Remember those nights at summer camp or youth group when counselors and students alike would take part in crazy games and skits, and the whole point seemed to be to make the biggest mess possible while laughing as long and as loud as you could?
Remember those long afternoons at home when you were seriously sick and feverish, and your room felt like it was severely tilted and the people around you seemed like they were talking gibberish?
Remember those laid-back evenings watching Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Yeah, Riot is a little like that. All of that.
Riot is improv comedy for the ADHD generation, Whose Line on some sort of caffeine jag. There's a dash of Saturday Night Live, a smidge of the old Carol Burnett Show and a generous, perhaps even excessive dollop of silliness.
Aussie talk show host Rove McManus oversees the hilarity, welcoming a cast of recurring characters/comedians along with various celebrity guests each episode. The Office vets Steve Carell (who helped adapt the show from its French-cum-Australian origins) and Andy Buckley appear in the first episode, Seinfeld's Jason Alexander in the second.
The assembled talent takes part in wacky, completely improvisational skits and games. Some happen on a small set tilted at a 22-degree angle, giving the whole affair all the solemnity of Hamlet on a Slip 'N Slide. (The Down Under version of this series is called SlideShow.) Others take place in a blacked-out room, where the cast bumps and jostles and knocks over inconvenient props. (We see what's going on via night vision cameras.) Still others are basically amped-up charades games.
Riot's comedic results can range from mildly amusing to gut-bustingly crazy. But because of all the improve, the content can get pretty out there too.
Violence can range from clumsily slapstick (folks sliding into each other on the tilted stage) to humorously graphic (someone pretending to cut up someone else with a giant saw). Performers might be asked to act out a scene in a hypothetical bar or lingerie store. Charade clues can be ribald. There may be verbal or physical allusions to affairs and sex.
Brian, Rob and Steve Carell must pretend they're in a lingerie store, with each line of their dialogue beginning with a sequential letter of the alphabet—leading to quips about everything from bras to v-strings. ("Is that a thing?" Carell asks.) Playing charades, Carell's having a hard time guessing a word (camel), so his partner makes thrusting motions with her hips to help him along: Carell says "hump" and then gets the answer. "It's a family show," blurts the performer, as if to apologize.
References are made to breasts and body parts, as well as to illicit affairs. In a charade game where characters create shadows on a screen, they pretend to kill each other (acting out The Hunger Games) and cut a leg off (for Saw). Carell pretends to be a demonic force in a dark room. And he says he's going to "rip corporate a new one." One player takes a slug from a wine bottle. Pretending to be soldiers, they pile on top of one another on a tilted stage, prompting an exclamation of "Don't ask, don't tell!" We hear "d‑‑mit" and "h‑‑‑." God's name is misused a half-dozen times.