Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Infobox Television
show_name = Whose Line Is It Anyway?

caption =
format = Improvisational Comedy
picture_format = 4:3
runtime = Flagicon|UK: 24-25 mins, 37 mins (Christmas Special) Flagicon|USA: 21-22 mins
creator = Dan Patterson
Mark Leveson
presenter = Flagicon|UK: Clive Anderson
Flagicon|USA: Drew Carey
channel = Flagicon|UK: BBC Radio 4: 1988 Channel 4: 1988 - 1998 Flagicon|USA: ABC: 1998 - 2003
ABC Family: 2004 - 2006
first_aired = Flagicon|UK: 23 September 1988 - 2 July 1998
last_aired = Flagicon|USA: 5 August 1998 - 10 November 2006
num_seasons = Flagicon|UK: 10 Flagicon|USA: 8
num_episodes = Flagicon|UK: 142 Flagicon|USA: 220
country = UK
producer = Hat Trick
followed_by =
imdb_id =

"Whose Line Is It Anyway?" (abbreviated to "Whose Line?" or "WLIIA") was a short-form improvisational comedy TV show. Originally a British radio programme, it moved to television in 1988 as a series made for Britain's Channel 4. Following the conclusion of the British run in 1998, ABC began airing a version for the United States audience.

The show consisted 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 were based on either audience suggestions or predetermined prompts from the host. Both the British and the American shows ostensibly took the form of a game show with the host arbitrarily assigning points and likewise choosing a winner at the end of each episode.


Each typical television episode of "Whose Line?" featured four performers who sit in a line of chairs at the back of the stage. The host sat at a desk facing the large performance area in front of the performers. The host introduced each performer with a joke or pun, usually all related on a common theme or topic.

The remainder of the show was made up of games that are ostensibly scored by the host, who declared arbitrary point values after the game, often citing a humorous reason for his decision. The style of the games were varied (see Games, below). Some featured all four performers, while others feature fewer. Those performers not involved in a game remained in their seats at the back of the stage. Humorous banter between the host and the performers between games was also sometimes featured.

At the conclusion of each episode, a winner or several winners were chosen arbitrarily by the host. The "prize" for winning on the British version of the show was to read the credits in a certain style, chosen by the host, as they scrolled. On the American series, the "prize" was either to play a game with the host, or to sit out while the other performers did. After this game, credits simply rolled under the show's theme as the cast bantered off-microphone. Later in the series, the credit-reading, usually including all of the performers, was added following the "prize" game.

Each episode was edited from a longer recording session (though the games themselves were usually left uncut), each of which was typically cut to create at least two episodes. In addition, both versions of the show featured compilation episodes which compiled unaired bloopers and entire games that were cut from other sessions. The host would specially tape special segments for these programs to introduce the various clips. Each series of the UK version featured two compilations per season, while the US version featured them only occasionally.


The number and type of games played varied from episode to episode. However, some games became more common over time, while others faded from use. New games were created throughout the run of both series. Some games, such as "Tag", are based on traditional improv games, while others were uniquely created for the series.

While all games are designed to test the performer's improvisational skill, some also test other skills, such as singing or doing impressions. "Whose Line?" features a number of musical games, which feature one or more of the show's resident musicians playing live backing music. Occasionally, pre-recorded music is also used.

Some games require suggestions or topics. The host sometimes calls to the studio audience for suggestions that a game requires, while for other games this information is written by the production staff, or is submitted by the audience in advance, and chosen from those submissions. The host also controls a buzzer, which ends most games.

On both versions, it became common to poke fun at both the host and the other performers.

Opening sequence

The British version of "Whose Line?" had a visual opening sequence that changed over the series. In the first series, the title sequence showed clips from the actual show under the main theme. The sequence introduced in the second series featured shots of actors in various styles of dress and activity whose exposed skin had been blackened out as a special effect. The final sequence featured a white line on a red screen, out of which a series of four characters, drawn simply as white outlines, appeared and interacted. The style is similar to that of "La Linea" by Osvaldo Cavandoli. The same line figures were superimposed above a picture of Los Angeles' famous Hollywood Sign for the last series. The British version's theme song was written by Philip Pope.

