'Whose Live Anyway?' is a party, performer says

| Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2009

Actor-comedian-singer Chip Esten lives in Los Angeles, but he's really a Pittsburgher at heart.

"I have great roots in Pittsburgh," says Esten, who heads to the Palace Theatre in Greensburg Saturday to perform his "Whose Live Anyway?" improvisational comedy show with Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops and Jeff Davis. Their one-night-only appearance is presented by Westmoreland Cultural Trust.

Esten spent the first nine years of his life in Carnegie, where his family lived before they relocated to Alexandria, Va. His father, Chuck Puskar, who later moved to Sewickley and was a financial advisor and business associate of the late Pittsburgh Steelers star Ray Mansfield, passed away earlier this year.

Esten still has family in the Pittsburgh area and says he cheers for the hometown football team, much to the dismay of fellow comedian Drew Carey, who hosted the original ABC-TV show "Whose Line is it Anyway?" (1998-2006) on TV and hails from Cleveland.

"He still gives me a hard time about the Steelers," Esten says. "Mr. Carey recently became part-owner of a major league soccer team in Seattle, and I told him, 'If the Cleveland Browns were my football team, I'd switch sports, too.' "

Carey sometimes does guest appearances when the comedy troupe performs in Las Vegas, "but I don't think he will be joining us in Greensburg," Esten says. "He's still the best -- and the reason for all of this."

In a format similar to the TV show, "Whose Live" features an hour and a half of slapstick comedy, silly games and spontaneous songs based on a variety of subjects, often chosen at random from the audience. The people who turn out to see the comedy troupe perform are an integral part of the show's success, according to Esten.

Audience members are a major component to improv and their responses are unpredictable. And for those who ever doubted that the TV show was improvised rather than scripted, the stage show helps prove them wrong, Esten says.

"The mistakes you see, the things that don't go well, that's what's funny," he says. "We know it's going to be a party, but we don't know what kind of party."

Aside from his comedy career, Esten has appeared on many television series, including recent episodes of "The Mentalist," "Big Love" and "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and past episodes of "The Office," "NYPD Blue" and "JAG." He just shot an episode of "NCIS: Los Angeles" that he says should air in a few weeks.

He also appeared as the son of New York Yankees player Roger Maris in Billy Crystal's TV movie "61*" and had roles in two Kevin Costner movies, "The Postman" and "Thirteen Days."

He makes time for straight acting, he says, because "those are great roles you can sink your teeth into." But he also enjoys doing the comedy shows with his former "Whose Line" co-stars.

"We're not road warriors. We just do it because we love hanging out with each other. And we don't do it every weekend, so when we get together, we're fresh as daisies. We love that," Esten says.

Following the performance Saturday at the Palace, the cast will visit with fans at an optional meet 'n greet reception for an additional charge of $50, which will benefit Westmoreland Cultural Trust.

Additional Information:

'Whose Live Anyway?'

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Admission: $37 and $44; post-show reception, $50

Where: Palace Theatre, 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg

Details: 724-836-8000 or Web site

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