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Whose Line Is It Anyway? (U.S. TV series)


Whose Line Is It Anyway? (U.S. TV series)

This article is about the American television series. For the British television series, see Whose Line Is It Anyway?. For the original British radio program, see Whose Line is it Anyway? (radio series).
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Genre Comedy
Format Improvisational
Created by Dan Patterson
Presented by Drew Carey (1998–2007)
Aisha Tyler (2013–present)
Starring Ryan Stiles
Colin Mochrie
Wayne Brady
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 9
No. of episodes 231 (as of September 24, 2013) (List of episodes)
Location(s) Hollywood Center Studios
Hollywood, California (1998–2007)
Raleigh Studios
Hollywood, California (2013–present)[1]
Running time 22 minutes
Production companies Hat Trick Productions (1998–2007, 2013–present)
Angst Productions (2013–present)
Warner Bros. Television (1998–2007)
Warner Horizon Television (2013–present)
Original channel ABC (1998–2004)
ABC Family (2005–07)
The CW (2013–present)
Picture format 4:3 (1998–2007)
1080i (HDTV) (2013–present)
Original run First run
August 5, 1998 (1998-08-05)[2] – December 15, 2007
Second run
July 16, 2013 – present
Preceded by Whose Line Is It Anyway? (U.K.)
Related shows Drew Carey's Improv-A-Ganza
Drew Carey's Green Screen Show
Trust Us with Your Life
External links

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. Repeats and previously unaired episodes were subsequently run on ABC Family from 2005 to 2011. The show was later revived in 2013, hosted by Aisha Tyler and airing on The CW, with the first episode of the revival airing on July 16, 2013.

The series is a spin-off of the British show of the same name. The three primary performers, Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady, and Colin Mochrie, who had also appeared on the original UK show, are joined by a recurring cast member or a special guest as the fourth performer.[3]


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 were based on either audience suggestions or predetermined prompts from the host, Drew Carey. Carey would set up a game and situation that the performers would improvise.[4] He declared 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, 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. Humorous banter between the host and the performers between games was featured regularly.

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, it was meant to introduce improv to the masses.[5]


Drew Carey hosted the U.S. version of Whose Line?. The two regular performers during the first season were Colin Mochrie (third seat) and Ryan Stiles (fourth seat), who had been regular performers in the UK version of the show. Wayne Brady appeared as a recurring performer during the first season and became a regular performer during the second season, appearing in either the first or second seat. The remaining seat was most commonly filled by other veterans of the UK series, including Greg Proops, Brad Sherwood, and Chip Esten. Proops and Sherwood sat in the first seat, while Esten sat in the second seat. Esten did not appear until the second season. Several newcomers joined the rotation, such as Denny Siegel, Kathy Kinney, Kathy Greenwood and Jeff Davis in the first two seasons, and all of them sat in the second seat.

The show occasionally featured celebrity fourth-chairs: Robin Williams, Kathy Griffin and Whoopi Goldberg each made appearances. Patrick Bristow, Stephen Colbert, and Ian Gomez made appearances in the first season. All celebrity fourth-chairs sat in the second seat.

Other celebrities made guest appearances for individual games, including: Sid Caesar,[6][7] David Hasselhoff, Florence Henderson, Jerry Springer, Joanie "Chyna" Laurer, Richard Simmons, Katie Harman, Jayne Trcka,[8] the Loyola Marymount University cheerleaders, Hugh Hefner and Lassie.[6][7]

Improvisational musician Laura Hall, who also featured in the tenth series of the British version, joined the American series for its entire run and performed piano and keyboards in games featuring improvisational singing by the cast members. From the second season onward, other musicians joined Hall. Linda Taylor made frequent appearances playing guitar and occasionally keyboards. Cece Worrall-Rubin, Anne King, Candy Girard and Anna Wanselius appeared alongside Hall (and sometimes also Taylor) on occasion.


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 are based on traditional improv games, while others were uniquely created for the series.

While all games were designed to test the performer's improvisational comedy skills, some also tested other skills, such as singing, dancing, or impressions. Whose Line? features a number of musical games, with one or more of the show's resident musicians playing live backing music. Occasionally, pre-recorded music was also used. While they were good sports about it, many of the performers disliked the musical games[9] (Stiles in particular openly expressed, on occasion, disdain towards the "Hoedown" game); Wayne Brady turned out to be well-suited to the musical games, with Chip Esten, Jeff Davis and Brad Sherwood also making frequent appearances as Wayne's duet partner. Only on seldom occasion did Mochrie actually sing any lyrics. Instead, he would simply deliver his lines in a spoken word fashion.

