|Drew Carey (1998-2007)|
Aisha Tyler (2013-present)
|Hat Trick Productions/|
Warner Brothers Television
Whose Line is it Anyway? features groups of celebrity performers who perform short crazy acts. This popular series is based on the British show of the same name.
On Whose Line, four performers would act out/improvise a series of songs, characters, scenes & skits according to the instructions given by host Drew Carey, and sometimes the audience. At the end of each game, Drew would begrudgingly award points (usually 1,000), for in actuality, the points have nothing to do with the show; in fact, Drew would always say at the beginning, "The show where everything's made up & the points don't matter." Not only that, Drew would sometimes not award any points at all. At the end of each show, Drew would pick a winner/winners, and the winner(s) would get to act out with Drew, with one of the losers sitting at Drew's desk (sometimes, the winner would sit in Drew's desk leaving (some of) the losers to act out a scene with Drew). Starting in season two, and just like in the original UK version, (some of) the performers would read the closing credits in the style of Drew's choosing, usually based on a scene earlier in the program; most times in later seasons, the winner(s) chosen by Drew would do this.
In 2001, the activity room set is completly eliminated and got replaced by a stage that had the show's logo in the middle. The monitors on the video wall were changed to a giant LED screen. By the end of the Carey run, the silhouette wall was replaced with a grey fluff sliding-like door.
The Games of Whose Line
The following games are based around the performer(s) singing:
- All In One Voice: The performers, split into pairs, sing an audience-suggested song as given famous duo. Each pair sings simultaneously as one member of the duo. Similar to "Funeral", but only played two times.
- American Musical/Musical: The four performers act out a Broadway-style musical, the storyline of which is based on three audience suggestions. They begin talking normally, but break into musical numbers when background music begins. Similar games include "Show Stopping Number" and "Opera".
- Bartender/Prison Visitor/Psychiatrist: Three performers arrive, one at a time, to sing about their problems to the fourth, who then replies in song. The fourth performer plays the titular role. A prop is provided in each game: a bar and drinks in "Bartender", a set of prison bars in "Prison Visitor", and a couch or set of stools in "Psychiatrist".
- Song Styles: One performer makes up a song about an audience member or about an audience-suggested subject; the performer is given a specific style or artist to emulate. Sometimes, the other performers provide backup vocals or dancing. In early playings, two performers would each be given different songs to sing. Variations on the basic game include:
- Duet: Variation on "Song Styles" which features two performers.
- Ballad Of: Two performers perform a country ballad in the form of a narration. Played only once.
- African Chant: The three other performers back Wayne Brady in the style of an African chant.
- Boogie Woogie Sisters: Three performers sing in the style of a 1940s Boogie-woogie group. Played only twice.
- Doo-Wop: Three performers sing in the style of a doo-wop group.
- Motown Group: Three performers sing in the style of a Motown group.
- Greatest Hits: One or two performers act as pitchmen in a commercial for a compilation of songs about an audience-provided topic. One or both of the other performers perform short songs whose title and genre/artist are prompted by the pitchmen. Running gags that evolved for the pitchmen include opening with "we'll be back to [a parody show title] in just a second", inventing an absurd combination of the number of songs and CDs in the collection, coming up with intentionally awkward segues to the next song or artist, and attempting to come up with difficult titles. Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles were always the pitchmen. Similar to "Telethon".
- Hoedown: The four performers sing a hoedown about an audience-provided subject, with each performing four-line stanzas (unrelated to each other). The same basic music is always used, and the stanzas typically follow the same AABB rhyme scheme with the fourth line as a punchline. The last line of the last stanza is repeated to end the song. As a musical game that involves all four performers (regardless of their singing skills), a running gag is the performers' legitimate hatred of the game (most notably Ryan Stiles), which they express by blatantly mocking the host, the Hoedown itself, and occasionally the other performers. When played, "Hoedown" is usually the last game before the closing credits.
