Whose Line Observation

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by WayneG, Jul 10, 2004.

  1. WayneG

    WayneG Stunt Coordinator

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    I've always loved the show, but have wondered if any of it was set up. This goes for Improv in general.

    In May I attended Whose Line live on stage (called A Night of Improv) with Colin, Brad, Greg, Jeff, and Chip.

    Last night I watched the Improv All-Stars on CBC's Just For Laughs - Drew, Colin, Brad, Greg, Jeff, Chip and Unknown (to me).

    Both times they played Jeopardy. In both cases, the final Jeopardy category (with Greg as Alex) was Indian Tribes. In each case, at some point someone yelled out Iroquois. Jeff got this one in the live show, and answered, "What comes before there a quois, everywhere a quois-quois?" Very funny.
    On TV last night, Drew fielded that one and answered the same thing.

    My first theory is that they've thought of this beforehand. They know there are only so many Indian tribes and have perhaps compiled a list with a joke for each one.

    It's also possible that this was taped before I saw them live and Drew actually came up with this and Jeff was stuck and it just came to him.

    Either way, it doesn't really matter. I still love the show, and would expect that there are certain things they may plan out beforehand.
     
  2. Keith Paynter

    Keith Paynter Screenwriter

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    That improv tour was here last month, although I missed it.

    While games may be similar, the sheer nature of audience participation gives a level unpredictability, but some comedians do have an arsenal of jokes that come in handy during those games.

    If you've ever seen Robin Williams do interviews with Leno, some 'off-the-cuff' jokes came from his nightclub acts. Some were used even in the WLIIA appearance , - "Rickum, rackum, ruckem, ruckem, get that ball and really fight" goes back at least as far as his San Francisco Showtime special from the mid-80's.

    Just as the original British series would eventually make fun repeatedly of host Clive Anderson, the same thing happened regularly to Drew Carey on the ABC version.

    When WLIIA was really hitting its stride there was a PPV from Las Vegas, with two separate shows (and with separate audiences), which were surprisingly similar - the biggest difference was the reluctance for Drew to do a certain gag the second time: walking around blindfolded with thumb tacks spread out on the stage floor.

    If Time-Warner and ABC ever get their act together and put this on DVD, I'd still buy it - it plays in syndication every weeknight on CTV.

    Not a big deal, but it is bound to happen
     
  3. WayneG

    WayneG Stunt Coordinator

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    It is on weeknights in syndie and ABC have shown in the past couple weeks - including a new episode (at least new to me). Apparently, they do have unaired shows in the can. I saw a syndie the other night I must have missed the first time around.

    Colin had a classic about a hitman who bumps someone off in a rice field using two small porcelin objects. It was the first ever case of a nick nack paddy whack. (there was also something about a cow I think!)
     
  4. Rob Willey

    Rob Willey Screenwriter

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    I've seen a lot of these improv guys do stand-up over the years and they pretty freely admit that they have a lot of dependable bits stored up that they can fall back on at almost any time. That explains why you may see the same "improv'd" bit more than once.

    Rob
     
  5. Chuck Anstey

    Chuck Anstey Screenwriter

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    I remember reading / hearing / seeing somewhere the quote:
    "If its an improv, why are there writers listed during the credits?"

    I believe that a good bit of the show is "rehearsed" or at least known in advance such as the props, the songs, and possibly the "scenes from the hat".

    Chuck Anstey
     
  6. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    I've also heard that there is a lot of stuff on the cutting room floor of stuff that just didn't work, and what we get is the best of that stuff.

    Understandable, since improv is tough as it is. It is hard to think on your feet and come up with stuff that works...

    Jason
     
  7. Jason Harbaugh

    Jason Harbaugh Cinematographer

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    I've been doing improv in Denver for 3 years now and we do a similar format to Whose Line, same shortform games. We have practice every week and whenever I say that, I always get the smartass response, "how do you practice improv?" The answer is simple, you just play and play the games over and over and over. Heck that is usually the most fun time for us because we give the suggestions ourselves and try to challenge us by doing things no one has ever given us.

