Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Whose Line Is It Anyway? (sometimes abbreviated to Whose Line?) is a short form improvisational comedy show. Originally a British radio programme, it later moved to television as a series made for Britain's Channel 4 before being remade for American television.

The show consists of a panel of four performers and comedians who create characters, scenes and songs on the spot, in the style of short-form improvisation games. Topics for the games are based on either audience suggestions or predetermined prompts from the host. The show takes the form of a fake game show, in which the host arbitrarily assigns points and randomly chooses a winner at the end of each episode.

Whose Line Is It Anyway? was created by Dan Patterson and Mark Leveson in 1988 as a radio show on BBC Radio 4. This early incarnation of the show is notable as being the origin of the show's tradition of having the performers read the credits in a humorous or amusing style; as it was a radio show, it was necessary for somebody to read the credits, and it was decided that it might as well be done as part of the program proper, rather than being done by a traditional BBC Radio announcer.

Later, the show moved to television on Channel 4, with little change in format. Both the British radio program and the British television series were hosted by Clive Anderson during their runs. One of the early North American broadcasters of the British series was the Canadian youth channel YTV (although many episodes were edited for adult language and content).

Early episodes of the British television series were primarily shot within the UK. However, as a number of the participants were non-Brits, it became increasingly common for the series to be taped in the United States. American-shot episodes in the British series were very similar to the UK-shot shows in terms of presentation and personnel.

The show was brought to the attention of American comedian Drew Carey, who worked with regular Whose Line? performer Ryan Stiles, a co-star on The Drew Carey Show. Carey convinced ABC to air test episodes in the United States. The show turned into an inexpensive hit and ABC kept Carey on as the host. The show ran on ABC for six seasons, benefiting from the low expectations of its Thursday night time slot, as ABC was not expected to mount a serious challenge to what was then NBC's longtime Thursday dominance in the Neilsen ratings. While the network would regularly premiere two new episodes in one night, there were several occurrences in which some episodes were skipped or postponed until a later date because of the airing of other new shows or specials.

The American version was almost identical to the British series, though there was less rotation of games and performers. There was also more involvement of the host in the activities, and occasional celebrity guest appearances. While the points were arbitrarily doled out very deliberately by Anderson on the British series with the pretext that the points mattered, Carey took this to a different level on the American version by explicitly stating at the beginning and excessively throughout the episodes that the points didn't matter and would usually be correspondingly apathetic about assigning them during the show. In addition, the British version was more about improvisational theatre, which meant it would occasionally have games that were designed to show off its contestants' acting range rather than getting laughs. The British version also seemed to take more risks, airing games in which performers spectacularly failed.

The American version, however, occasionally played games that did not rely on improvisational ability in order to be funny. During the early years of the American show, there was scattered debate over whether the new version was the same quality as the original British series. Eventually, the show was accepted by fans because of increasing familiarity with the new format, and the American version building its own fan base.

The last season of the British version in 1998, with Clive Anderson still hosting, was taped in the same Hollywood studio as the American version. This season was first broadcast only in the U.S. on the Comedy Central cable channel. Reruns of the entire British TV series had been running on Comedy Central since the early-1990s, though some episodes were edited to remove games, rearrange games in a show, or remove potentially offensive content. Reruns of the British series moved to BBC America in April 2006; however, the network has not aired any episodes taped prior to 1994. This, combined with double-runs (two episodes aired back-to-back on a single night), results in many episodes reairing less than a month after they were last shown.

The American version was canceled by ABC in 2003 because of low ratings; the network aired the remaining unaired episodes in 2004. In that same year, the ABC Family cable network, which had been airing reruns of the show since 2002, began airing brand-new episodes. New episodes aired into 2005. ABC Family also aired episodes cobbled together from unused footage of older tapings from 2005 to 2006.

The show also provided the inspiration for Drew Carey's Green Screen Show, which premiered in 2004 on the WB.

The US version of the show is currently being shown in the UK on Five US, and used to be broadcast on digital channel Challenge.

