For comedy lovers, the Granada Theater was the place to be on Tuesday night when Arts & Lectures brought the popular improvability troupe Whose Live Anyway to Santa Barbara. The sold-out show produced a diverse range of people, from high school students to retirees, as well as people from all over the central coast. UCSB students made up a good portion of the audience, too, encouraged by the generous Arts & Lectures student discounts offered for every one of their events.
Well-known comedian Greg Proops walked on stage first and interacted with the excited and talkative audience. Soon after, fan favorite Ryan Stiles, fellow “Whose Line Is It Anyway” alumnus Chip Esten and comedy singer Jeff Davis joined Proops on stage and the packed audience roared with delight. With many of its members originating on the television show “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” these performers have quite a following.
The live show is structured much like the Emmy-nominated television program (and most improv performances), where the comedians incorporate suggestions from the audience into sketches they make up and perform on the spot. As Proops elegantly told the audience before the show, “Everything is based on what you say or do, so if the show sucked … wow.” The show, however, definitely did not suck. The veteran comedians kept the comedy varied by poking fun at audience members, current political events and ridiculous celebrities in order to keep their wide array of fans all entertained.
At one point in the show, the comedians brought a woman from the audience on stage and bombarded her with questions about her personal life. Then, two cast members took all the information they had compiled on her and performed a completely improvised Broadway-style song. Musical director Bob Derkach is just as important to the group as the comedians, providing accompaniment for every song in any genre the audience or comedians choose as well as mood music and sound effects for non-musical scenes. The last game of the show was also a musical number, where the cast improvised three songs on the topic of waiters in the style of country, disco and jazz ballad. Many in the audience agreed the songs were the funniest part of the performance, with witty lyrics, playful theatrics and impressive dancing all proving the talent of these performers.
Another highlight of the performance was a game called Sound It Back, where two audience members were brought on stage to provide sound effects for a scene. Both volunteers were horrible at supplying realistic noises, and one of them struggled to portray a cat — which she later mastered and then used to represent every action on stage. However, this only made the scene more entertaining, as every time they would make a sound, the situation and location of the skit would change completely.
Much like UCSB’s own improv group, Whose Live Anyway relies heavily on the audience. And on Tuesday, the Granada’s comedy fan-filled crowd was eager to be a part of the action on stage, helping make the show a hilarious success. Look for more discounted or free Arts & Lectures events throughout the year and be sure to check out our local improv group, Improvability, which performs every Friday night at 8 p.m. in Embarcadero Hall.