Stateside Greg Proops may be primarily known for his improv alongside Drew Carey, Wayne Brady, Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, but when it comes to the U.K.’s discerning stand-up audiences, he’s a pretty big deal. And justifiably so: His two-week Edinburgh Festival Fringe run is in the sweltering, 360-seat Gilded Balloon Debating Hall (upgraded from last year’s tent at Assembly George Square), but it’s been packing audiences in nightly, and attendees would be hard-pressed to name programming alternatives even remotely comparable in terms of jokes per minute.
Proops bounded out in a dark suit and high spirits, immediately bemoaning the lack of air circulation and the fact that “actually seeing the shows is the most uncomfortable part of the Fringe.” Armed with local references and in-jokes aplenty, he decried the invention of haggis nachos, blathering Scottish cab drivers, and, referring to the two-and-a-half-year delay in becoming operational, recalled how he started performing at the Fringe in 1993, when “they had just started building the tram.”
From there he was off on an international tour of flippant yet affectionate needling, nasally skewering the demerits of Glasgow engineering (“Putting a ferris wheel in the middle of Glasgow is like…putting a ferris wheel in the middle of Glasgow!”), the overblown national national pride of the English, Italy’s farcical elections, stereotypes assigned to his native San Francisco, Florida and the George Zimmerman trial, and Midwesterners who believe “4,000 years ago our Lord Jesus Christ rode a triceratops to a gun show…” and are so befuddled by women, “I couldn’t possibly communicate with them unless it’s through a rape tweet!”
Impossible to capture myriad accents, intricacies and lightning-quick barbs on paper, suffice to say only a universally accessible intellect like Proops’s could offer sizable, gee-whiz contemplations on Irish potatoes and American bacon as a gateway to the social and political ills respectively plaguing each. “Hollywood is not a city,” he noted of his adoptive hometown. “Hollywood is an idea held simultaneously by a million assholes,” that trades in reality “stars” like the hirsute Kardashians. “When they take a shower it’s like a Zach Galifianakis reunion concert!” Of Ireland, “the feel-good city of the year,” where the Guinness is made of “motor oil mixed with oatmeal,” he wondered why train conductors insisted in speaking in “Hobbit,” and despite a vast literary heritage at their disposal, “What did U2 write an opera about? Fucking Spider-Man!”
At ease, animated and giddily lapping the stage throughout, Proops delivered a breathless hour of applause-heavy cultural observations based not in fear or ignorance, but in experience and understanding. He even managed to crack himself up a time or two. And after questioning the merits of Barack “Black Jesus” Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize and asserting “Hillary Clinton’s dick is bigger than anyone else’s who’s ever been president,” he danced off stage, no doubt already looking forward returning for festival number 21.