- Irish Drinking Song: The four performers sing an Irish drinking song about an audience-suggested subject. The performers each sing a line, in turn, in an eight-line stanza beginning with the first performer and running two rotations through the performers. The second performer begins the second eight-line stanza, and so-on to complete four stanzas. At the end of each stanza, all singers sing in unison "hai-dee-dai-dee-dai" or something of that nature. Each stanza typically has a rhyme scheme in which the fourth performer's lines rhyme with the line previously given by the second performer. The first and third performers' lines don't typically rhyme (the eight lines in each stanza could thus be paired into four lines of AABB rhyming).
- Scene to Rap: Two performers begin a given scene, rapping throughout to provided music; the other two enter one-at-a-time during the scene, and join the rap. In most playings, each performer raps one verse, though in some playings, performers rap additional verses. Another version of the game is Gangsta Rap, involving two performers and only played once.
- Show Stopping Number: Three performers enact a scene. Periodically, the host sounds the buzzer, and the last performer to speak must sing a show-stopping tune based on their last line, to pre-recorded music.
- Telethon: Two performers host a telethon for an audience-suggested group of people who normally do not need financial aid. (e.g. NBA players), while the two other performers impersonate various musical artists as prompted by the hosts. Similar to "Greatest Hits".
- Three-Headed Broadway Star: Three performers sing a Broadway-style song, with each performer singing one word at a time, in turn. The title of the musical and the song are audience-suggested. The song is occasionally sung to an audience member seated in front of the performers.
- Title Sequence: Two performers invent and sing the theme song for a sitcom which pairs two given or audience-suggested unlikely roommates. The other two performers act out the opening sequence as those two roommates. Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles always do the acting.
Background music games
The following games are based on a choice of background music:
- Advertisement: One performer advertises an audience-suggested product to the style of provided music. Common on the radio version, but on TV this was only played twice.
- Scene to Music: The four performers enact a scene involving the different styles of background music played.
- Wrong Theme Tune: Two performers enact a scene explaining a given subject, while in the background, an inappropriate style of music plays (for example, a cartoonish background music for a western-style scene). The performers try to perform the scene in the style of that music. Played only once on television, but fairly common on the radio version.
The following games are based on limiting the dialogue of one or more performers:
- 90-Second Alphabet: Two or three performers enact a given scene in which each sentence must begin with the subsequent letter of the alphabet, beginning with an audience-suggested letter. The performers must go through the entire alphabet once, but they had a 90-second time-limit.
- Backward Scene: Two or three performers act out a given scene starting with the ending line and working their way line by line back to the beginning. This was played only twice.
- Change Letter: All four performers act out a given scene, and must substitute every occurrence of a given letter in their dialogue with another given letter (e.g. every "B" must be changed to "F").
- Foreign Film Dub: Two performers enact a scene in a foreign language (usually using accented gibberish) chosen by the audience, while the other two performers "translate" into English after each line. This often results in the translators putting the acting performers in compromising situations by translating their gibberish in embarrassing ways. Similar to "Expert Translation".
- If You Know What I Mean: Three performers improvise a scene in which they make up as many innuendos related to the given topic as they can, ending each with the phrase "if you know what I mean."
- Mixed Messages: Three performers act out a scene by two of them may only use speak using text messages conservations on on phones donated by two audience members. The third performer (always Colin) can say whatever he wants to. Only played on CW revival.
- Number of Words: The four performers act out a given scene. Each is also assigned a number, which is the exact number of words each must use at a time.
- Questions Only: Two performers enact a given scene speaking only in questions, while the other performers wait off-stage, one behind each of them. If either performer speaks in a non-question, or takes too long to respond, the host sounds the buzzer and they are replaced by the performer behind them. There's a different variation of that called "Song Titles" which will be explained in a moment.
- Questions With Wigs: In this variation, the performers must act out the scene as a character dictated by the wig they are wearing.
- Questionable Impressions: In this variation, the performers must also do a different impression of their choice each time they enter the game.
- Questionable Impressions From TV: A sub-variation in which all impressions must be of TV personalities. This variation was played only once, on the "Salute to American Television" episode.
- Quick Change: Two or three performers enact a given scene. Another performer stands offstage and says "change" at various times during the scene; the performer who had the last line must then provide an alternate line. The changed line is commonly itself "changed", leading to both confusion, or a punchline under the comedic rule of three.
