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Whose Line is it Anyway?
Sunday 12th July 2020 12:17 pm

Back in December, when I was ill, I started watching Whose Line is it Anyway? on All4. Earlier this year I got into a pattern of watching it at lunchtimes when I worked from home. This week I finished all 136 episodes.

I did enjoy it, but sometimes it got samey. Watching a lot in a short time would expose the times they repeated a joke. Authors was good for being able to make lunch while watching it, because there wasn't much to see, but I often wouldn't know the authors they were spoofing and it was only really funny when someone did a silly author. And Film and Theatre Styles got old quickly, especially when they did it twice per episode. That was also not helped by me not knowing some of the styles. Hoedown/Gospel/March gets old after a while too.

My favourites when I watched when it was first on were Josie Lawrence, Tony Slattery and Ryan Stiles. They're still my favourites, but to that list I add Sandi Toksvig, who is really funny and really quick. I was pleasantly surprised this week to find her in an episode I watched, because I thought I'd seen them all (she wasn't in many).

There was a surreal point where I watch the What's the Matter with Tony Slattery? documentary and they showed some Whose Line clips, all of which were from the first series, which I'd just been watching that week.

During this time I also saw The Comedy Store Players, who had an hour's worth of one evening's performance that you could pay to watch in a 3 day window. All but one of those had been in at least one episode of Whose Line. That made me laugh so much it set my asthma off. It helps that they've been doing it a long time so they keep getting better at it and also that I'm not struggling for 20-30 year old references. And they had different games, so it felt more interesting.

As to what I'm going to watch during my lunchtimes now, I don't know. I've reduced them to 30 minutes, so I can just about get Whose Line in, but anything longer is trickier. Although I could made my lunchtimes however long I want at the moment, as long as I get 7.5 hours of work in each day. Or I could watch half of something at lunchtime and the other half after work when I need a lie down before starting on something else (watching something helps better than reading). I don't know.


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Whose Line is it Anyway?
Saturday 22nd February 2020 8:15 pm

When Missy died I learnt the best thing to do is to always have something to watch/listen to, then it's harder to think. So after Sammy died I was on the look out for podcasts and found one called Rule of Three, where comedians talk about a comedy thing they love. Cariad Lloyd did one talking about Whose Line is it Anyway. One of the things she mentioned was that it was all on All4. When I was ill I re-listened to bits of the podcast and thought that it was the perfect thing to watch because the cameras do not move. And you only get 12 minutes at a time before there's adverts (and when I first started watching 12 minutes was all I could get through in one go).

And I've discovered all sorts of things I never knew about it at the time.

The game I remembered most was World's Worst, where they step off the world's worst step. One of the reasons I remember it so well is that the last round on Mock the Week - scenes We'd Like to see - always reminded me of it. Turns out the person in charge of/who set up Whose Line did the same with Mock the Week. And when Mock the Week began it had a lot more in common with Whose Line than it does now.

When it was originally on I didn't like Greg Proops. I felt like he'd taken over Tony Slattery's part as the person who is guessing on Let's Make a Date and Party Quirks. It turns out that Greg was before Tony 'left'. (It turns out that Tony was fired because he was self-medicating for his bipolar disorder with drugs and alcohol and it didn't go well. It's really sad.) And there were plenty of other people who were the guessers. And Greg is funny. I don't remember/didn't notice at the time how antagonistic he and Clive Anderson were to each other. I found a video of Greg guesting on Clive's talk show, which was 8 minutes of them insulting in other - occasionally getting some questions and answers in.

I knew Stephen Fry had been in it. I have a vague memory of having listened to one of the radio episodes. I've only seen him in one episode so far but he not only refused to sing in the Hoedown but he didn't even talk in time. In comparison, in the last series of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue he sung without complaint - although it would have been in bad taste to complain. His singing is fine - it's perfectly average.

Sandi Toksvig is great in it. Which is not a surprise. But she's a rare short person in it - most of the other performers are around six foot, if not more. Her voice has not changed at all since the early 90s. She did a game of Authors where her author was a cake baking book. Particularly ironic as I watched it the same week she announced she was leaving Bake Off.

There were some interesting people in one (or two) episodes. Graeme Garden was in an episode in series 1. He did ok - it felt like they were all feeling their way through it. Somehow he doesn't look any different 30 years later. Ardal O'Hanlan was in an episode and he wasn't great. Eddie Izzard was good - but another person who looks even shorter next to all the tall people.

When it was on I really liked Ryan Stiles for the same reason Cariad Lloyd did - the physical comedy he did. This time I am particularly liking Josie Lawrence, Caroline Quentin, Sandi Toksvig and Tony Slattery.

It turns out the the US version was a 'family show' so they censored all sorts. It's hilarious given that All 4 ask me to confirm that I'm 16 before every episode, the first one I watched at Christmas had naked people in Newsflash, and at the end of one game of Party Quirks where Tony didn't guess two of the quirks he told Clive to F off.

It also turns out that they started making more Whose Line in America in 2013. Amazon Prime has a random selection, where the description of who is on it doesn't match the episode. I made the mistake of starting with 'series 5' which all had guest stars, none of which I've heard of and none of which are improvisers (or necessarily any good at improvising). Series 6 was better but it took me a little while to get into it. It was the Science of Laughter episode on The Infinite Monkey Cage that helped me understand why the audience seemed so excitable.

In Britain if something is funny we laugh. If something is really funny, or really clever, or more often both, we clap. In America if something is funny they laugh. If something is really funny they cheer. And they're really into cheering. When a game is announced they like (eg Scenes From a Hat) they cheer over Aisha's whole explanation. In comparison, an announcement of Mornington Crescent on ISIHAC will get a brief "Yay".

I also remember hearing a while back that on Red Dwarf they try and cut out all the clapping. Whereas in American sitcoms they'll leave it in. The Science of Laughter also pointed out that you laugh more when other people laugh. So a live audience laughing will make you laugh more. But a live audience clapping (or cheering) doesn't do anything for you.


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