The last election showed us one thing for sure: Rather than counting on the news media to cut through Bush administration rhetoric or uncover the facts, we turned increasingly to comedians. In fact, a survey by the Pew Research Center found that half of Americans under 30 claimed to get their election news from programs like The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. As the saying goes, only the jester speaks the truth.
While Stewart's busy insulting Tucker Carlson's bow tie, a few unsung comics are cutting political hyperbole to the bone, one dark and dingy comedy club at a time. Locally grown Greg Proops, best known for his genius improv on both U.K. and U.S. versions of the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, is one of them.
In considering Proops, look beyond the Buddy Holly glasses and the questionable coif. Try to get over the snicker-worthy, slightly scatological last name. Behind the silliness lies an irreverent, incisive wit that manages to be both snarky and congenial. It's a style Proops calls "baroque dissing."
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When he's not pointing out the Bushies' hypocrisies -- of WMDs, Proops snorted in his stand-up act, "Apparently ours are weapons of growth and nurturing" -- he keeps busy with voice-over work and television gigs. Since Line ended, he has hosted a dating show (the guilty pleasure Rendez-View) and Comedy Central's VS, which pitted historical rivals against each other (classic episodes: "Soccer Moms vs. Dominatrixes," "Beverly Hills 90210vs. Compton 90220," and "Firemen vs. Gay Men's Chorus"). Proops' deadpan commentary on those VH1 nostalgia shows makes reliving the fashion faux pas of the 1970s that much more bearable, and yes, that was his nasally tone you heard in Disney's Brother Bear flick and Pam Anderson's short-lived animated series, Stripperella.
Proops may be one of the sharper tools in the comedy shed, too, winning celebrity versions of The Weakest Link, Win Ben Stein's Money, and Rock 'n' Roll Jeopardy. Funny and smart -- who says God doesn't give with both hands?
Joining Proops in this latest S.F. run is Dana Gould, another one-time local boy with a gift for impersonations -- he perfected his first, of Richard Nixon, by the third grade. Gould moved to San Francisco in 1987 for a girl (typical), and his ab-wrenching take on relationship issues helped him become a finalist in that year's International Stand-Up Comedy Competition. Though he has been a guest on Seinfeld and The Ben Stiller Show and has dabbled in movies, Gould now does more work behind the camera, penning episode after Emmy-nominated episode of The Simpsons.
Gould's widely quoted for his line, "We enter this world naked, bloody, and screaming. That sort of thing doesn't have to end there if you know how to live right." And if there's one thing this town knows how to do, it's live.