- Song Titles: Two performers act out a given scene speaking only in existing song titles, while the others wait off-stage, one behind each of them. If either performer speaks in a non-song-title, speaks a song lyric, or takes too long to respond, the host sounds the buzzer and they are replaced by the performer behind them. Similar to "Questions Only".
- Two Line Vocabulary: Three performers enact a given scene. Two of the performers are limited to using only two specific given lines each. In the US, Colin is always the character who does not have specific lines to say.
- What Are You Trying To Say?: Two performers act out a scene in which they are easily-offended, taking offense to anything the other performer says. Only played once.
- Whose Line (Named after the show): Ryan and Colin act out a given scene. They are each given several slips of paper with amusing lines written on them suggested in advance by the audience. Periodically, the performers pull a slip of paper out of their pocket and must include the line in the scene. The lines commonly contain some form of innuendo.
The following games involve creating many different brief scenes in succession:
- Props: The performers are split into pairs, each given a different unusual prop. The pairs alternate at the prompting of the host's buzzer, giving short scenes using their prop in a unique way. The game typically results in a series rapid-fire one- or two-liners, especially in later playings. Props used were commonly shaped foam with no standout features.
- Scenes From a Hat: The audience submits written suggestions which are placed in a hat. Drew then draws from the hat, and any of the four performers, who stand off-stage, may enter and develop that scene. Multiple responses from the same or different performers were sometimes allowed until the host decided to move on. This game often consisted of one-liners. This was one of the most frequently played games. When the show went to a commercial after the game was over, Drew would throw away the hat and (sometimes) there would be a wide shot while the hat was thrown away.
- World's Worst: A topic is given in the form of "the world's worst [something]." The four performers come to "The World's Worst Step" (the lowest step behind the stage) and step forward one-at-a-time with examples that fit the topic. Topics could include characters (e.g. the world's worst doctor), but also other topics (e.g. the worst game show). One topic is chosen per playing, and the performers can step forward in any order, and as often as they want. In early playings, the examples were longer with later playings more commonly featuring one-liners. The title of the game did not appear until the show moved to TV.
- Hats/Dating Service Video: A variation in which the performers are split into pairs. Each pair is provided a box of random headgear; the performers use the headgear to enact examples of "the world's worst dating service videos". Play alternates between the pairs at the prompting of the host's buzzer; usually only one member of each pair acts at a time. The game typically results in a series rapid-fire pun-laden pick-up lines.
The following games involve one performer needing to guess some element(s) of the scene:
- Let's Make A Date: One performer (usually the fourth performer) is the contestant on a dating-type show a la The Dating Game. The other three performers are the possible dates who are given odd personalities or characters via envelopes. Following one or two rounds of questioning, contestant must guess who the others are. Similar to "Party Quirks".
- News Flash: One performer (usually Colin) stands in front of a green screen as a field reporter, while two others are news anchors. Certain footage is shown on the greenscreen which the anchors and the audience can see, while the reporter can see only the greenscreen. Based on clues in the anchor's questioning - and sometimes the audience's reaction - the reporter must guess what kind of footage is being shown.
- Party Quirks: One performer hosts a party which the other three attend. The three guests are assigned odd personalities or characters via envelopes. Whenever he is able, the host must identify what each guest is portraying. The guests enter one-at-a-time at the prompting of a doorbell sounded by the host. When their quirk is guessed correctly, a performer returns to his seat. Similar to "Let's Make A Date".
- Press Conference: One performer is giving a press conference while the other three ask questions as reporters. The subject of the conference is either a known figure giving some sort of announcement (e.g. Santa retiring) or some sort of unusual achievement (e.g. the first female Pope). The subject is not informed of their identity, and must deduce it from the questions that the reporters ask. Another time it was something unusual, such as Colin having Clive's love child.
The following games have a defined genre, event or scene structure:
- Action Replay (aka Instant Replay): Two performers enact a given scene, usually making exaggerated physical movements; the other two observe visually, but wear headphones playing loud music so they can't hear the scene. They must then attempt to create their own scene, re-enacting the same motions and concocting a scene to fit them. Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles typically are the reenacters.
