Stiles & Proops Unplanned

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

As is apparent from the title, this is a franchise of the Baddiel and Skinner format, right down to the typography of the logo and the Americanised tag line: ‘Two guys. One couch. No script.’

And so it is that improv stars Ryan Stiles and Greg Proops just start shooting the breeze, discussing anything that comes into their heads, as they pan for inspiration. Sometimes the chat starts quite inanely – ‘So where did you go in Montreal today?’ ‘Shopping’ – as they vaguely fish around for the comedy gold.

As in the UK, a secretary keeps tally of the keywords covered, and inevitably becomes part of the show. One main difference is that the audience aren’t specifically prompted to ask questions of the duo, which is possibly a bit rash because ‘next question’ was always a useful Get Out Of Jail Free card should a topic hit a dead-end.

Fortunately, however, there are no shortage of loudmouths in the audience contributing unsolicited comments on which Stiles and Proops can pounce. ‘I’d like to hear your views on organic orgasms,’ demands one woman, randomly, whereas two others vociferously ask to come and sit in the front row with their friends.

While Baddiel and Skinner’s best lines came between themselves, their American counterparts seem to fare better with audience banter. Stiles and Proops share a similar sense of humour, so each tend to contribute to the building up of the same gag, while David and Frank’s diverse approaches meant they sparked off each other, pulling in different directions.

Stiles and Proops were more successful in setting up a few running jokes, and they thoroughly embarrassed a twentysomething commitment-phobe by piling on the pressure for him to propose to his girlfriend. It was, of course, hilarious to see him squirm. Asking him to improvise a rap, though, proved too tall an order from a civilian.

There’s an almost inevitable stop-start feel to the show, with some very funny moments, alongside some noticeable lulls. But for the most part, they kept their heads above the comedy waterline.

They had a guest star, too, which seemed to compromise the purity of the idea. A comic no one seemed to have heard of (Greg Behrendt) came on to share the sofa – sorry, couch – for the last ten minutes or so, but his presnece trapped the show into one relatively unfruitful subject, which focussed too heavily on the one attention-seeking group in the front row to the exclusion of others.

The theme tune to the ITV version famously claimed: ‘It’ll never work…’ This show did, as Stiles and Proops are undoubtedly witty quick-thinkers, but there is still room for it to work better.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Montreal, July 2008

Review date: 1 Jan 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

What do you think?

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.