Dropping out of high school at 16 to become a standup comic is a risky move, but it’s certainly paid off for improv king Ryan Stiles, 54.
Although it was a tough go at first, the comedian later branched into film and television (Whose Line Is It Anyway?, The Drew Carey Show, Two and a Half Men, Hot Shots), making a successful career out of what could have been a long road to nowhere.
“In those days standup wasn’t popular. Every city didn’t have a standup club. It was really on the upswing,” says Stiles, who moved to Vancouver with his family at age 10. “I used to do a lot of strip clubs in Vancouver. We used to go up to Whistler before Whistler was even there, that’s how long ago that was.”
Stiles would spend half of his pay just to get up there, playing to a not-so-interested crowd of French lumberjacks at the White Gold Inn. “It wasn’t a fun gig, but it was 30 bucks,” he says.
His parents weren’t thrilled that he dropped out of school to pursue comedy.
“My dad was a fisherman, so I had a pretty good job at 16 years old in the ‘70s. I was making $15 to $16 an hour. They weren’t really happy about it but they got over it when I bought them a house.”
Stiles has three older brothers, none of whom are in show business, and three kids, ages 21, 19 and nine. He currently lives with his family on Lake Samich, just outside of Bellingham, WA.
Over the more than 35 years in the comedy business, his hectic touring and taping schedule has slowed down and he considers himself a family man now.
“I’m taking my daughter to the pool right now so, yeah,” he says. Even though his older children are adults, Stiles says he doesn’t mind they still live at home.
“They’re not that much of adults,” he says. “But they drive themselves now, so that’s all that really matters.”
His mother still lives in Richmond. “She just got her hip replaced and she’s going on a cruise,” he says.
And although he rarely comes to Canada to visit, he’s spent “enough time there to be a Canucks fan … sadly.”
Stiles is making his way to Victoria Sept. 20 for another iteration of Whose Live Anyway?, the live touring version of the popular improv TV show Whose Line is it Anyway?, he starred on for almost 20 years in the U.K and the U.S. He made himself known for his improv skills, his punchlines and his wacky shoe collection.
“I wear size 15, and no it’s not true,” Stiles says about the popular myth that a man’s shoe size is an indicator of his manhood. “I wish I had something to leave to the imagination. When you’re in your 50s, your penis becomes like your high school year book, you know you have one, you just never look at it.”
Stiles will be joined by partners in crime Greg Proops and Jeff Davis. Chip Easten, who plays Deacon Claybourne on ABC’s hit show Nashville is being replaced by Joel Murray (Dharma & Greg) for this show.
Stiles says Whose Live differs from the TV version because it moves at a quicker pace.
“Drew’s not there stopping the action, giving out points and we’re not going to commercials. We do an hour-and-a-half and we don’t take a break, so it just flies by. We also do some games that we can’t do on TV because of time constraints, so we can do a five minute scene if we want to.” And instead of the scene suggestions coming from the show’s producers, they come directly from the audience, so there’s a lot more audience participation.
You can also check out Stiles, along with Colin Mochrie and Wayne Brady on the new Whose Line Is It Anyway? now on the CW on Tuesday nights.