The Best of Whose Line Is It Anyway?
June 5, 2009

Review by KC Carlson

“I’ll help you fluff your Garfield, if you know what I mean…” – Colin Mochrie

Containing ten of the funniest episodes of the great improv comedy, sorta-game show, plus an hour-long compilation of Season 1 and 2 highlights, this two-DVD set also includes many of the series’ best guest appearances. David Hasselhoff, Jerry Springer, Florence Henderson, and Richard Simmons are all featured, as well as a female bodybuilder, several college cheerleaders, and an audience member who has problems with her short, flippy skirt when one of the cast members picks her up in the middle of a skit — which helps to explains why this set is Uncensored, as several of these segments were originally bleeped or blurred when first broadcast.

The Best of Whose Line Is It Anyway? cover
The Best of Whose Line Is It Anyway?
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Richard Simmons: I’ll be the prop! I’ll be all the props for these men!
Drew Carey: If I had a nickel for every time I heard that…

This Whose Line Is It Anyway? is the Drew Carey-hosted version of the show which ran on ABC from 1998 to 2003. Repeats (and, initially, some unaired episodes) were broadcast on ABC Family, where they are currently running occasionally in the late-night hours. Fans of Whose Line know that the show is based on a earlier English version of the program that ran on the BBC from 1988 to 1998. That one was rerun in the U.S. on both Comedy Central and BBC America, although it’s not currently being shown here.

Both versions of the show included several of the same cast members and games, although the hosts were different and the “feel” of the two versions are quite different. The history of both series is well chronicled on several Wikipedia pages. (Whose Line fans are very detailed and organized.) Make sure to click on the links for extremely detailed List of Games and Wikiquote pages.

Many folks missed this American series when it was first on, as it usually aired opposite Friends during the Must-See Thursday era. So a quick re-cap might be in order: Whose Line Is It Anyway? was a half-hour show consisting of a series of improvisational comedy games, skits, and songs performed by four panelists who either come up with scenarios provided by the host (here, Drew Carey) or by the studio audience, members of which are frequently brought up on stage to interact with the performers, usually with disastrous, but hysterical, results. The whole thing is passed off as a fake game show, with Carey awarding points (which “don’t matter” — which becomes a running joke) for great or outrageous performances, at his own whim. Although funny on his own, Carey wisely acts as the straight man/host for the proceedings, but he usually does perform in one game per show, in which he is usually mocked and ridiculed by the others.

Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie

Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie

Three of the four panelists are regulars, two of which — Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie — appear on every episode of the US version and many of the UK episodes as well. The third, Wayne Brady, became a regular during the second US season and is on every episode after that. He also appeared on a handful of the UK shows during its last season. The fourth panelist usually comes from a pool of semi-regulars including Greg Proops, Brad Sherwood, Charles “Chip” Esten, and Kathryn “Kathy” Greenwood. Proops was a frequent member of the UK show, and both Esten and Sherwood also made appearances there. Mochrie and Sherwood often tour together, keeping the spirit of Whose Line alive in their hysterical improv shows.

“You know, for as long as I can remember, I’ve had memories.” – Colin Mochrie

Colin Mochrie is probably the show’s secret weapon, and for my money, one of the funniest people on the planet. On Whose Line, he is the master of the non sequitur and a major practitioner of bad puns. Colin can be counted on to say just about anything at any time, and often the games come to a screeching halt because the other performers are in hysterics after a Mochrie punchline — while Colin deadpans total innocence over what he just said. A running joke on the show is that Colin is always asked to play “the girl”. Colin is also mocked mercilessly by his co-stars for his receding hairline as well as for being Canadian. Colin originaly performed with the legendary Toronto Second City comedy troupe, where he met and became close friends with Ryan Stiles.

Scenes from a Hat
Drew: Famous Hollywood roles as played by Carol Channing.
Ryan Stiles: [Mimicking Carol Channing] I know what you’re thinking. Did I fire seven shots or six? Well with all this confusion, I’ve forgotten myself, so you have to ask yourself one question: Do you feel lucky? Well, do you, punk?

Ryan Stiles, best known for playing Lewis on The Drew Carey Show (and currently a recurring character on Two and a Half Men), is a tall (6 foot, 6 inches), lanky performer who is incredibly fast on his feet, which are also unusually large. His shoe size is 15, and most of his shoes are custom made and very flamboyant — something mocked by himself as well as the other performers. He frequently teams with Mochrie, and the ease of their long friendship is a large factor in their comedy, especially when they make fun of each other’s appearance and mannerisms.

Ryan does unusual impressions, including John Wayne, Carol Channing, and Elvis, and garners big laughs when he imitates babies and deer. One of the running jokes of the show are the always thwarted attempts to stump him with more and more unusual characters or mannerisms. He very much dislikes the musical games, especially Hoedown, where he always goes last and usually does a verse lambasting the Hoedown itself or Carey for making him sing. (Notably, Colin frequently circumvents the Hoedowns by coming up with scenarios where he doesn’t have to rhyme, such as the Wrestler Hoedown, where wrestler Colin has fallen on his head so many times that he’s forgotten how to.)

Scenes from a Hat
Drew: Celebrity endorsements doomed to fail.
Wayne Brady: [with a lisp] I’m Mike Tyson for Encyclopedia Britannica.

Wayne Brady, on the other hand, is a master at the musical games, always first up in Hoedown and Irish Drinking Song, soloist in Song Styles (usually singing directly to an audience member), or my favorite game, Greatest Hits, where Ryan and Colin play crazed infomercial pitchmen for a new CD compilation trying to stump Wayne with ridiculous song styles and song titles (“A fast sci-fi jitterbug called ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi With the Flowing Brown Robe-y'”). Wayne isn’t quite in Ryan and Colin’s league, but he could sure hold the stage with them and keep up with them bit for bit. He wins the award for the Overall Most Talented: High Energy Category. Wayne is one of those old-fashioned multi-talented song and dance guys — a real rarity in modern entertainment.

Because of the nature of improvisational comedy (some nights you’re hot, some you’re not), not every episode of Whose Line is it Anyway? is a comedy masterpiece — although it is certainly more consistently funny than many modern sitcoms. But every episode on this set is a real gem, as well as one of the best in the series. And it’s a show that keeps on giving — you’ll be giggling for hours after each episode.

Here’s a clip with Ryan and Colin acting out a scene with a pregnant woman (Colin), where two audience members have been selected to provide the sound effects:

I hope that this is only the first in a series of compilation releases. This set will be available on Tuesday, June 9. A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the studio.

4 Responses  
LIz writes:  

I absolutely love that show. I was a big fan of the British show, and then when they got Colin and Ryan on the Drew Carey version I thought it was great as well. They don’t make TV like that anymore.

katrinka_ohio writes:  

Small corrections: Chip’s last name is spelled “Esten”; Ryan and Colin met in Vancouver, not Toronto.

Johanna writes:  

Oh, thanks for those.

Biggest_CO_Fan writes:  

I watched every episode and recorded each show on over a dozen tapes, all lost in a move MUCH TO MY ETERNAL HEARTACHE. Now I record two back-to-back shows on Thursday evenings and laugh until the tears roll down when I watch them the next morning. I’d pay big bucks for a series of The Best Of Whose Line DVDs. I don’t understand why Drew Carey et. al. don’t screen, select, collect and sell these! How I’d love to be on the selection committee! This was the best show on TV as far as I’m concerned.


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