The original BBC Radio 4 broadcasts consisted of host Clive Anderson along with two regular contestants, Stephen Fry and John Sessions, and two guests. Clive Anderson stayed on as the host when the show moved to television, and the rotation of guests became more varied. In addition to Fry and Sessions, who moved over to the television version, regular comedians from the British version included a variety of British, American and Canadian comedians, notably Josie Lawrence, Paul Merton, Tony Slattery, Ryan Stiles, Sandi Toksvig, Colin Mochrie, Mike McShane, Brad Sherwood, Stephen Frost, Jim Sweeney, and Greg Proops. John Sessions was ever-present in the early days of the British television version (and contractually shared top billing with host Clive Anderson), with Stiles becoming a staple in later episodes. Many of the performers, including Merton, Lawrence and Toksvig, were regulars with The Comedy Store Players, an improvisational group based at London's Comedy Store. The theme song for the British television incarnation of the show was composed by Philip Pope.

The American incarnation of the show included Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles and Wayne Brady as regulars, though occasionally a second 'fourth performer' would go on instead of Brady. Greg Proops, Brad Sherwood, Chip Esten, Denny Siegel, Kathy Greenwood and several others took turns as the fourth performer. Celebrities, including Robin Williams, Kathy Griffin and Whoopi Goldberg sometimes took the fourth spot. In addition, seven years before creating The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert took the fourth spot at a taping in the first season. Other celebrities made guest appearances for individual games, such as David Hasselhoff, Catherine O'Hara, Florence Henderson, Hugh Hefner, Jerry Springer and Richard Simmons. In one episode, comic legend Sid Caesar made an appearance, and the applause and standing ovation for Caesar was so long that much of it had to be cut from the broadcast [citation needed]. Mochrie, Proops, Stiles, Esten, Brady and Sherwood all appeared multiple times on the British show. Aside from them, Josie Lawrence also appeared twice on the American version as well.

Many of the sketches include music, and there have been a number of musicians during the run of the show. On the original BBC Radio series, the music was provided by Colin Sell, but when the show migrated to Channel 4, Richard Vranch (also of The Comedy Store Players) assumed the job of musician. Vranch did not move with the show to the U.S. In fact, during the final series of the British show, musician Laura Hall made her first appearance. She continued as musician in the first season of the U.S. show on her own, but in the second season and onward, other musicians were added to "jazz up" that part of the show. Frequently joining Laura Hall was multi-talented musician Linda Taylor, and other musicians were occasionally added, such as Cece Worral-Rubin, Anne King, Candy Girard, and Anna Wanselius. Popular sketches like "Greatest Hits", "Hoedown", "Irish Drinking Song" and "Song Styles" relied heavily on music.

Though Whose Line? has all the trappings of a game show, it lacks the true competition and the stakes of a normal game show. The host's duties are similar to those of a host on a normal game show. It is his job to award the meaningless points and to arbitrarily choose the winner.

Each episode begins with the host welcoming the audience to the show and introducing the performers. The host then introduces the first game (for more on the games, see below). After completion of a game, the host assigns points to the performers as he sees fit, then introduces the next game. At the end of the show, the host arbitrarily chooses a winner or winners. In the UK version, the winner(s) would read the credits in a style of the host's choosing. In the US version, the winner(s) would either play a game with the host or sit in the host's chair leaving the others to play a game with the host. Except for the first season, the credits were then read randomly by one or more performers once again in a style of the host's choosing.

The show was taped in front of a live audience, usually in two 45-minute segments with a 15-minute break in-between. The actual episodes aired were cut down to approximately 25 minutes. A single taping of the show would include several versions of the same games (for example, an audience member might see three or four 'hoedowns' instead of just one at the end, as shown on TV). The producers could then harvest several episodes' worth of material from a single taping.

The number and type of games played vary from episode to episode. The wide-variety of games alone helps to ensure that no two episodes are the same; however, some games have become more common over time, possibly because of their popularity: "Helping Hands", "Hoedown", "Song Styles", "Party Quirks", "Let's Make a Date", "Scenes from a Hat" and "Props".