- Award Show: Two performers host an award show for a given absurd achievement; the other two (usually Colin and Ryan) are the winners and make an acceptance speech. Various audience members are shown as other nominees.
- Daytime Talk Show: One performer is the host of a daytime talk show (usually a parody of The Jerry Springer Show and other similar shows). Two other performers are guests appearing on the show, and the fourth portrays one or more members of the audience. The topic of the talk show is usually a given fairy tale, nursery rhyme, or Biblical story. Jerry Springer himself guest starred as the host of this game on one occasion.
- Hollywood Director: Three performers would act in the scene, while Colin, the fourth would play the director, most of the time to tell the performers that their performance was "Crap" after the first scene. The director received the suggestions from the host.
- Fashion Models: Three performers act out a fashion show, the subject of which is usually an audience-suggested profession. The fourth performer comments on the show.
- Forward/Rewind: All four performers act out a scene and when prompted by a per-recorded voice to "rewind" by repeating what has already been said in the correct order. Then they are prompted to go "forward and repeat the same lines, in order and add onto the scene. The producers can "forward' or "rewind" as much as they please. Only played on CW revival.
- Funeral: Three performers act out a scene at a funeral for a person with an audience-provided name and occupation, who died in a job-related freak accident. One performer usually takes the role of the funeral director, with the remaining performers being associated with the deceased in some way. After briefly eulogizing, the performers sing an elegy all at once. Similar games include "All In One Voice", "Reunion" and "Wedding".
- Hey, You Down There!: Two performers silently enact a 1950s public information film on a given topic. A third performer provides the narration on top of a provided style-appropriate music track.
- Home Shopping: Two performers are presenters on a home shopping channel. They are given two useless items to sell, as well as a third audience-suggested item. This game was played only twice. Similar to "Infomercial".
- Ice Skaters: The participants are figure skaters performing their final routine. But instead of dancing, they are instead performing some other activity while skating. This game was only performed once.
- Infomercial: Colin and Ryan are presenters in an infomercial selling "miracle" solutions for a given personal problem. The performers are given a box of unusual props which they must use as products they are selling, or in demonstrations. Similar games include "Greatest Hits" and "Home Shopping".
- The Millionaire Show: The four performers enact a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?-style game show, with a given theme (e.g. gangsters, hillbillies, Germans). The performers take the roles of the host, a contestant, a "phone-a-friend" lifeline, and an audience member lifeline (not part of the actual Millionaire format).
- Improbable Mission: Two performers are Mission: Impossible-style secret agents. A third performer is the voice on tape who gives them their assignment. The assignment is a mundane task (washing a car, shopping for food, etc.) which is carried out in an exaggeratedly intense, dangerous, and difficult manner. After the mission is defined by the voice on tape, suspenseful background music is played.
- Narrate/Film Noir: Two performers enact a scene based in an audience-suggested location. The scene takes a film noir style, both in content and mood, as well as by breaking the fourth wall to approach the camera and narrate. Appropriate pre-recorded music is played during the scene. The game features Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie.
- News Report: The four performers enact a news report on the topic of a fairy tale or Biblical story. The country in which the report will take place is also chosen. One performer is the news anchor, another is an expert in the studio, another is a field reporter, and the fourth plays several characters interviewed by the reporter.
- Quiz Show: One performer is the host of an audience-suggested quiz show, while the other three are as contestants. On the UK version, host Clive Anderson would occasionally participate as a judge.
- Reunion: Three performers are old friends who once had the same profession, meeting at a reunion. The scene culminates with the three players, all in one voice, improvising an "old song" relating to the profession. Similar to "All In One Voice", "Funeral" and "Wedding"; only played once.
- Secret: Two performers act out a given scene which begins shortly before one performer's secret object is discovered by the other. The location of the secret is audience-suggested.
- Sports Commentators/Sportscasters: Two performers enact a given scene, usually a mundane daily activity, in slow motion. The other two performers provide commentary as if the event were a sporting event. The activity is usually elevated to a highly competitive and extremely violent spectacle.
- Survival Show: The four performers enact a Survivor-style game which is set in an everyday location. Though Drew states that all four are the survivors, one performer acts as the host, while the others perform stunts and have a tribal council as contestants. Played only once.
