknamed "Proopcast," The Smartest Man in the World podcast has been running exactly how Proops wants it to for the better part of a decade, whether it's telling a riveting story about performing at a castle or discussing the tiny minutiae of the Paul Manafort trial. Not every topic is for everyone, but Proops' lack of pandering is enchanting in its recklessness, and he always has several hidden gems of insight and trivia in every episode.
"Sometimes I think I'm repeating things people already know about literature or art or movies. Then my wife says 'You're not — our job is to curate things,'" Proops explains. "So for instance, Randy Weston passed away recently, he's a pianist who loved Afro-centric jazz. I played a couple records and I talked about him a little, and I had people write me and say 'I didn't know who he was' and they dig his music now.
"It kind of just throws a light on things — there's so much information floating around in the universe, that no one will sit you down and say 'You should listen to Nina Simone,' you know? Or 'You have to read this book.' People always say to me, 'You should be a teacher or a politician.' But I don't want to be a teacher or a politician. I'll perform from my bar. I love performing more than anything," he concludes. "Performing in front of people live is the most important thing an artist can do."
See Greg Proops perform at the JFL42 Festival in Toronto from September 20 to 23.