Some games require suggestions for specific topics or situations. Carey sometimes called to the studio audience for suggestions, while for other games, this information was written by the production staff, or submitted by the audience in advance, and chosen from those submissions. Carey also controlled a buzzer, which ended most games (or individual sections of rapid-fire games).


Whose Line Is It Anyway? was created by Dan Patterson and Mark Leveson in 1988 as a radio show on BBC Radio 4 in the United Kingdom. This early incarnation of the show is notable as being the origin of its 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 program, 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, merged with the title of a 1972 teleplay (and eventual theatrical play) Whose Life Is It Anyway?.

The radio series lasted for six episodes, after which Channel 4 developed the franchise for television. The British television version lasted for a total of 10 series, with 136 episodes, all of which were hosted by Clive Anderson. Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles, who would later star in the U.S. version, became regular cast members in the seventh and eighth series.

The UK series 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.

The format of the American version was very similar to the British program. A major 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 UK compared to U.S. prime time meant stricter censoring of both language and content on the U.S. series.

Production of the American version was canceled by ABC in 2003 because of low ratings, with already-produced episodes airing first-run into 2004. The ABC Family cable channel, which had been airing repeats of the show since 2002, also showed "new" episodes formed from previously filmed but unaired performances from 2005 to 2007,[10] in addition to airing repeats.

CW revival

On March 4, 2013, The CW announced that Whose Line Is It Anyway? would be a part of its summer lineup, once again featuring Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles, and Wayne Brady, with Aisha Tyler taking the role of the host,[11] in lieu of Drew Carey, who is now committed to hosting the CBS game show The Price Is Right. The show returned for twelve half-hour episodes featuring the three veterans and a special guest for each episode.[12][13] On July 29, 2013, The CW announced that it had renewed the show for a 24-episode second season, due to solid ratings for the network.[14]

Cast of performers



Season Episodes Originally aired DVD release dates
Season premiere Season finale Network Region 1
1 20 August 5, 1998 (1998-08-05) March 24, 1999 (1999-03-24) ABC October 9, 2007 (2007-10-09)[16]
2 39 September 16, 1999 (1999-09-16) May 18, 2000 (2000-05-18) N/A
3 39 + 1 special October 12, 2000 (2000-10-12) June 21, 2001 (2001-06-21) N/A
4 31 September 6, 2001 (2001-09-06) April 11, 2002 (2002-04-11) N/A
5 34 September 9, 2002 (2002-09-09) September 5, 2003 (2003-09-05) N/A
6 10 June 24, 2004 (2004-06-24) September 4, 2004 (2004-09-04) N/A
7 25 January 17, 2005 (2005-01-17) May 23, 2005 (2005-05-23) ABC Family N/A
8 21 October 3, 2005 (2005-10-03) December 15, 2007 (2007-12-15) N/A
9 12 July 16, 2013 (2013-07-16) September 24, 2013 (2013-09-24) The CW N/A
10 24[17] TBA N/A N/A

Awards and nominations



  • 2001: Emmy Award for 'Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program' for Wayne Brady
  • 2002: Emmy Award for 'Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program' for Wayne Brady
  • 2002: Emmy Award for 'Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program' for Ryan Stiles


Following the cancellation of the U.S. series in 2004, 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, mostly due to Carey's current television obligations.[18] Colin Mochrie, Brad Sherwood and Drew Carey performed at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal as "Improv All-Stars" in 2003 and 2004. Since 2005, Mochrie and Sherwood have toured semi-regularly as An Evening With Colin and Brad.[19]

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 that took place at Centaur Theatre in Montreal, Canada in July 2008. They also tour with former co-stars Chip Esten and Jeff Davis under the name Whose Live Anyway? doing live improv. Proops appeared as Max Madigan on Nickelodeon's True Jackson, VP, and is currently hosting Head Games on The Science Channel and does "Odd News" segments for Yahoo! while Esten has made multiple appearances in various TV series including The Office, ER (also produced by Warner Bros.) and Big Love and currently guest-stars in Enlightened. In 2007, Mochrie was host of a five-episode run of Are You Smarter Than a Canadian 5th Grader? on Global TV in Canada.

