PASSED/FAILED: Greg Proops

Interview
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The Independent Online
Greg Proops, 37, is the US comedian who gives the orders in Space Cadets, the new Tuesday evening sci-fi quiz show, and obeys orders in Whose Line Is It Anyway? on Thursdays, both on Channel 4. Next month he will be returning to the Edinburgh Festival, at the Pleasance Over the Road.

Whose life was it anyway? I was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and lived in Lancaster, Southern California, in the high desert - as seen in westerns, with joshua trees instead of cactuses.

Spaced out cadet? At five I went to the school kindergarten. We used to pretend to be astronauts with refrigerator cartons as spaceships and paper plates as steering-wheels.

Making the grade? From the age of six to 12 I was at grade school in the Bay area. In sixth grade I had a really good teacher, a lovely man called Wade Haggard, for language and arts. Children were divided into slow and fast, although they weren't called that any more; we were "advanced" - we could read. He would have us entertain him: do radio plays, write a book. I did my first voiceover for him. My friend - he still is - and future colleague in comedy, Forest Brakeman, and I started writing sketches together.

Mid-term blues? Middle school lasted two years, from 12 to 14. I hated it. I was too shy for sketches.

High school confidential? My personality changed at San Carlos High School. I started smoking dope and skipping classes and became more extroverted. I did all the plays and musicals, and Abbott and Costello routines sometimes with Forest.

Did they have bad news for you? In California they are obsessed with physical education, which meant the locker room, wearing shorts and getting your arse kicked. We despised and feared the "rah-rahs", the jocks, athletes and cheerleaders who ruled over us; they wore school jackets and sweaters with a single letter on the back. I was in the drama clique and was also an honorary member of a "burn-out" clique who smoked pot all day and who, if they were girls, wore long dresses and listened to Judy Collins.

And the good news? I was in the Alternative School inside the main school. "Ilios" - I think it was named after the cousin of the sun god - was started by dissident students and included about 150 people out of the total 1,200. There was more freedom and you could choose your schedules, like at college. Teachers were called "RPs" - "resource persons" - and by their first names. For PE you could fly a kite. In my first semester I basically f***ed off and then I rallied.

Next course? At 17 I had a year off working as a sandwich maker in a restaurant and then with Forest went for two years to junior college, which they call "High School with ashtrays", in San Mateo. I wanted to be a DJ so I studied radio.

Final course? At San Francisco State University I studied theatre. I learnt the most from the other students. Annette Bening, Warren Beatty's wife, was definitely the best actor and Mike McShane [fellow Whose Line performer] was the next best. I don't think I finished Lighting - the lecturer was very dull - and Costume - I'm not a sewing kind of guy. I left after two and a half years; I was already doing plays and stand-up professionally.

Satisfied? Until a few years ago, I toyed with the idea of going back to finish the grades - but no. If I had to do it again, I would study more philosophy, history and languages. In the SAT - Scholarship Aptitude Tests - I got very high marks in verbal and written skills but was bottom in maths. I dropped out at geometry but my wife Jennifer went on to master trigonometryn

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