The U.S. version of the show never had a set opening sequence. During the opening theme, the camera would pan the audience and the performers with the show's logo superimposed. Then, the camera would cut from performer to performer as Carey introduced each one; Carey himself would then come down the stairs of the audience bleachers to his desk to start the show.


"Whose Line Is It Anyway?" was created by Dan Patterson and Mark Leveson in 1988 as a radio show on BBC Radio 4. This early incarnation of the show is notable as being the origin of the show's tradition of having the performers read the credits in an amusing style; as it was a radio show, it was necessary for "somebody" to read the credits, and it was decided that it might as well be done as part of the programme proper, rather than being done by a traditional BBC Radio announcer. This approach to reading credits was pioneered by the earlier BBC radio show "I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again". Indeed the title of the show itself is a comedic riposte to another radio show, "What's My Line". The radio series consisted of six episodes, with Clive Anderson as host, with John Sessions and Stephen Fry as regulars. [cite web|last=Lavalie|first=John|url=http://epguides.com/WhoseLineIsItAnyway_UK/radio.shtml|title=Whose Line is It Anyway? [Radio] |publisher=epguides.com|date=2005-05-14|accessdate=2008-01-28]

Originally, the producers asked the BBC to move to television; however the BBC was hesitant about this move. By the time the BBC decided to move to TV, the show went to Channel 4 with little change in format. Both the British radio and television programmes were hosted by Anderson during their runs. Original plans were to have Sessions and Fry as regulars with the rotation of two performers, however Stephen Fry and John Sessions pulled out at the last minute; nevertheless Fry convinced Sessions to continue. With the exception of Sessions in the first series, there were no fixed regulars on the show, though there were many recurring regulars. The British television programme lasted for a total of 10 series, with 142 episodes in all (including the six radio episodes) and remains one of the most famous TV shows on British TV. [cite web|last=Fergus|first=George|url=http://epguides.com/WhoseLineIsItAnyway_UK/|title=Whose Line(UK)|publisher=epguides.com|date=2005-05-14|accessdate=2008-01-28] One of the early North American broadcasters of the British series was the Canadian youth channel YTV, though many episodes were edited for adult language and content.

Most episodes of the British television programme were primarily shot in London. However, half of the episodes for each of series 3 and 4 were taped in New York, and series 10 was filmed entirely in Hollywood in the same studio that would host the American version. This final season was first broadcast only in the U.S. on the Comedy Central cable channel. Reruns of the entire British TV series had been running on Comedy Central since the early 1990s, though some episodes were edited to remove games, rearrange games in a show, or remove potentially offensive content. Repeats of the British series moved to BBC America in April 2006; however, the network has not shown any episodes taped prior to 1994.

The show was brought to the attention of Drew Carey, who worked with regular "Whose Line?" performer Ryan Stiles, a co-star on "The Drew Carey Show". Carey convinced ABC to air test episodes in the United States. The show turned into an inexpensive hit (though less so than the British version) and ABC kept Carey on as host. The show ran on ABC for six seasons, benefiting from the low expectations of its Thursday-night time slot, as ABC was not expected to mount a serious threat to what was then NBC's longtime Thursday dominance in the Nielsen ratings. While the network would regularly premiere two new episodes in one night, there were several occurrences in which some episodes were skipped or postponed until a later date because of the airing of other new shows or specials.Fact|date=February 2007

The format of the American version was essentially identical to the British programme. A main difference was Carey's use of the game-show facade, explicitly stating at the start of each episode that "the points don't matter," and sometimes emphasizing this throughout the episodes. The difference in standards in the U.K. compared to U.S. primetime meant stricter censoring of both language and content on the U.S. series. Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie, frequent performers on the British show, were featured in every American episode, and Wayne Brady also became a regular toward the beginning of the second American season.

The American version was cancelled by ABC in 2003 because of low ratings; the network aired the remaining unaired episodes in 2004. In that same year, the ABC Family cable network, which had been airing repeats of the show since 2002, began showing brand-new episodes. New episodes appeared into 2005. ABC Family also played episodes cobbled together from unused footage of older recordings from 2005 to 2006.