- Themed Restaurant: Two performers dine in a restaurant with a given unusual theme; the other two performers act as waitstaff.
- Wedding: The four performers, along with a female audience member, perform a wedding using the audience member's foible as a base. One performer is the groom to the audience member's bride. Another is the master of ceremonies, another a drunken relative, and the last sings a wedding song. Similar to "All In One Voice", "Funeral" and "Reunion", it was played only once.
- What's In The Bag: 3 performers act out a scene while two of them (always Colin and Ryan) have to use items found in a handbag or purse (donated from an audience members) and incorporate it in the scene. Only played on the CW revival.
The following games are based on one or more performers having a strange quirk or identity:
- Animals: Two to four performers enact a soap opera-type scene as given species of animal. Performed only once on the US version, with a second performance included in outtakes on the First season Vol. 1 DVD.
- Change of Emotion: Three performers are given an actual prop; whoever holds it must express a given emotion as they act out a given scene. Occasionally, two or three props are used, each assigned a different emotion.
- Multiple Personalities: A variation in which there are three props, and each is assigned a different famous identity. The performers must bear the identity associated with whatever prop(s) they are holding.
- Fixed Expressions: The performers act out a scene while each must maintain a fixed facial expression. Each performer is given a different emotion to emulate.
- Meet The Family: Two of the performers are the parents of a third. The fourth performer is engaged to the third, and is meeting the parents for the first time. The parents are given odd personalities or characters. Played only once.
- Old Job, New Job: Two to four performers enact a given scene in which one of the performers displays traits of his given old job while performing his new job.
- Superheroes: One performer superhero with an odd audience-suggested identity. He faces an audience-suggested crisis, and is joined by another performer. In welcoming this performer, he provides them another odd superhero identity. The third and fourth performers arrive in turn, and are named by their predecessors as well. Then, after the crisis is solved, the performers depart in reverse order. The superhero names are typically in stereotypical superhero form (e.g. [something]-man, or [something]-girl) with an unusual identifying characteristic or power.
- Weird Newscasters: One performer is the lead anchor of a news broadcast who acts normally; the other three are the co-host, sports anchor, and weather anchor, and are each given an odd personality or character which they must exhibit. A running gag is for the lead anchor to introduce the other characters with humorous pun names, and to open the newscast with a joke news item.
The following games are based on a physical impediment or requirement:
- Dead Bodies: One performer acts out a given scene while the rest of the performers in the scene act as if they are dead or unconscious. The performer must physically move the others, including their mouths, and say their lines for them. One performer and one audience member plus an additional performer joins the scene partway through and quickly dies/faints. Colin Mochrie is always the performer who remains alive.
- Helping Hands: Three performers enact a given scene; one performer can move freely, while another (usually Ryan) cannot use his arms, and places them behind his back; the third provides the arms for the second, placing his own arms through the second's armpits. Other than some early UK playings, the performers are usually provided with a table full of props, some of which are messy. They are also commonly provided with aprons or other protective costumes.
- Living Scenery: Two performers enact a given scene. The other two performers or special guests stand in for props during the scene. This often results in the human props being put in very suggestive situations.
- Moving People: Two performers enact a scene, but they cannot move on their own. Instead, two audience members or special guests must move them into different positions during the scene. Other than one UK playing, this game is always played by Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles.
- Sideways Scene: Three performers act out a scene whiling lying down on a special mat behind the stage and is displayed on the background screen behind the performers chairs. There is a camera mounted above the mat that displays the picture as if they are standing up. This game is always played by Wayne, Colin, and the 4th seater (since Ryan is unable to play due to his back problems). Only played on CW revival.
- Stand, Sit, Lie Down: Three performers enact a given scene; at any given time, one must be standing, one must be sitting and one must be either bending over or lying down, depending on the game. Whenever one changes position, the others must change to maintain this requirement. A stool or bed is typically provided to accommodate the scene.
- Dubbing: Two performers enact a scene with an audience member, whose dialogue is provided by a third performer off-camera. Sometimes a celebrity guest is used instead of an audience member.
