By Jonathan Wexler
Though he’s most renowned for his time on the hit improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway? stand-up comedian Greg Proops proves with his new album Joke Book that, given time to think about his lines, he’s even funnier.
Joke Book is 65 minutes of completely offensive fun. His comedy is highly intelligent — big words and fictitious phrases abound — yet accessible and almost always delivers a ton of chuckles.
At the start of the album, Proops spends a lot of time conveying personal stories and exploring regionalisms. It was recorded at Minneapolis’ Acme Comedy Company, so, of course, the locals take a lickin’, don’ t ya know? Proops, a Californian, says the weather in Minnesota — cold and harsh — shows God must be really pissed at its inhabitants.
And he takes some swings at other locales, like when he ponders why Floridians choose to live in a land where prehistoric reptiles roam, and why, of all drugs, meth is so popular in a paradise like Hawaii.
The first half of Joke Book is good for sure, but Proops really hits his stride in the latter part of the album; you get the feeling that this is why he really came. The material here is overwhelmingly political and decidedly anti-Bush.
On “Immigration,” he ridicules white supremacists’ ironic efforts to stop the flow of “gardeners and busboys” at the Mexican border into states with Spanish names. In “Women’s Organs,” he insists that if men were the ones who got pregnant, there would be abortion clinics on every corner.
The man whom Esquire recently dubbed “the funniest man in Los Angeles” rips the president in “The Decider” and the veep in “Cheney at the Hunt,” a riotous 12-minute tirade about how the cardiac case sprayed his friend Harry Whittington in the torso, neck and face with birdshot and got away with it.
These tracks also get a boost from tension, which is always good for a laugh. While the traditionally liberal Minnesota crowd clearly agrees with Proops’ politics, you can sense discomfort at some of his less politically correct assertions, as on “Barry Bonds” when Proops suggests a passive approval of steroid use in sports with lines like, “I worship his commanding black thighs.”
It’s also unclear whether the crowd loves the frequent dropping of F-bombs. But more times than not, audience members end up laughing — even when it in spite of themselves.
Proops sets himself apart from his stand-up comedy counterparts with his multi-punch line combo: He throws them the way Ali threw jabs, with lightning quickness, no doubt developed through years of improv.
As with the champ, the knockdown is a foregone conclusion. Proops primes the crowd with smaller, tangential mini jokes so well that by the end of his main jokes, and ultimately by the conclusion of his set, the audience is quite acclimated to laughing.