You might not instantly recognize Greg Proops by name, but if you’ve engaged with American comedy or pop culture in the last few decades, odds are high that he’s made you laugh.
The prolific comedian hosts a podcast called “The Smartest Man in the World” with his wife Jennifer Canaga, improvises on television on the CW’s “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” tours the country with the improv show “Whose Live Anyway?” and just released his eighth comedy album, “The Resistance,” in late 2018. Oh, and he spent a decade as the North American voice of Bob the Builder, among other acting credits.
But when he’s (somehow) not busy working, Proops is also a self- proclaimed “habitué of Mary Jane,” as well as an activist who’s a fierce advocate for women’s rights. We caught Proops in a rare sliver of downtime, in Arkansas between two improv performances, and discussed presidential hopefuls, protesting and pot. Unsurprisingly for a man who has built a rich career on talking, Proops had no shortage of things to say.
Cannabis Now: What drives you to be so vocal and to engage with politics and topics that comedians of your demographic, older white men, traditionally stray away from at all costs?
Greg Proops: Well, I think that I’ve been privileged enough to be an old white guy and have a pretty decent life, so I feel like it’s my responsibility to advocate for people who maybe don’t have as much of a say in the matter. Also, my wife is an inspiration to me, she’s very smart and canny politically in every way. And my father was a terrible misogynist, and I’ve reacted to that my whole life.
I feel that women’s rights and women’s issues are the most important thing in the world and they’re never, ever given enough attention. Every issue in America — economics, gun control, even marijuana — boils down to women and how women are being treated, and I just don’t think the world sees it that way. It’s my quixotic quest to carry out being the person who points that out all the time. Women and women of color need a voice. And women and women of color are saving us, quite frankly. That’s what motivates me. And because I’m a white guy, people listen to me!
But it’s really time for white people to shut the f*ck up. And I know you’re going to say I’m a white person, and I’m aware of that.
Right, no, what if I did say that? What if that was my comeback: Greg, you know you’re white, right?
Well, I’m using my whiteness to help other people. I’ve been gifted with white privilege.
A lot of people, right after Trump got elected, were saying: “At least this will be really great for comedy!” As someone who’s working in comedy in this moment, what do you make of that statement?
I think it’s pure misogyny to say some- thing like that. I saw a sign at the Women’s March that said, “If Hillary was president, instead of protesting, we’d all be having brunch…” and that’s how I kind of feel about it.
I don’t think you need a Nazi regime to compel artists to produce art and comedians to make jokes. I would sacrifice all of this to have had an honest, woman president instead of this shamble of self- interested, incoherent, Nazi, Russian-controlled bullsh*t.
You mention, both on your new album and on Twitter, that you’re a Kamala Harris fan.
Oh, absolutely, I haven’t been this excited about a candidate… I loved only one candidate in my lifetime, and that was Hillary Clinton. I didn’t give a sh*t about John Kerry or Albert Gore, I voted for them because I had to. I loved Hillary Clinton with a deep and abiding love and I feel the same way about Kamala.
For one, I’m from the Bay Area and she’s a Bay Area person. She was born in Oakland, she’s a San Franciscan, she was the DA of San Francisco, she was the attorney general of California. So, I relate. I relate to where she’s coming from. Two, I think she’s smart and as informed as any candidate I’ve ever seen in my life. You’ve seen her question Jeff Sessions and Brett Kavanaugh and you’ve seen her style up there. … And she’s smart. The reason why people get huffy, with her and [Nancy] Pelosi, is they’re in possession of the facts. They’re organized and, this is maybe a shallow point, but they’re good-looking. And that really rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Good-looking women that are smart tend to really f*ck people off.
People are jealous of them, people are angry at them, they put things on them that don’t make any sense. And it’s because nobody expects you to have a great hairdo, great shoes, be good-looking and be in possession of the facts. Look at what men look like! Look at what Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, looks like! Look what Orange 45 looks like! What Pence’s body shape is like, what Mitch McConnell looks like!
When Steve Bannon was still around, he always had like five shirts on…
Bannon! With the dandruff hanging off him! It’s disgusting! Men show up and they look like sh*t, and no one ever says, “Really, you’re an unf*ckable mess.” But with women, women get judged on that. As shallow as it is, that’s how the world works.
Switching gears, how do you balance cannabis use with your workflow?
Well, I’ve been a habitué of the Mary Jane for a good deal of my life, since about 16. I think Louis Armstrong said it best. He said marijuana is an “assistant.” I think that you have to focus on what you’re doing. As well as being high all the time, you have to have some goals in your life.
I love marijuana, I love being high. I love the left-brain part of it, how it stimulates your mind to be creative and how it enhances every experience… watching movies, whatnot. But I also believe that people who identify solely with marijuana and that’s their sole reason for existence need to expand their mind a little bit.
Do you incorporate cannabis into your comedy routines?
I have gotten high before going onstage a couple of times, and I still do occasionally, but I don’t think you’re as funny when you’re high. It changes your timing, and it’s important as a comic to be ahead of the crowd and have expert timing.
With me, the difference is I think marijuana doesn’t always slow me down. Some people get high and they become dazed and confused and diffuse, whereas I become more loquacious and energized. …I find the people that smoke marijuana, if they’ve accomplished something, they’re fairly impressive — your Carl Sagan and your Lily Tomlin. But my caution is always: Don’t let marijuana be the defining feature of your life.
I meet a lot of people and they like to get high, but then they don’t know anything about politics or art or sports or anything, they’re just stoners. And that’s why stoners get a bad reputation. I had another comic say to me once: “You smoke a lot of weed, but you don’t act like that.” Well, how am I supposed to be? What am I supposed to do? Grow dreadlocks and kick a Hacky Sack around? We’re not all playing digeridoo on the corner, you know.
Since you’re staying abreast of a lot of other things happening in politics are you keeping an eye on marijuana policy?
Absolutely. I think other states are gonna fall in line behind the West Coast. I think you’re hopefully gonna find New York, New Mexico and Arizona come around.
There’s no reason for it not to be national policy, like in Canada. The danger is, of course, the misogynistic corporate white guys who wanna take over the marijuana business. People of color and women need to be included in the big pie of marijuana profits, and I don’t see that happening as of yet. My biggest worry is that it’ll be just MedMen and then hot chicks working as budtenders, which I find is a very icky, icky, icky trend.
Do you have a parting message?
Um, I think there’s hope for anyone — the world is changing, the world is getting better. The fact that all these women are running for president and all these women are in Congress means the forces of evil can’t always win. We [the people who support women] will win a few.
And, of course, I urge you to wake and bake.
TELL US, what political issues (besides cannabis legalization) are you most passionate about?
Originally published in Issue 36 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE