Thursday, February 17, 2011

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Well, it's crap getting a cold in the middle of summer.  After more than 2 years without so much as a sniffle I've had two colds in the last 6 weeks.  This one shirtfronted me, meaning I've been laying in bed for much of the last two days. It's times like this that you fully appreciate the unlimited entertainment value that is YouTube.

During times of illness I tend to head towards looking at comedy, probably to try to get me out of the state of self-pity that one seems to get into when one is home, sick. I'll also look for comedy that I haven't previously seen on television here. Whose Line Is It Anyway (or WLIIA) fits that bill and there are hundreds of clips from the shows on YouTube. Hours of fun.

Taking Wikipedia as my authority here, WLIIA was originally a UK concept (first on radio with Clive Anderson and Stephen Fry and then in 1988 - 1998 on TV) that the US then adapted, where it ran from 1998 - 2007. The UK host was Clive Anderson (seen on Australian TV now on some episodes of QI) and the US presenter was Drew Carey (best known here for his comedy series The Drew Carey Show).

The format of WLIIA was as a comedy improvisation show, whereby the host would provide instruction to a panel of 4 performers. 2 of the panel were on every show in the US - Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie, whilst a third, Wayne Brady appeared on all but 9 of the 220 episodes. Ryan and Colin were also on a large number of the UK series. Other notable performers include Stephen Fry, Peter Cook and Jonathon Pryce in the UK and Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg and Stephen Colbert in the US.

Each show consisted of a number of different games, all based on either acting or singing improvisation. Some of the games also involved audience participation.

One of my favourite segments was called Sound Effects and involved two members of the audience that would use their voices to provide appropriate sound effects for Colin and Ryan as they act out a scene described by the host. In most cases the audience members don't have much of a clue and the comedy stems from Colin and Ryan interacting with the poor sounds provided to them.  The scene below is proably one of the best examples of this:

Another segment was called Scenes From a Hat, where the audience provides various scenarios that the performers then need to act out, drawn out of a hat by the host:

Some of the best performances in improvisation were provided by Wayne Brady in the musical segements. In my opinion singing improv is a couple of steps above acting improv. Here is Wayne is a segment called Greatest Hits:

The final segment I'll show here is another one of the rapid fire segments called Props, where all four performers need to use allocated props to act out different scenes. The tube below features Drew Carey actually performing, as opposed to hosting:

Whilst the show Whose Line Is It Anyway ceased production in 2007, Drew Carey has continued to use the general concept in a number of other shows such as Improv All Stars and Drew Carey's Green Screen Show.  This year he is producing a new show called Drew Carey's Improv-a-Ganza based pretty much along the same lines as WLIIA.

It's a pity that there was never an Australian series of Whose Line Is It Anyway. I guess Thank God You're Here, produced by the guys at Working Dog, would come close, as an improv comedy on the TV.  And Theatre Sports, off screen. I can alwys hope that WLIIA will be made in Australia some day. In the mean time, thank you YouTube.

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