UK version

The original BBC Radio 4 broadcasts consisted of host Clive Anderson along with two guests and the two regular contestants, Stephen Fry and John Sessions.

Clive Anderson stayed on as host when the show moved to television, with John Sessions resuming his role as the only regular in the first series. He subsequently became a rotating regular in the second and third series. Stephen Fry appeared only occasionally on the television series.

Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie first appeared in the second and third series respectively; they each gradually increased the frequency of their appearances to the point that both appeared in every episode from the eighth series on. Stiles is the most prolific performer on the show, having appeared in 76 of the series' 136 episodes (including compilations).

Many of the show's performers, including Paul Merton, Josie Lawrence and Sandi Toksvig, were regulars with "The Comedy Store Players", an improvisational group based at London's Comedy Store. Other regular performers from the British version included a variety of British, American and Canadian comedians, notably:

*Niall Ashdown
*Wayne Brady
*Rory Bremner
*Chip Esten
*Stephen Frost
*Stephen Fry
* Archie Hahn
*Josie Lawrence
*Mike McShane
*Paul Merton
*Jim Meskimen
*Colin Mochrie
*Greg Proops
*Caroline Quentin
*Jan Ravens
*John Sessions
*Brad Sherwood
*Tony Slattery
*Chris Smith
*Steve Steen
*Jim Sweeney
*Sandi Toksvig
*Ron West

Additionally, the series occasionally featured celebrity guests as performers, including:

*Peter Cook
*Julian Clary
*Graeme Garden
*Eddie Izzard
*Phil LaMarr
*Rory McGrath
*Ardal O'Hanlon
*Catherine O'Hara
*Jonathan Pryce
*Griff Rhys Jones
*George Wendt

On the original BBC Radio series, the music was provided by Colin Sell, but when the show migrated to television, Richard Vranch (also of "The Comedy Store Players") became the musician until the last season of the British show, playing electric guitar and piano. For the tenth series in Hollywood, Laura Hall took over, playing mainly keyboards.

US version

Drew Carey hosted the U.S. version of "Whose Line?". He was joined by the U.K. version's Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles as regular performers. Wayne Brady also became a regular in the second season. The fourth seat was most commonly filled by other U.K. veterans, including Greg Proops, Brad Sherwood and Chip Esten. Several newcomers joined the rotation: Denny Siegel in the first two seasons and Kathy Greenwood starting the third season after having appeared in two episodes of the previous season. Other fourth-seat performers appeared for only a few appearances (some as few as one), including Jeff Davis, Karen Maruyama, Patrick Bristow, Ian Gomez, U.K. veteran Josie Lawrence, "Drew Carey Show" actress Kathy Kinney and then-"Daily Show" correspondent Stephen Colbert.

Like the U.K. version, the show occasionally featured celebrity fourth-chairs: Robin Williams, Kathy Griffin, and Whoopi Goldberg each made appearances. Other celebrities made guest appearances for individual games, including:
*Sid Caesar
*David Hasselhoff
*Florence Henderson
*Hugh Hefner
*Jerry Springer
*Joanie "Chyna" Laurer
*Richard Simmons
*Katie Harman
*Jayne Trcka [ [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0871544/ Jayne Trcka ] ]

Laura Hall, who also featured in the tenth series of the British version, joined the American series for its entire run. From the second season onward, other musicians joined Hall. Linda Taylor made frequent appearances playing guitar and also some keyboards; other musicians such as Cece Worrall-Rubin on saxophone, Anne King, Candy Girard and Anna Wanselius all appeared alongside Hall (and sometimes also Taylor) on occasion.

DVD release

DVDs have been released for both versions of the show.


The first release of the U.K. series, featuring the first two seasons, was released in America on 27 March 2007 and in the UK in 25 January 2008. Also, British episodes were released on VHS (in the U.K. only) in the mid-1990s. Additionally, a play-at-home book was printed in 1989, related to the British series.