- Film, TV & Theatre Styles: Prior to the scene, the host solicits various styles of film, TV or theatre from the audience. These can be either broad genres (e.g.: sci-fi) or specific titles (e.g.: Star Wars). Two or three performers then begin a given scene; the host periodically stops the scene with a buzzer and chooses an audience-suggested style for the performers to continue the scene in. Later playings added a third performer to the game.
- Change of Cast: The four performers enact a given scene, changing their characters at the host's prompting.
- Film Dub: One to four performers watch a clip from an old (and usually unknown) movie or television show that has been muted. While only the clip is shown on-screen, the performers each provide the dialogue for one of the characters following a given scene suggestion.
- Good Cop - Bad Cop One performer is a homeowner who has some problem around the house, suggested by the audience, such as a broken down washing machine. Two other performers are the repairmen the first calls in to fix it, formerly partners on the police force who specialized in the good cop/bad cop method of interrogation. They interrogate the homeowner as if s/he committed some crime which caused the issue.
- Make A Monster: One performer acts as Dr. Frankenstein and one as Igor; the other two are corpses. Either of the two performers picks the corpses' heads, arms, and legs from various celebrities or professionals, such as choosing the head of Mr. T, the arms of a sushi bar chef, and legs of an ice hockey player. The performers portraying the corpses must then act accordingly. This was played only twice .
- Remote Control: The four performers each enact a different given style of television program on the same topic (sometimes given, sometimes audience-suggested). They each perform one-at-a-time, switching when the host sounds the buzzer and chooses the next performer. Similar to "Authors".
- Scene with an Audience Member: Two performers and an audience member perform a given scene. Later in the show's run, the audience member would read pre-written lines from a card when prompted.
- Scenes Cut from a Movie: The four performers enact scenes ostensibly edited out of an audience-suggested movie.
- Sound Effects: One performer enacts a given scene while a second, offstage, provides the sound effects vocally. Ryan Stiles provided the effects for Colin Mochrie. Whenever a vehicle was used in a scene, a running gag involved Colin attempting to start the vehicle but failing, and when Colin is about to check its engine, Ryan forces the vehicle to start, forcing Colin to chase after the car.
- Sound Effects (audience version) In this variation, two performers act onstage while a pair of audience members are chosen to provide the sound effects, one for each performer. The performers must adapt to the sound effects given by the pair of audience members. Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie were always the performers in this game. A running gag involved Drew Carey choosing elderly women from the studio audience who were often shy or unresponsive. The typical result was poor, unexpected, or missing sound effects, which Colin and Ryan react to.
- Really Bad Hangover: Two performers wake up with hangovers. As a result, sounds they hear seem amplified. The other two performers provide the sound effects offstage.
Improv music by Laura Hall, Linda R. Taylor, Cece Worrall-Rubin, Anne King, Candy Girard, and Anna Wanselius.
Based on the British version of the same name by Dan Patterson and Mark Leveson. Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, Josie Lawrence and Greg Proops were also all regulars on the British version.
Drew Carey's Green Screen Show - A short-lived WB and Comedy Central series that aired in 2004 and 2005
Drew Carey's Improv-A-Ganza - A short-lived GSN Series that aired in 2011
Sponk! - A short-lived children's spinoff of Whose Line that aired on Noggin/The N
In Popular Culture
On the pilot episode of Victorious, there was a variation of the 90 Second Alphabet game called Alphabet Improv. The titular character Tori Vega (Victoria Justice), Andre Harris (Leon Thomas III), Cat Valentine (Ariana Grande), Beck Oliver (Avan Jogia) and Jade West (Liz Gillies) were the performers for this game. Tori used the game to take out her revenge on school bully Jade West for pouring coffee on her head after catching Tori trying to rub the coffee out of Jade's boyfriend Beck's shirt after accidentally spilling it on him.
For more information about this, click here.
Mad TV did a spoof of Whose Line entitled, "Whose Idea Was This Anyway?"
Whose Line was also given homage on the Cartoon Network series MAD, which was a parody crossover entitled, "Doctor Who's Line Is It Anyway?" Two of the doctors from doctor who plus Wayne Brady were featured in this parody. The robot was the host and there was an audience full of robots.