Several games take the style of "traditional" scenes, but have a twist to make the game less-predictable. One of these games is Helping Hands. In this game, two performers act out a scene provided by the host; however, one of the performers cannot use their own hands, so a third performer stands behind the "handless" performer to provide their own hands. In later episodes, this game usually involved food (such as "making an ice cream sundae") so that "the hands" performer could force "the body" performer to eat nasty concoctions against his will (one particularly memorable scene involved Colin forcing Ryan to eat dirt out of a potted plant, as well as another scene where Colin forced Ryan to drink vegetable oil straight from the bottle). Ironically, Ryan is reportedly diabetic, and thus could not actually eat most of what Colin fed him; Ryan would usually spit it back out during the game or after the game ended.

There are also many games that require the performers to use their musical talents. The game Hoedown calls for each contestant to perform one of four stanzas of a song in the style of a hoedown. The subject of the hoedown is usually provided from an audience suggestion. In spite of the fact that it has become a fan-favorite on the show, virtually all of the contestants, especially Ryan Stiles, detest the game. While they have usually been good sports about performing in it, the contestants tend to subtly express their active disdain for the game by interjecting insults pointed at Clive Anderson, Drew Carey (in the American version), or the hoedown itself while singing their parts. Another musical game is called Song Styles; in this game, a performer sings a song about an item or audience member in a style provided by the host. This style is either given as a genre, or as a particular musical artist. Wayne Brady, Brad Sherwood, Jeff Davis and Chip Esten traditionally performed the singing parts for scenes requiring only one or two singing performers, because of their excellent vocal talents.

There are also some guessing games in which one performer must determine the identity of the other performers or of themselves. One of the mainstays of the UK version was Party Quirks. In this game, three of the performers are provided with envelopes, inside which are character traits or quirks; each performer acts as a guest of a party, and must adopt the trait given to them. The fourth performer acts as the party's host and must identify the quirks. If their quirk is correctly guessed, the performer will leave the party. On occasion, the party host would be stumped, and Clive would end the game if it went on too long. A similar concept was behind the game Let's Make a Date, a parody of dating game shows, in which the fourth performer must guess the other performers' "quirks" based on their responses to his or her dating-related questions (allowed two per performer). A recurring gag in Party Quirks and Let's Make A Date sketches was that the show's writers would often give Ryan Stiles incredibly bizarre or seemingly impossible quirks to act out in usually vain attempts to stump him. As such, Ryan and Drew would often burst out laughing whenever Ryan read his card.

Other game styles include rapid-fire games, which called for the competitors to provide quick scenes that are only one or two lines long. In Scenes from a Hat, the host will pull suggestions for scenes out of a hat. (These suggestions are written out beforehand by audience members.) In response to each suggestion, the performers will improvise a one or two-line scene. Props is another game in which contestants are put into teams of two, given a random prop. Switching turns by the sound of the buzzer, they must think of different scenes in reference to their respective prop. Another game is Questions Only, in which two performers start a scene, and must continue the scene by only asking questions. When one doesn't ask a question, or takes too long to think of a question, they would be buzzed out and replaced by another performer, who would often continue the scene by taking it on a complete different direction.

While the American version of the show is based on the UK version, there are still several differences between the two shows. One that is noticed immediately is the opening of the show. The U.S. version never had a traditional opening sequence, whereas the British version had a complete opening sequence which varied slightly over time. In early seasons, this sequence showed clips from the actual show. This later changed to show silhouetted actors performing scenes. The final opening sequence showed the scenes being acted out by animated figures made of lines, in a manner reminiscent of the Italian series La Linea.

Another difference comes in the amount of participation of both the host and the audience in the two versions. On the UK version of the show, Clive Anderson rarely interacted with the performers during the actual games; in the U.S. version of the show, Drew Carey was much more active. The performers interacted with Drew during certain games, more so than in the British version. Several games also involved more audience participation, most notably a new version of Sound Effects where audience members provided the sound effects for the performers.

The ending of the show with the winner also varies. In the British version, the winner(s) read the credits in a style of the host's choosing. In the American version, random performers read the credits, while the winner either plays a game with the host or sits at the host's desk while the others play the game.

