Published on July 3, 2016
Whose Line is it Anyway? (often known as simply Whose Line?) is an improvisational comedy show, which was originally hosted by Drew Carey on ABC and ABC Family and ran from August 5, 1998 to December 15, 2007. A revival of the show, hosted by Aisha Tyler, began airing on The CW on July 16, 2013.
The series is a spin-off of the British show of the same name and features Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, and Wayne Brady as its regular performers with the fourth seat occupied by a guest panelist. All three regulars appeared on the British series; Stiles and Mochrie were regulars there as well while Brady was a frequent guest on the final season which moved production from London to Hollywood.
The show consists of a panel of four performers 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, who would set up a game and situation that the performers would improvise. The original host Drew Carey awarded arbitrary point values after each game, often citing a humorous reason for his decision. The points were purely decorative and served no practical purpose. He would reiterate this at the beginning of, and multiple times throughout, each episode by describing Whose Line as “the show where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter”. The style of the games were varied (see Games, below). Some featured all four performers, while others featured fewer. Between games, the performers sat in four chairs facing the audience. The performers who were not involved in a game remained in their seats. Additionally, the show was marked by humorous banter among the performers and host.
At the conclusion of each episode, a winner or several winners were chosen arbitrarily by Carey. The “prize” was either to play a game with the host, or to sit out while the other performers did so. After this game during the first season of the series, credits simply rolled under the show’s theme. In the second season, the reading of the credits was performed by one or more cast members in a comedic fashion, based on a theme announced by Carey that often derived from a successful joke earlier in the show.
The show’s ‘short-form’ approach to improv received criticism from some improv actors. However, performer Colin Mochrie has stated the show was never intended to be the “be-all and end-all” of improv, but that it was meant to introduce improv to the masses.