I’ve recently been watching many past episodes of Whose line is it anyway? (WLIIA), a game show where four comedians improvise around various themes in a miscellany of simple games. It’s among the funniest things on TV. Or was, as it’s been cancelled by now. Hopefully it comes back some time.
WLIIA started out as a UK radio show, before becoming a show on British television, where it ran for 10 years (1988-1998). It also emigrated to US television, where it ran for 8 years (1999-2006). The UK show was hosted by the always witty Clive Anderson, while the US show was hosted by the merry Drew Carey. With very few exceptions, the comedians who took part in the show were stellar stuff, e.g. Wayne Brady, Josie Lawrence, Paul Merton, Mike McShane, Colin Mochrie, Greg Proops, Caroline Quentin, Brad Sherwood, Tony Slattery, Ryan Stiles, Jim Sweeney, Steve Steen, and several others.
The point with the show was to have comedians improvise their lines and actions around subjects given to them by the show’s host, and occasionally the audience (who was also asked to participate now and then). In theory this sounds like the recipy for comedy disaster, but often it worked out very well. In fact, extremely well. It seldom became boring, much thanks to the many top notch comedians who were on the show. The US show seemed to manage this a little better, as it quickly developed a formula in which the number of regulars were fewer, and the same comedians kept performing the same games over and over again; thus somewhat defeating the whole purpose of an improvisational game. In effect, the US show came to rely less on improvisation than did the UK show. Still, they were both very, very funny. I do hope they bring the show back.
I don’t have any real point here, except that I wanted to rant a little bit about one of television’s funniest shows.