what would amaze me most about the show (and i'm really talking about the BBC version, i can't speak for the one produced in the USA) was the blinding speed at which contestants, Clive, and sometimes especially the musical accompanist would produce ideas and responses. Opera, hoedown, and props are my favorite games:

  • opera: all four contestants produce an opera that includes three or four topics and a situation from the audience. somehow the accompanist and the contestants perform some handshake about which way to jump tone speed; perhaps the form is just predictable enough...
  • hoedown: each of the contestants must produce a "verse" of a "western hoedown" song about a topic from the audience.
  • props: Clive passes out some interesting objects for contestants to improvise uses for.

the speed factor puts this show next to the simpsons in my mind, but that it is unrehearsed makes it even more eery.

The first Improvisation Show. It featured Clive Anderson as the host and four contestants who had to improvise through various games using suggestions from the audience. Points were awarded as Clive saw fit (references to his lack of hair and neck often resulted in negative points). Common games included Party Quirks, World's Worst, Props, Hats, Press Conference, The Shopping Show, Sound Effects, and Alphabet, Scenes from the Hat, Foreign Film, Ho-down along with lots of others. The prize for winning was to read the credits in a style chosen by Clive.
The real Whose Line is it Anyway? was made by Hat Trick Productions for Channel 4 not the BBC. My favorite contestants were Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles, Mike McShane, and Josie Lawrence.

A haywire improvisational game show. Originally made for English television, later revived on ABC.

Both versions are essentally the same; the host (Clive Anderson in the British one, Drew Carey in the American one) tells the "contestants" to do a given scene, based on suggestions from the audience and a low-budget supply of props in the studio. The contestants, completely off the top of their heads, have to construct the scenes on the fly.

The real glory of the show is the utter unpredictability and speed of it all. No matter the situation, the contestants can act it out fast and furiously. As was heard from people who have sat in the audience, if they ever have to re-tape a scene over again, the contestants will, with the same speed and quality, come up with a completely different scene.

Although some people will claim that the American version is much worse off than the British version (As most people do for most things), the only REAL difference is in the host. Most of the contestants are the same, the games are the same, and the show plays out just as funny. Clive Anderson is definately a better host than Drew Carey, but the American version doesn't suffer much from it.

The confusion as to whether "Whose Line is it Anyway" (WLiiA) is originally BBC or Channel 4 is because it was originally a comedy show on BBC Radio 4 in 1987. After a year it then moved to television but on Channel 4.

WLiiA was originally a two teams improvisation panel show which was basically an attempt to update the format of the venerable BBC Radio comedy "I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue" (The home of Mornington Crescent). In fact the pianist on the radio version of WLiiA was Colin Sell who is also the pianist for "I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue". Richard Vranch took over as the musician for TV. The chairman was always Clive Anderson though on radio the regular team captains were John Sessions and Stephen Fry.

I would guess the show was either going to be cancelled or wanted to transfer to TV and Light Entertainment weren't interested (This happened several time with BBC radio comedies). It ended up going to Channel 4. After the transfer it evolved into the more open (non-team) game we know and love.

While I consider him to be good comic actor I think the radio version of WLiiA proved that Stephen Fry should neither be allowed to sing nor attempt to improvise song lyrics (no concept of metre or rhyme).

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