November 10, 1999
Drew carries on live tonight
By BILL BRIOUX
Some nights this season on The Drew Carey Show, it just looks as if the cast is making things up. Tonight, they really are -- and just to make it a little trickier, they're doing it live.

It's a high-wire act that few other shows could even contemplate. Imagine Brooke Shields working without a script on Suddenly Susan. (Come to think of it, that might be better.) Only the fearless Carey cast -- which is rich in improv players -- could pull this off.

Although portions of tonight's Drew Carey Show are scripted, much of what you see is made up on the spot. The story, such as it is, involves a secret romance between Drew and Kate (Christa Miller). The cast has been rehearsing all week with a skeletal storyline, in much the same way that Christopher Guest shot his largely improvised comedy Waiting For Guffman.

The difference is that Carey's show is live. In fact, the cast has to perform the show three times -- a live version for every time zone.

"I think probably Ryan Styles and I are the least daunted by it," says Kathy Kinney, who plays crayon-eyed office shrew Mimi. Kinney is a veteran of the Los Angeles based comedy troupe The Groundlings. "I've been doing improv for 20 years. I've always said I can do improv anyplace any time and now I get a chance to prove it."

Styles does improv each week on Whose Line Is It Anyway? Among his many stage stops was Toronto's Second City, where he performed a decade ago with the likes of Deborah McGrath and Linda Cash. "It was the best time of my life," says Styles, who spent two seasons in Toronto.

He's excited about the live Carey show, but isn't so sure about performing everything three times. "With improv, sometimes the first time's the best. You usually really go for everything the first time."

Ringer to spark cast

Carey himself has picked up some valuable improv experience over the past year-and-a-half while hosting Whose Line. To boost the cast even further, the producers are bringing in a ringer -- Toronto Second City vet Colin Mochrie, who also stars with Carey and Styles on Whose Line. On tonight's live show, he returns as Eugene, a character he played on one occasion last season.

According to Mochrie's agent Jeff Andrews, Mochrie and Carey are going to test the limits of live TV. Shades of Ally McBeal's same sex kiss? "Something happens and it's pretty wild," is all Andrews will say.

Mochrie, who performs with another Carrey, Jim, in the upcoming flick The Man In The Moon, says these live shows are usually more fun for the audience than they are for the cast. "When we do Whose Line, we tape for two hours, so you don't get to see the crappy stuff," he says. "With live television, there's a good chance you'll see the crappy stuff, so it adds that extra dimension of fun.

"I personally think it will be fun," he adds. "I'm sure a lot of people will watch only to see what could go wrong."

Which, come to think of it, is the only way to enjoy Suddenly Susan.

Also Tonight: Carey fans stay tuned as Carey, Styles and Diedrich Bader guest star as gambling addicts on Norm. Cindy Williams (Laverne & Shirley) also guests.