Running gags appeared frequently over the series' run. Usually, the gags involved the participants and the host making fun of one another and themselves. Some running gags were confined to a single episode, in which notable jokes, comments, or mistakes from the performers and/or host are recalled in later games (such as one American show when Drew made a complaint about how cold it was in the studio). There are also several running gags that span the show's entire television run.

Running gags in the British version of the show include jokes directed at the host, Clive Anderson, and particularly addressed his short neck or baldness. There was often joking between the American performers and Clive in relation to the different idioms between British and American English (e.g. "elevator" vs. "lift"). Greg Proops was often the instigator of these jokes. Stiles continued the "insulting the host" tradition on the American version, with Drew Carey being the target by way of fat jokes or by other means, especially during the Hoedown segments, which most of the contestants loathed. Only once did the "insult the host" issue in the U.S. version ever involve the UK host, Clive Anderson. In one sequence of Greatest Hits, Drew Carey referred to Wayne Brady as Brad Sherwood; Ryan Stiles responded by calling Drew "Clive".

The American version of Whose Line? carried over many running gags from the British version, but also created many of its own, such as frequently placing Colin in the position of portraying a woman in sketches, or assigning Ryan with the role of Carol Channing in a particular situation. With a less-varied list of performers and games, a higher level of familiarity developed between the performers. This higher level of familiarity led to more running gags directed at the performers themselves. These jokes include frequent references to individual appearances, including Colin's baldness, Canadian heritage, and vibrant shirts; Ryan's height, large nose, and flamboyant 1950s style shoes; Wayne's being African-American; and Drew's obesity and large paycheck despite having little or nothing to do with the show. In addition, in the twilight of the series, Drew Carey and the regulars on Whose Line made frequent sarcastic remarks toward the hugely popular sitcom Friends, joking about how it was stealing away viewers from Whose Line, and fellow ABC "game show" Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, trying to one-up Regis Philbin and their prizes, once by giving out one billion points.

The first DVD of the U.S. version of Whose Line? was released on September 26, 2006. It is the first volume of the first season, and two versions have been released. One is "family-friendly", and the other is uncensored. Both releases include the first 10 episodes of the first season, with the episodes being the same on either version[2]. The extras, however, on the uncensored version holds material more suitable for mature viewers. Currently the DVD is selling rather well, with the uncensored DVD reaching as high as #22 on Amazon.com's Top Sellers in DVD sales.

The first release of the UK series, featuring the first two seasons, is scheduled for an American release on March 27, 2007[3] Also, British episodes were released on VHS in the mid-1990s. Additionally, a play-at-home book was printed in 1989, related to the British series.

Episodes from the third and fourth UK series are also available to rent from Channel 4's on demand service.

In the Netherlands, a show based on Whose Line Is It Anyway? is called De Lama's. Besides a number of games from Whose Line Is It Anyway?, the show uses a lot of new games.

* Lo Kar Lo Baat

In India, a television program based on Whose Line Is It Anyway? is called Lo Kar Lo Baat. Most of the games are taken from the original.

* Onvoorziene omstandigheden

In Belgium, a similar program was made under the name Onvoorziene omstandigheden (Unforeseen Circumstances), presented by Mark Uytterhoeven on één.

* Frei Schnauze

In Germany, this version of the UK original entertains its audience with many similar games. The show started as a half-an-hour program and expanded to one hour in 2006. The host of Frei Schnauze is the German comedian Dirk Bach. Another improv show is Schillerstraße featuring many well-known German comedians, but it uses a sitcom format.

* Hatten Rundt

In Denmark, a show called "Hatten Rundt" featured a setup very similar to that of "Whose Line?". However, the Danish show had much more emphasis on acting and much less on wild comedy.

* Shel Mi Hashora

This is the version shown in Israel. The 3rd season is currently aired.

* Wild n Out

On MTV this, hosted by Nick Cannon, is a hip hop version of the show with guest stars - among them Wayne Brady from Whose Line is it Anyway? - and hip hop performances.

* Whose Pie is it Anyway?

An unofficial Australian version of the program was created by comedy troupe The T Team that was very short-lived. This was a spoof of the British and US versions of the program.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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