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A 16-minute improvisational interview with Ryan Stiles

Whose Interview Is It Anyway?

"WHOSE LIVE ANYWAY": Jeff Davis, Greg Proops and Ryan Stiles. Press photo

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I feel it's safe to assume a majority of people recognizes the name Ryan Stiles. The 53-year-old American born Canadian and current resident of Bellingham has made a prominent name for himself through various TV shows, movies, commercials and live shows. Stiles' most notable roles include the beloved Whose Line Is It Anyway?, The Drew Carrey Show and his reoccurring role on Two and a Half Men. Stiles, along with several fellow cast members of Whose Line Is It Anyway? and The Drew Carrey Show are on tour with their well-developed improv live show Whose Live Anyway?, which hits the Washington Center's stage Thursday, Jan. 24.

I realized the only way to interview a person who has made his career and name doing improvisational work was to create an entirely improvised interview. So, without further ado, and no further introductions necessary, here he is ... the one, the only, Ryan Stiles.

WEEKLY VOLCANO: Over the phone your road manager said you were working down in LA on Two and a Half Men. How's the show going?

RYAN STILES: It's going good. It's been a bit different since Charlie left - and Jake isn't on it as much - but it's still really fun. You know I've been doing it off and on for a couple years now; it's different but still fun.

VOLCANO: Are you enjoying the Whose Live Anyway? tour?

STILES: It has been really relaxed actually. I mean we just got snow up here, which is a bit disheartening. You're in Olympia aren't you?

VOLCANO: No, Tacoma ... but Olympia is a pretty rad place.

STILES: Oh well that's okay, you know the tour has been really relaxed this year. I usually like taking winter off. I just like to take it easy this time of year. I have been working in my theater that I opened up down here about nine years ago, so that's working just fine.

VOLCANO: How do you feel about that Seahawks playoff game?

STILES: Pete Carroll broke the game. He shouldn't have kicked and shouldn't have taken that time out. I mean you just don't do that. As far as I'm concerned, the players won the game and the coach lost. ... Ah, you got me started up. You shouldn't have done that (laughs) but yeah I watched the game on the flight back from LA and I swear if you were there you would have felt like the plane was crashing.


VOLCANO: I generally consider myself a writer, and because of that, improv work seems almost daunting. Can you explain your method for working with improv and coming up with things on the spot?

STILES: In all honesty, I find it easier to be completely improv as opposed to reading anything off of a page. I mean you just hit your mark, and you go for it. Sometimes you're good and sometimes you're bad - like the last few times I was just awful. But I've been doing this for a long time, so I guess it just becomes sort of natural after awhile. I've been working with the guys for such a long time that doing improv with them is so easy. Just to do it, you know? We've talked about what we're going to do before hand, but that stuff ends up turning out bad. I think the more you know about what you want to do, the worse it ends up being.

VOLCANO: How was your lunch today?

STILES: Haven't had lunch yet, had breakfast instead. But then I got tangled up in a bunch of crap. You know, kid stuff and all that. But, I'll have some time to relax and eat something soon enough. I enjoy relaxing quite a bit, but I really only feel truly relaxed on tour. It has always been like that though.

VOLCANO: Is punk dead?

STILES: Well, I've never been much of a punk fan. I had my Ramones days, so I might not be the guy to ask. But yeah, it's dead. ... Hell yeah it's dead! I mean look at what we listen to nowadays - like Cee Lo and all those other guys. It's crap! But then again I was never the guy to ask about that sort of stuff. I've just really enjoyed classical rock and all that. I worked in clubs for a while, so that was also what I mainly listened to.


VOLCANO: You've been in a lot of movies, commercials, TV shows and one of the movies you were in is nominated for an Academy Award. What has been your career highlight?

STILES: I think the highlight of my entire career was simply working with people that I grew up with and idolized. You know, it's such an amazing thing to be able to work with those people, like Jonathan Winters, and others. Sometimes they are just in the audience and you can invite them up on stage and improv with them. It's not like it's a play or anything. You can kind of just do whatever you want. So, I guess, yeah, I think that would be my highlight.

VOLCANO: How do you feel about Justin Timberlake's return to music?

STILES: Oh, is he making a comeback? I don't know. I never really listened to him. Neither did my kids. My son was mainly into classic rock and my daughter is you know, into the whole One Direction scene - but she still likes some classic rock. So I never really had to listen to him. But, I did see him on Saturday Night Live and he really surprised me. I never really thought of him as being a funny guy, but he really impressed me. I think I gained a bit of respect for him. Most of the pop artists today couldn't do that. I wouldn't want to improv with Kelly Clarkson. But no, I saw him do those rap songs he wrote for the show; they were comedy rap and I thought those were pretty funny. I will tell you, though; I did some work with some rock stars. Like, ah ... you might be a bit too young for him ... but Joe Walsh. Do you know him?

VOLCANO: Yeah, of course!

STILES: Yeah, he and I did some work together for a while. He would come on stage with the cast and play guitar in the background. We didn't always use him until halfway through the show, so he would sit up on stage with us and people in the audience would be like "Whoa! Is that Joe Walsh?" Yeah, rock guys are fun. They don't take themselves too seriously. I've done improv with Eddie Van Halen and that was great because he didn't take himself too seriously, which is nice because it's a bit different now, everything is more about appearance. That's kind of why I don't really like going to award shows all that much. One year, I got nominated for an Emmy and I didn't even go to the ceremony.

VOLCANO: What was the Emmy for?

STILES: It was for best or outstanding performance. It was I, Sting, Barbra Streisand, Billy Joel and John Stewart. Sting won that year, and I didn't really want to be in the audience looking slightly disappointed when Sting won - kind of like "Ah, come on Sting!"

VOLCANO: Speaking of awards, how do you feel about Argo winning the Golden Globe for best picture?

STILES: It's actually really funny you bring that movie up. I literally just put it in the player. My daughter has it all queued up and waiting for me to get done with the interview so we can go watch it. Yeah, that's actually really funny that you bring that up! Tell you what I'll go watch it and let you know what I think afterward.

VOLCANO: All right! Did you know you have a really strong Internet following?

STILES: Um, not really, no.

VOLCANO: Well, I guess I'm telling you that you have a strong Internet following then.

STILES: I don't really go on the Internet all that much. It's kind of scary. Like one time I caught my daughter on the Internet and I asked her what she was doing and she said "talking to myself" like she was talking to somebody across the Internet claiming to be her. So, I don't really go on it all that much. I know there's somebody on Facebook who SAYS he's me that has like seventy thousand friends. He even answers questions about me; so I guess he thinks he's me. The only thing I really use is Netflix.

VOLCANO: So are you into Breaking Bad then?

STILES: No, I've watched pretty much all of Breaking Bad already. I've done some improv with Bryan Cranston before. He's a funny guy, which is a bit odd for the character he plays on Breaking Bad. I've been re-watching Deadwood though.

VOLCANO: I've never watched that before - should I?

STILES: Oh yeah, I think you would love it.


Whose Live Anyway? - 90 minutes of improvised comedy and song all based on audience suggestions, comes to the Washington Center for the Performing Arts Thursday, Jan. 24 at 7:30 pm. Stiles, Joel Murray, Greg Proops and Jeff Davis will improvise witty scenes and music on the spot.

WASHINGTON CENTER, THURSDAY, JAN. 24, 7:30 P.M., $33-$40, 512 WASHINGTON ST. SE, OLYMPIA, 360.753.8586

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