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Posted on Saturday, July 29, 2017 at 3:00 pm

‘Whose Live’ show offers unforgettable experience

STAFF WRITER

Erin McCullough

 

Very few people get a chance to meet their heroes, but I’m going to brag for a moment and say that I was one of those lucky few a couple of months ago.

I’ve been watching comedy acts since I was much too young for them.

I remember trying to stay up at night to watch ABC Family’s double feature of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” episodes when I should have been in bed before school the next day.

I remember thinking the improvisational comedy actors on that show were the funniest people I had ever seen.

That attitude still holds true today and is even stronger now that I have the life experience requisite to understand some of the dirtier jokes told on that program.

In going to comedy shows sporadically growing up, I’ve had the opportunity to see comedians such as Kathleen Madigan, Henry Cho, Ralphie May, John Pinette and more, but I had always been regretful at the fact that I had never gotten the opportunity to see my comedic heroes from “Whose Line” live at any point.

Until May, that is.

Over the years, most of the “Whose Line” guys had been partaking in a touring version of the popular television show, and I happened to see that they were coming to Nashville’s Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) in May of this year.

I’m no stranger to TPAC, and the fact that some of my comedy idols were going to be less than 70 miles away from me was too tempting to resist, so I bought two tickets: one for myself, and one for my mom, who is also an avid “Whose Line” fan.

Sitting in the James K. Polk Theater waiting for the show to start, I felt jittery with excitement—I was going to see Jeff Davis! Chip Esten!

Erin McCullough got the chance to meet some of her comedy heroes in May during a touring produc-tion of “Whose Live Anyway?” at Nashville’s Tennessee Performing Arts Center. The ticket for the event is now framed and hung on her wall to remind her that Chip Esten and Jeff Davis really sang to her.
–Staff Photos by Erin McCullough

Greg Proops! Ryan Stiles!

Then the show began, with each of the performers being as outlandishly hilarious as I had seen on TV, playing off one another and audience suggestions at the drop of a hat.

And then the real excitement happened: I was called onto the stage for a sketch.

If anyone hasn’t had the pleasure of watching “Whose Line is it Anyway?” there’s a particular game called “Duet,” in which two of the more musically-inclined performers (usually either Jeff, Chip, Wayne Brady or Brad Sherwood) would ask an audience member to come up, answer a few questions about their life and the listen as the performers serenade them with a completely made-up song using the answers provided.

I’d always been jealous of the TV audience members that were able to do that.

Now, however, I was living it, and I was equal parts exhilarated and terrified, because I was the very first person of the night brought up on stage for a sketch.

Erin McCullough brought her mother, Crystal, with her to see the cast of “Whose Live Anyway?” at TPAC in Nashville. Both Erin and Crystal were stars of the show throughout the performance and were brought up on stage to play with the performers at times.

I’ve never been a fan of the spotlight, and having a theater full of people staring at me was horrifying, but I’ve made my peace with it, because it meant that Ryan Stiles himself looked at me in the audience and spoke to me.

Ryan Stiles pointed at me, brought me up on stage, and asked me a multitude of questions about where I’m from, what I do for a living, who I brought with me and their occupation before Jeff and Chip sang to me for a good two or three minutes.

I’ll be honest, most of the song itself is a blur in my head, because I still couldn’t believe that I was the one they had picked out of the crowd, but I do specifically remember both Jeff and Chip touching my hair and brushing it off my shoulders, holding my hands and, at one point making a somewhat crude-yet-also-hilarious reference about my mom.

Filming or photographing the performance in any way wasn’t allowed in the theater, but a friend of mine also at the show managed to sneak a quick clip before getting busted by the usher.

In the clip, Charles Esten of “Nashville” acclaim is singing that my “glasses are dark, and so is her hair,” in a deep country twang that no doubt has served him well on the CMT show, while I sit on a stool looking shell-shocked.

After it was over, I was still shaking and crying from laughter, but I got a hug from all the guys (including Ryan!) before being led back to my seat, and there were references made to me and my mom throughout the entire set, which was equally awesome and embarrassing.

It was probably one of the best nights of my life, and all the next day all I could say to my coworkers and friends was, “Ryan Stiles spoke to me!”

Even more hilarious was the fact that, due to the answers I gave to their questions, my mom ended up being brought up on stage at the end of the night for an encore game!

Throughout the whole night, the guys made silly references to my mom and her job in almost every other game and sketch, and because she was the butt of too many jokes to count, they let her come up with them to play before they all said “Good night, Nashville!”

I was equal parts embarrassed and proud, but at the end of it all, we were both quasi-celebrities once the audience dispersed.

We got more than a few strangers come up and say, “Hey, There’s Crystal and Erin!” before shaking our hands or telling us that we were good sports about the whole thing.

I’ll definitely be waiting for them to come back to Nashville soon, that’s for sure.

Erin McCullough may be reached by email at tnrept09@lcs.net.


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