    When you do that many shows, you tend to get the same suggestions over and over again and a lot of the time you end up repeating a joke. Sometimes you end up getting stumped with a common suggestion because you don't want to do the same joke you've done 50 times before.

    Every player usually has their own set of 'material' that they fall back on once in a while for certain games or suggestions. It just comes with the territory. I can tell you though, that the show isn't rehearsed in the sense that they know what the suggestions are going to be. The most they probably know is what games they will play. We do a format where we don't even know what games we will play, the audience picks those out too out of a list of about a 150.

    One major advantage Whose Line has is that they don't just take everything from the audience. This is where the writers come in, not for the jokes, but for the suggestions and setting up certains scenes, and stuff like scenes from a hat.

    Improv sure is fun though and the best stuff usually does come out of thin air. [​IMG]
     
  8. WayneG

    WayneG Stunt Coordinator

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    >I remember reading / hearing / seeing somewhere the quote:
    "If its an improv, why are there writers listed during the credits?"

    They need writers to come up with suggestions for Let's Make a Date, or Party Quirks, for example.

    >I believe that a good bit of the show is "rehearsed" or at least known in advance such as the props, the songs, and possibly the "scenes from the hat".

    I think Scenes from a Hat suggestions come from the audience. Plus, Drew picks them out of a bunch so I don't think they would have time to think things up for all of them beforehand.

    Certainly there are non-improv aspects to the show. When Colin starts off Greatest Hits with, "We'll be back to our nature documentary..." he's obviously thought that up beforehand but then that's expected since he's not being prompted.

    >I've also heard that there is a lot of stuff on the cutting room floor of stuff that just didn't work, and what we get is the best of that stuff.

    Probably. Some tapings get more than one episode. When we saw them LIVE, I was impressed with the quality of the material. There wasn't much that would have needed to be left on the floor.

    Most of the live show seemed pretty genuine. People in the crowd who gave suggestions and got picked for things were "real" audience members, including a friend of my sister-in-law who got picked for a song. She hadn't been pre-picked or anything and the song they came up with was hilarious.

    It was just the Jeopardy bit, where again, I think they picked a category where they probably had ideas for answers. Which is fine.
     
  9. Chuck Anstey

    Chuck Anstey Screenwriter

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    So are you guys saying that Wayne Brady really can come up with a song about a topic he has never heard before that has the correct tempo and rhymes in less than 10 seconds? I know he is talented but that seems a bit much.

    Chuck Anstey
     
  10. Scott Littlefield

    Scott Littlefield Stunt Coordinator

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    Yep, several of them can do it. Heck, sometimes, in the right frame of mind, I can do it, too.

    Of course, Wayne has had his share of lame songs, too. There have been many occasions where his lyrics just weren't very good, or he's had to force a bad rhyme.

    If you'll notice, he usually starts off his songs with a little dancing, or "Yeah"-ing, buying himself time to think of a good verse.

    And don't forget, this is his "thing". He's been doing it for years and years. And since I've never seen a Whose Line where he didn't do it, I think it's safe to say this talent was on his resume before he ever auditioned for the show.
     
  11. Jason Harbaugh

    Jason Harbaugh Cinematographer

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    I do it every show, no big deal and I have the disadvantage of no musical accompaniment. Of course, whether they are actually funny is a different topic. :b Wayne is a master of the song though.

    You want to see talent, one of our members is the master of sonnets. We do a game called "Poet's Corner" where we get multiple poetry styles, and then an object which will become the subject of each poem. Then we immediately start, each person doing a different style. Sonnet's, or anything of that strict rhyming nature usually always go to her. She will write the entire thing in her head, perfect rhymes and the proper A/B/A/B A/B/A/B A/A rhymes or however tat goes, and then repeat it. And it actually makes sense and with her is usually witty. That's harder than doing songs in my experience. Songs are easy to cover up mistakes, or stretch for time. I stick with haiku's and lymrics for poets corner...my least favorite game. [​IMG]

    The fact that some people still think improv is rigged just shows how talented the performers are and how easy these guys make it look.
     

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