More often than not, especially in a comedy club setting, Greg Proops is the smartest man in the room — the one with the quickest wit who’s equally adept at improvisation and stand-up. He’s a know-it-all with an astounding capacity for trivia, and an erudite, entertaining guide who offers tips about what in his not-so-humble opinion everyone must read, listen to and watch — as well as history he thinks everyone ought to know.
Proops — a Bay Area native who launched his “Smartest Man in the World” podcast five years ago and has hosted his “Proopcasts” in Amsterdam, Dublin, Edinburgh, London and Paris — is doing a live podcast Thursday at the Punch Line, opening a string of weekend appearances at the San Francisco comedy club.
He’s also an author. “The Smartest Book in the World: A Lexicon of Literacy, A Rancorous Reportage, A Concise Curriculum of Cool” (Touchstone, $25) — illustrated by his wife, Jennifer Canaga (aka the smartest woman in the world) — is his compendium of carefully curated historical facts, along with his favorite books, movies and albums.
He admits that the process of getting his fleeting thoughts down on paper was terrifying at first: “I stared the book down in hotel rooms for two goddamn years. Finally it wrestled the words out of me. Writing has to be coherent — onstage I only need to lie convincingly,” he says.
His distinctive voice and choice vocabulary come through in the book. He writes the way he talks, not pandering to audiences, but demanding they rise to his level. And Proops’ fans enjoy his performances not just for what he says, but how he says it.
A lifetime Giants fan, Greg devotes much of the book to arcane information about the Negro leagues and one of his idols, the inimitable Satchel Paige. And some of its funniest sections are about fantasy baseball leagues with unlikely teams, such as Roman Emperors, British Monarchs, Dictators, Women in History, American Presidents, and even Bombshells, Doxies and Dames.
While Proops doesn’t have immediate plans to write another book, he agrees with his wife that the “Proopcast” is his perfect medium.
“I love my niche. It is warm. I have something that cannot be bought. People want to interact with me. That is golden,” he says.
IF YOU GO
Where: Punch Line, 444 Battery St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday (podcast taping), 8 and 10 p.m. Friday, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday
Contact: (415) 397-7573, www.punchlinecomedyclub.com