All of the U.K. episodes of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" are available for free on 4oD [cite web|last=Wolf|first=Ian|url=http://www.sitcom.co.uk/news/news.php?story=000356|title=News - 4oD comedy goes permanently free|publisher=British Sitcom Guide|date=2007-12-20|accessdate=2008-01-03] (for Windows XP and Vista users only). Series 9 and 10 have been added.


The first DVD, Season 1, Volume 1, of the U.S. version of "Whose Line?" was released on 26 September 2006. It comes in "censored" or "uncensored" versions. Both releases include the first 10 episodes of the first season, with the episodes being the same on either version. [ [http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/newsitem.cfm?NewsID=5965 Whose Line Is It Anyway? DVD news: Drew Carey To Get Some Helping Hands With September Release Date! | TVShowsOnDVD.com ] ] The first seven episodes have had their original theme music (including all credits and ad bumpers) replaced with the version used on the rest of the episodes.

Warner Bros. released Season 1, Volume 2 on 9 October 2007, but only in an "uncensored" version. [ [http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/newsitem.cfm?NewsID=7562 Whose Line Is It Anyway? DVD news: Announcement for Whose Line Is It Anyway? - Season 1, Volume 2 (Uncensored) | TVShowsOnDVD.com ] ]

Other versions

;Sponk! : In the United States, a similar show called Sponk! was aimed at a younger audience and featured child performers playing games similar to "Whose Line?" games. It aired on Noggin from 2001 to 2003. [ [http://www.tv.com/sponk!/show/8844/summary.html Sponk! - TV.com ] ] ;De Lama's : In the Netherlands, a show based on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" is called De Lama's. Besides a number of games from "Whose Line Is It Anyway?", the show uses a lot of new games. The show has already won several prizes and is one of the most watched shows on Dutch television.;Lo Kar Lo Baat : In India, a television programme based on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" was called Lo Kar Lo Baat. Most of the games were taken from the original.;Imps : Also in India, a frequent theatre production similar to "Whose Line Is It Anyway?", started in 2005 by Divya Palat.;Onvoorziene omstandigheden : In Belgium, a similar programme was made under the name "Onvoorziene omstandigheden" (Unforeseen Circumstances), presented by Mark Uytterhoeven on één.;Frei Schnauze : In Germany, this version of the U.K. original entertains its audience with many similar games. The show started as a half-hour programme and expanded to one hour in 2006. The host of "Frei Schnauze" is the German comedian Dirk Bach. Another improv show is "Schillerstraße", featuring many well-known German comedians, but it uses a sitcom format.;Hatten Rundt : In Denmark, this show featured a setup very similar to that of "Whose Line?". However, the Danish show had much more emphasis on acting and much less on wild comedy.;Minus Manus/Spinn : Norway had two separate shows based on the "Whose Line" concept. The first, "Minus Manus," shown on Norwegian TV3, was more or less identical in tone and form to the British show, but the second, "Spinn," shown on TVNorge had a slightly different set-up. Among other things, "Spinn" split the contestants into two competing teams (the green team and the orange team, both wearing appropriately-colored T-shirts) and also heavily involved a rotating stage that provided scenery and props for the various improvised skits. Though the shows were completely separate, many of the contestants (such as Helén Vikstvedt), featured on both.;Shel Mi Hashura Hazot : (Translation: "Whose line Is It") This is the Israeli version of the show.;Wild 'N Out : Hosted on MTV by Nick Cannon, this is a hip-hop version of the show with guest stars (among them Wayne Brady from "Whose Line Is It Anyway?") and hip-hop performances. It is also derived from ComedySportz.;Whose Pie Is It Anyway? : An unofficial, very short-lived Australian version of the programme was created by comedy troupe The T Team. This was a spoof of the British and U.S. versions of the programme.;Anında Görüntü Show : In Turkey, The Turkish version is called "Anında Görüntü Show", which means "Immediate Vision Show." Although there are some differences in the format of the "Anında Görüntü Show", it is still very close to the original "Whose Line Is It Anyway?". Players include: Ayça Işıldar Ak, Ayhan Taş, Burak Satıbol, Dilek Çelebi, Özlem Türay and Yiğit Arı. [ [http://www.mahsericumbus.com/ :: Mahşer-i Cümbüş ::. Tiyatro Sporu | Beyin Fırtınası - Ana Sayfa ] ] ;Tsotskhali Show : (Translation: "Live Show") In Georgia, this show is a copy of the original with minor changes.;Pagauk kampą : (Translation: "Catch The Corner" or "Get It Quick") In Lithuania. Quite a successful Lithuanian copy of "WLIIA" with similar rules and games.;Kamikaze: This is the French-Canadian version of the programme on the Radio-Canada network in the early 2000s. The show didn't gain much popularity due to its lack of advertising. The only airings of the show were unannounced and used as a replacement after the sitcom "Catherine" went on hiatus during the holidays. The show was almost identical to the U.S. version, using the same set and playing similar games such as "Old Job New Job.";L'audition : Another French-Canadian version, entitled "L'audition" ("The audition"), aired in 2006 on TQS in Québec. The concept of the show was based on the WLIIA game "Hollywood Director," where the host played the director. Every week, three guests from the Québec pop-culture were invited to improvise various scenes and games such as a fake cooking show or a modified version of "Scenes From a Hat." TQS decided to cancel the show due to three months of poor ratings.;Beugró : (Translation: "Let's Jump In!") The Hungarian version. The first show piloted on New Year's night 2007. The show consists of four contestants playing improvisational games.