Carey, Stiles, Brady, and Esten were all later employed by American television network CBS; Carey succeeded Bob Barker as the host of the long-running game show The Price Is Right (after a short stint as host of another game show, Power of 10). In addition, Sherwood and Davis served as guest announcers for the 2010-11 season of The Price Is Right, after the departure of Rich Fields, who was eventually replaced by George Gray. Stiles has appeared as a supporting character on the sitcom Two and a Half Men. Esten had a recurring role on The New Adventures of Old Christine and made a guest appearance in NCIS: Los Angeles. Chip currently stars in Nashville.

Brady had a summer variety show on ABC in 2001, The Wayne Brady Show and then hosted a daytime talk show of the same name for two seasons, starting in September 2002. He also was the host of Fox's Don't Forget the Lyrics. In 2007, he made a guest appearance in one episode of 30 Rock, and has made several appearances on How I Met Your Mother as Barney Stinson's homosexual brother. He also had a couple of guest appearances on Chappelle's Show. Since October 5, 2009, Brady has been the host of CBS' revival of the classic game show Let's Make a Deal. As of 2009, at least every main Whose Line participant has hosted a game show except Ryan Stiles.

On November 18, 2010, Variety announced that Drew Carey would start a primetime improv show on GSN.[20] The series, entitled Drew Carey's Improv-A-Ganza, debuted on April 11, 2011 on GSN and has featured most of the Whose Line regular cast and ended in June of 2011; Rich Fields was the announcer for the series. A second season was not ordered and the show was terminated.

On July 10, 2012, ABC premiered a new improv comedy series featuring several of the Whose Line alumni called Trust Us With Your Life. Some of the players included Colin Mochrie, Wayne Brady, Greg Proops, Jonathan Mangum, and Nicole Parker.[21] However, on July 30, after only six episodes had aired, ABC pulled the remaining episodes after its host Fred Willard was arrested on a lewd-conduct charge for masturbating at an adult movie theater in Redwood City .[22]

In February 2013, Ryan Stiles revealed in an interview that he would be returning to Los Angeles in April for a new season of Whose Line, hosted by Aisha Tyler and featuring the old cast of the U.S. version.[23] It was confirmed that The CW will bring back the comedy series for 12 episodes beginning on July 16, 2013.[13]

International broadcast

The U.S. version of Whose Line? has been broadcast in the UK, originally on Channel 4. Challenge was the first non-terrestrial channel to broadcast the show for a brief period in 2005. From 2007 onwards, 5USA has been the current broadcaster to air the show. In Canada, the show also ran on the CTV network from 1998 to 2002, and then on The Comedy Network from 2002 onwards. The show's original run in Australia was broadcast on the Nine Network in an early morning time slot. From 2011, ONE HD has been repeating the program to Australian audiences. It also airs on Foxtel (Australian satellite tv) on The Comedy Channel and on Sky Network Television (New Zealand satellite television) on the Box.

DVD releases

The first DVD, Season 1, Volume 1, of the U.S. version of Whose Line? was released on September 26, 2006. It comes in "censored" or "uncensored" versions. Both releases include the first ten episodes of the first season, with the episodes being the same on either version.[24] The first seven episodes have had their original theme music (including all credits and ad bumpers) replaced with the version used for the rest of the episodes. Warner Home Video released Season 1, Volume 2 on October 9, 2007, but only in an "uncensored" version.[25]

Warner Home Video released a 2-disc "Best Of" compilation with ten episodes on June 9, 2009. Featured in this release were celebrity guest episodes including appearances by David Hasselhoff, Florence Henderson, Jerry Springer, Richard Simmons and bodybuilder Jayne Trcka, along with the hour-long "Best of Whose Line" compilation episode aired at the start of the third season.[26]

DVD Name No. of
Run time
Whose Line Is it Anyway?: Season One, Vol. 1 (Uncensored) 10 110 September 26, 2006[27]
Whose Line Is It Anyway?: Season One, Vol. 1 (Censored) 10 220 October 9, 2007[28]
Whose Line Is It Anyway?: Season One, Vol. 2 (Uncensored) 10 260 October 9, 2007[29]
The Best of Whose Line is it Anyway? (Uncensored) 10 + 1 Best of 300 June 9, 2009[30]

See also


External links

  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? U.S. and U.K. episodes
  • Internet Movie Database
  • from Warner Bros.
  • Hat Trick Productions Whose Line Is It Anyway? Website
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? ABC Website
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? The CW Website

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