Steve Steen interview

We chat to British improv comic of Whose Line Is It Anyway?


You visit Dubai a lot, don’t you?
We were here just before Christmas last year and the weather was lovely, but I know it doesn’t stay that way. We once went out to play golf in 48°C heat. I’ve lost count of how many shows we’ve done in Dubai – Whose Line… has been coming for 15 years. Thanks to TV, and the power of repetition, the show just keeps going.

How does the stage show differ to the TV show?
It’s a lot freer, we don’t have [presenter] Clive Anderson hitting the buzzer every 30 seconds. We can run with ideas, there’s no one to edit it – in TV they cut out the bad bits. It’s very hard to self-edit when you’re on a roll, everyone says the wrong thing sometimes.

How did you get involved?
Me and my friend Jim [Sweeney] were doing improv back in the early ’70s. We saw improv and thought you can go on stage and say whatever comes into your head. In the ’80s we were invited to do a radio show called Whose Line Is It Anyway? – that was seven years before the TV show.

Highlights to date?
We did a show in New York in 2010, and in the first half we presented a friend of ours who was over there working on a show – Eddie Izzard – and in the second half a friend who now lives in New York – Mike Myers. The audience was absolutely electric.

Why are people still interested after all these years?
It’s a format that works – what would you do to change it? We’ve all done narrative and musical improv before, but the sketch format gives you very quick gratification – bang, bang, bang. The Comedy Store Players hold the world record for the longest-running comedy group with the same cast. The audience are half the show and without them there is no show. As long as they give us decent suggestions they get
a decent show.

In that case, give us some advice on what makes a good suggestion.
We’ve had all kind of weird and wonderful suggestions – there’s nothing like an audience in a darkened theatre shouting obscure and obscene ideas at you. The simpler the suggestions are, the more creative you can be. Keep it clean, keep it simple – and if you try to catch us out, that won’t work at all. We’ve been doing this together as a team for nearly 25 years.

How are the Dubai crowds?
Very good – they want to be entertained. The Dubai theatre is one of the best we’ve played in. We’ve played some fantastic places – from rock venues in Ireland to a Pizza Express in Tokyo – so it’s nice to play a purpose-built theatre with a decent crowd.

Whose Line Is It Anyway? is on Thursday May 10 to Friday May 12 at First Group Theatre, Souk Madinat Jumeirah. Tickets Dhs185 at

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