Black fish (Pakistan): This show was carried out live in Karachi by four performers who more or less played the same games as were seen on the american version of the show

Post-"Whose Line"

When the UK version ended in 1998, many of the performers, such as Stephen Frost and Mike McShane, began performing with The Comedy Store Players and remain performing to date.

Following the American version's cancellation in 2003, Carey went on to create the short-lived "Drew Carey's Green Screen Show", which premiered in 2004 on the WB. The series was very similar to "Whose Line?", and featured many of the same cast. The major gimmick on that series was that the acting was done in front of a green screen, and animators later added cartoon imagery to the scenes.

Drew Carey and several cast members also started touring North America with a live-action show called "(Drew Carey's) Improv All-Stars." The show was a live stage show similar to "Whose Line?", and featuring many of the same games, though also with some new ones. The live shows started in 2003, and since 2006, are only seen on occasion. [ [http://www.improvallstars.com/ Welcome to the Improv All-Stars website ] ]

Colin Mochrie, Brad Sherwood and Drew Carey performed at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal as "Improv All-Stars" in 2003 and 2004. [ [http://web2.hahaha.com/microsite/ColinAndBrad/ColinAndBrad/ Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood ] ]

Greg Proops and Ryan Stiles presented 'Stiles & Proops Unplanned' which was a live Improv comedy show based on the successful Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned format. It took place at Centaur Theatre in Montreal, Canada in July 2008.

See also

* "Drew Carey's Green Screen Show"
* "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue"
* "Thank God You're Here"
* ComedySportz
* Theatresports
* Boom Chicago
* The Second City
* The Comedy Store Players


External links

* [http://abcfamily.go.com/whoseline The New Home of Whose Line, ABC Family Channel]
* [http://www.hattrick.com/ Official website of Hat Trick Productions, the U.K. makers]
* [http://www2.warnerbros.com/web/whoseline/index.jsp Official website of U.S. version]
* [http://www.watchwhoseline.com/ Flashpoint Studios Official Site]
* [http://www.whose-line.com Whose Line is it Anyway? on DVD Campaign Central]
* [http://epguides.com/WhoseLineisItAnyway_UK/radio.shtml epguides.com British Radio "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" Guide]
* [http://www.epguides.com/WhoseLineIsItAnyway_UK/ epguides.com British TV "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" Guide]
* [http://www.epguides.com/WhoseLineIsItAnyway_US/ epguides.com American TV "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" Guide]
* (UK)
* (USA)
* [http://www.bbcamerica.com/content/111/index.jsp BBC America's Whose Line page]

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