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September 2, 2014

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This weekend, improv is right for Drew Carey

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Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau

Drew Carey and friends at Surrender at Encore.

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Drew Carey at Vanity in the Hard Rock Hotel on May 8, 2010.

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Drew Carey, right, joined Lon Bronson and his band onstage at Ovation Lounge in Green Valley Ranch on Aug. 27, 2009.

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Comedian Drew Carey, center, joined the Lon Bronson All-Star band onstage Aug. 27, 2009, at Ovation Lounge in Green Valley Ranch.

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Comedian Wayne Brady with Drew Carey and the Improv All-Stars during Drew Carey's Improv-A-Ganza show on Feb. 4, 2011.

It’s been far too long between interviews with Drew Carey.

That is, if you consider nearly 14 years too long.

Before this week, the most recent conversation I’ve had with Drew Carey for the purposes of publication was Jan. 15, 1999. It was to preview the first live performance of the “Whose Line Is It Anyway” improv show at the (gulp) Circus Maximus Showroom at Caesars Palace. It was the stage adaptation of Carey’s then-hit ABC show of the same name.

With the help of a dynamite cast that featured Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops and Wayne Brady, Carey carried the TV show for five years after that interview. In 2007, he landed the plumb role in all of game-show culture when he succeeded Bob Barker as the host of “The Price Is Right” on CBS. It's a choice gig, but Carey is not content with dealing Plinko chips to unhinged "TPIR" contestants.

Carey is back in Vegas with a return to one of his favorite mediums, improv comedy, with “Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza” at the Mirage on Friday and Saturday nights (tickets are $49.99, $59.99 and $69.99 and available at the Mirage box office or at Ticketmaster). The show is part of the Mirage "Aces of Comedy" series and borrows from Carey’s 2011 project of the same name, which aired last year on the Game Show Network and was filmed at MGM Grand’s Hollywood Theater.

Over the two nights, Carey will be joined by Laura Hall (“Whose Line”), Heather Anne Campbell (“Saturday Night Live”), Jonathan Mangum (Brady’s longtime stage sidekick and announcer on “Let’s Make a Deal”), along with “Whose Line” alums Jeff Davis, Styles, Sherwood and Mochrie. Carey also is fired up about lesser-known improv masters Edi Patterson and Colton Dunn.

Highlights of this morning's phone interview:

Johnny Kats: What are we going to see this weekend? Straight-up improv?

Drew Carey: Yeah, an improv show, just like you’d see on "Who’s Line Is It Anyway?" On Saturday’s show, we’ll have Laura Hall on keyboards; on Friday, me, Jeff Davis, Jonathan Mangum, and I think Brad is there. Saturday, Colin Mochrie, Brad Sherwood, Jeff Davis, Mangum, a lot of favorites from "Who’s Line." It’s been a long time since we had this group together.

J.K.: Years ago, I asked you about the inherent risk in performing improv comedy, in that you didn’t know how each show would play out. You’ve been doing it for a long time now. Is the feeling the same as it was a decade ago?

D.C.: When you’re surrounded by people you know who have your back, and everybody can take chances and just go in wherever they want, it’s great. You just have to surround yourself with people who will play. I have the best people in the country, honestly. People I bring in Friday, Edi Patterson and Colton Dunn — you don’t know their names, but if "Whose Line" was on right now, they would definitely be on the show.

There are so many good people right now, it’s amazing, so I’m just working with the best people in the country, and it’s really, really fun.

J.K.: It seems like you just took over "Price Is Right," but it’s been more than five years now …

D.C.: Yeah, I just started my sixth year. Crazy, right?

J.K.: Now that you’ve been doing it for that period of time, do you have any revelations or anything that has been unexpected about the show that you can share?

D.C.: Um … only that it is the happiest place on the whole planet (laughs). It really is. I take people to the show who have never seen it, and they can’t get over how loud it is, how happy it is. Everybody is truly out-of-their-minds happy. What you see on TV, how happy they are, is exactly how it is. If you can imagine being surrounded by that, all day long, in your job, it’s a pretty good job.

J.K.: Is hosting the show as fulfilling as performing an improv comedy show?

D.C.: It’s different, just like stand-up is different from improv. I’ve been doing sketch comedy all summer, and that’s different from improv. I don’t know, there are all different types of music, and it all mixes in. It’s like that.

J.K.: Speaking of music, a person we’re both really fond of is Lon Bronson, and I understand you’re going to be at his show on Friday night. He name-checked you from the stage last weekend, saying there was a possibility of you joining him onstage. Is that going to happen?

D.C.: Yeah, I’m going to go see him Friday night. I don’t know if I’m going to go onstage with him. I usually do. But, yeah, we’re definitely going to make a night of it Friday because his show is later than mine, and I’ll be able to swing by and go to Green Valley. I love watching those guys.

J.K.: I know that, over the years, you’ve become a big fan of Las Vegas.

D.C.: I love Las Vegas. I like that Las Vegas has everything. Everything and anything you want to do, you can do in Las Vegas. You can pretty much do it all day and all night if you want to. You have every kind of entertainment, every kind of food. It caters to people who are young, old. You can gamble if you want to. You can get into debauchery if you want to. If you just want to go listen to music, or just go to shows and eat, you can do that …

I’ve been on trips to Las Vegas where all I’ve done is just shop, you know? After I lost my weight (Carey has suffered from heart problems in the past and has shed 80 pounds since 2010), I had to replace all my clothes, so I made a special trip to Vegas, I stayed at Aria and shopped at Crystals. I didn’t gamble even a dime during that trip, the whole weekend. I drove up there and shopped and drove back.

J.K.: What are your stores? Are you a Tom Ford guy these days?

D.C.: I bought a lot at Tom Ford, yeah. I shopped at a lot of different places. I needed to. I need a lot of new clothes (laughs) because I had to replace all my clothes with the weight loss.

J.K.: The weight loss has made you almost unrecognizable to people who have been following your career for a long time.

D.C.: It happens a lot that people don’t recognize me, yeah. I’ve kept it off for about two years now. … I work out all the time. I’m training for a marathon right now, the Disney World marathon in January. It’ll be my second one. My big run last week was nine miles, and I’m working up to 10, 11 and 12 miles. It’s getting pretty serious now (laughs).

J.K.: Is there anything left on your to-do list from an entertainment perspective?

D.C.: I’d like to get my stand-up career going again, that’s something. I don’t know, right now it’s just "Price Is Right," stand-up and improv. I just want to get better and better at all of it.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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