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TV Series Review

Funny is hard.

Ask any comedian and they'll tell you. It can take months, even years for a stand-up comedian to craft enough material for a full-length show. The laughs in television sitcoms are generated by teams of writers and served by talented actors. Why, when I try to be funny, I solicit advice from a robust staff of jokesters who lurk under my desk, supplying me with a ready-made stream of terrible puns.

And even then it doesn't always work. We all know (perhaps from reading some of my reviews) that despite all that work, sometimes the folks who try to be funny aren't funny at all.

Now, imagine trying to trigger laughs on the fly. Imagine diving into the world of improvisational comedy, where you're given outlandish subjects and unbelievable plots and have to—in a matter of minutes, maybe seconds—think of something funny to say or do. Imagine being funny at the drop of a hat.

Or, in the case of The CW's new incarnation of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, by pulling a scenario out of one.

OK, On the Count of Three, Two, One, LAUGH!

Improv comedy has been around since the days of Punch and Judy shows, and Whose Line seems almost that old itself. ABC rolled it out in 1999 (and even that was a repackaging of the British version, which rolled out in 1988 after being a radio show before that). Back then, network television was still king, Netflix was a young upstart company mailing DVDs to its customers, and we all watched our shows on big-ol' boxy televisions.

With comedian Drew Carey manning the host chair, the original followed the general patter of a tongue-in-cheek game show—one in which Carey constantly and humorously reminded us that the points don't matter. ("That's right, the points don't matter," he'd say. "Just like if 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys traded guys.") The "contestants" consisted of three regulars—Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles and, for most of the show's original run, Wayne Brady. The fourth chair was filled by a rotating barrage of comics. (A rather young Stephen Colbert gave the show a go once.) They'd all perform a variety of zany sketches, from "Weird Newscasters" (where one anchor might be a very angry Irishman, and the other could be Elmer Fudd), to "Song Titles" (where the skit's impromptu dialogue would only consist of song titles from, say, Elton John's catalogue) or "Scenes From a Hat" (featuring skit suggestions from the audience).

That version eventually migrated from ABC to ABC Family, then faded away for a few years before The CW decided to pull the thing out of the attic in 2014. And believe it or not, Mochrie, Stiles and Brady were still up in the attic, too.

So now they're back, as are the loopy skits and constant banter. Sure, the show does boast a few changes: Since Drew Carey's busy now with The Price is Right, hosting duties have been turned over to talk show host and actress Aisha Tyler. Non-sequitur guest stars stop by to lend a hand. (Pop scientist Bill Nye and NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski have both appeared.) And if anything, the points matter even less than before.

The show looks and feels very much the same, right down to a reliable number of chuckles per minute. Unfortunately, those yuks can be, at times, a little yukky.

Heckler, Down in Front

Because Whose Line is predicated on improv comedy, you never know what you'll get from episode to episode. And sometimes, the content can stray into areas inappropriate for children.

Double entendres and sexual sight gags are not uncommon, and the language itself can be both a bit ribald and a bit profane. Some off-color humor has long been a part of Whose Line, but broadcast standards have grown a bit looser since the series' last iteration. The result? It feels as if the comics on CW's incarnation of the show are more willing to stray outside the lines while giving their lines.

That's a shame, really, because Whose Line can be a funny, funny show—and a lot of it is clean, too. Alas, to get to the family-friendly funny, you've got to wade through some off-putting content, and you don't necessarily know which is going to be which until you watch.

Comedy is hard, no question. And clean comedy? Funny stuff that doesn't rely on cringing asides and embarrassing sight gags? As Whose Line proves, that's all the more difficult.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

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Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

June 4, 2018: "Jeff Davis 8"
Whose Line Is it Anyway: May 29, 2017 "Tony Hawk"



Readability Age Range



Aisha Tyler (host); Wayne Brady; Colin Mochrie; Ryan Stiles






Record Label




On Video

Year Published



Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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