Last weekend, we headed over to California to get away for a weekend. Part of the experience was heading over to Hollywood to see a taping of the improv comedy show “Whose Line is it Anyway?”
I remember watching episodes of the show when I was a kid. Back then, it was still the original British version with Clive Anderson as the host. My sense of humor was still developing, and I didn’t really get a lot of the dry wit on the show, but it was still entertaining. As an added bonus, I was tuning in near the end of that run, so many of the familiar American stars like Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie and Greg Proops were making appearances (hell, by season 8 of 10, Ryan and Colin were already in every episode).
The show eventually made its way over to America with Drew Carey as the host. That happened when I was a little bit older, and that’s when I really started to get into Whose Line. The American version ran for eight seasons and was decently successful, especially considering that it competed against titans like Friends in its time slot. WLiiA slowly ran its course, and then it faded away around 2005. That was disappointing to me, because it meant I wouldn’t get the chance to see the show live.
Then all of a sudden, rumors started to swirl. Whose Line was coming back, they said. Were they real voices or just imaginary ones in my head? Who can say. But last year, with Aisha Tyler as the new host, the show made its triumphant return and debuted to great ratings.
When WLiiA was renewed for another season (either season 2 or season 10 depending on who you ask), everything was set. Tickets were available about a month before taping, and as an added bonus, they were free. That didn’t include the whole “trip to California and a hotel room” thing, but still.
So last weekend was that time. Let’s get a few of the disappointments out of the way first.
- Because the taping was free, that meant it was full to the brim. That’s a great thing for television, but a problem when it comes to arriving early to get a spot in line. We got there a couple hours early to make sure we didn’t get turned away and that we had decent seats. It turned out to be a bad choice — while there were plenty of people there in advance, we didn’t realize what this meant for a time commitment. Because…
- …you weren’t allowed to leave the taping once it started for any reason. Look, I get it — they want a full audience in consistent spots for when the show is on air. I understand. But that meant we had to shove everyone into the restrooms before we entered the studio, while the remainder of the people stood outside. Between signing waivers, getting entrance tickets and then the pants-off-dance-off (for the restroom, you sickos), we spent about 3 1/2 or 4 hours standing in lines. I’m not sure how long it was, because…
- …we had to leave any electronic devices of any kind in our car. I understand this as well; the studio doesn’t want video or pictures leaking of special guest stars or raunchy skits or any material in general. Of course, those devices would have gone a long way toward helping us kill time while we waited outside the building. But that wasn’t the biggest annoyance, because…
- …I think we got stuck with the longest set of “pick-ups” ever. Pick-ups are bits of refilming done after the main taping is over, to do additional intros and outros or correct some small mistakes from earlier games. I knew about these going in, but most reports from other tapings said that this would last 30 minutes or so. It was more like 75.
Here’s the thing. All of that sounds pretty bad, and you’re probably wondering where the “ups” part of this post is. I wouldn’t blame you. But in the middle of all that nonsense, there were three solid hours of Whose Line action. And that made all the difference.
The taping itself was essentially like watching the show. The performers ran through a series of familiar games like Scenes From a Hat and Weird Newscasters. A couple old favorites returned, including Party Quirks (mysteriously absent from the first Aisha season) and Irish Drinking Song (although I don’t know if that will make it to air because Colin kept using placenta in the final rhyme). Instead of being 22 minutes of Whose Line, it was three hours of it. And it was fantastic.
Even better, it was a showcase for the performers’ talent. Their banter in between games was an equally fun part of the entertainment, especially between Wayne and Aisha and a fan in the front row. And while we were stuck in an obnoxiously long pick-up session, the four cast members decided to do another impromptu Irish Drinking Song when the camera weren’t rolling, just to fill time. Their goal was to be as raunchy as possible, and while I’ll talk about this more on Thursday’s show, let’s just say they succeeded.
Best of all, I got to see maybe the best fourth-seater in Greg Proops. Greg (and Brad Sherwood) were invited back for the second new season, and he hasn’t missed a beat. He even flashed a few of his classic bits, imitating Colin’s dinosaur walk and swearing profusely when one of his jokes fell flat.
Having been once, I could use that knowledge to minimize some of the annoying bits if I ever decided to go again. Getting there early isn’t necessary unless it’s super busy. Eating at the right time is important. But none of that stuff really mattered compared to the meat of the performance, and that’s why I was there anyway. It was a blast from start to finish, and I’d gladly do it again.