The host and judge talk improvisation, comedy and who has surprised them the most on this show

David Alan Grier is one of America's premiere funnymen. So it should surprise nobody that he is currently the Host/Producer of the sketch comedy show Thank God You're Here. The premise is simple, this is an improvisational affair featuring celebrities forced to perform a scene in which they have no idea what will happen. It is based on an Australian series of the same name. On hand for a recent conference call was David Alan Grier and Judge Dave Foley.

Did this show basically cast itself? As word got around about what you're doing...?

Dave Foley: Yeah, we're turning a lot of black people away. Because when you work with David Alan Grier, a man as well hung and as talented as he is, it's a cavalcade of excitement.

David Alan Grier: I think it's gonna happen but the show hasn't aired yet. I think once people see it, a lot more people, who are maybe reticent now, will really want to come on and do the show. That's what I'm anticipating at least.

Do you guys have any dramatic actors interested in doing the show? Possibly James Gandolfini? Or maybe the cast of Grey's Anatomy?

David Alan Grier: Okay, I have a question, you think the cast of Grey's Anatomy are serious actors? James Gandolfini would be a great idea. I would love Sean Penn.

Do you think it might be harder on them because they don't have a comedic background?

Dave Foley: People like that I would be instantly sucking up to. I'd probably go really easy on them. A lot of dramatic actors, some of them, seem to be really funny people. A lot of them have comic, improv training in their background.

David Alan Grier: They won't admit it but they do. Dave, Wouldn't you agree that when they're at their funniest is when they're trying to be serious? That's always, to me, hilarious.

Dave Foley: Yeah, I'd like to have DeNiro on the show.

What was the genesis of the show?

Dave Foley: The genesis of the show... it was actually a show created by an Australian company. They brought the show up here and... it became one of the most popular shows on Australian TV. We're just the latest version of it.

David Alan Grier: Yeah.

You're just hired guns?

David Alan Grier: We are.

Dave Foley: Yeah.

How do you pick the winner with this show? Are you doing a crapshoot with it?

Dave Foley: It is pretty much just pulling them out of the air.

David Alan Grier: Tell the truth, Dave. Tell the truth...

Dave Foley: I've spent a lot of time up at Cal Tech, with a team there, developing an algorithm that we apply to all the sketches. Which gives us a scientific outcome. The person who wins is scientifically proven to be the best.

Who has surprised you guys the most when doing this show?

David Alan Grier: Mo'Nique. Mo'Nique came on, I've always liked her but you never know who's going to be great, who's gonna be bad, how they're gonna be. She was my favorite. I was like if I had an improv husband and wife it'd be Harland Williams married to Mo'Nique in inter-racial improv land. Mo'Nique I could have watched forever. She was like playful, childlike, never-ending; inventiveness. Never grew tired, just kept going and going. It sounds corny but you watch these performers and when she was really getting off, and when Harland Williams was going it was... you have to have that childlike imagination and playfulness and just go for it. Don't filter yourself, don't try to be cool just go.

How much did a show like Whose Line Is It Anyway? influence this show? Did you talk to Drew Carey?

Dave Foley: My feud with Drew Carey is famous. I refuse to speak with him on any subject.

David Alan Grier: Didn't Whose Line Is It Anyway? start in England? So this started in Australia. No, the difference is Whose Line Is It Anyway? they were a company of guys who were there every week. They knew each other. They performed together. I think the added excitement to this is you bring an element of yeah, there's a person we all know, hopefully the guest star, but he has never worked with this company of actors. So it's just gonna be what it is.

Dave Foley: I do like to think that my judging is just as unimportant as Drew's.

David Alan Grier: No, you're wrong because did Drew ever say anything bad?

Dave Foley: I'm sure he did.

Did you get to work at all with the Australian cast of Thank God You're Here?

Dave Foley: No.

David Alan Grier: No.

Dave Foley: No, but we got nice notes from them. Notes of improvement.

David Alan Grier: What would they say? "Not like this, like that." "Don't hold your mic like this."

Dave Foley: You need to get a suit. No...

Thank God You're Here premieres on NBC on Monday, April 9 from 9-10 p.m..

Evan Jacobs