Thursday, July 3, 2014

Whose Line is it Anyway’s Colin & Ryan: Greatest Duo Ever?

On the Fifth of April 1991, in the third series (the name for season in UK shows) of the British improvisational show Whose Line is it Anyway, Colin Mochrie appeared for the second time on the show and Ryan Stiles appeared on the fourth on the show.  For those who don’t know, Whose Line is it Anyway is an improv show where the performers do “games” or improvised scenes with suggestions provided by the audience or by the host.  In Whose Line, the “games” are assigned points (many times arbitrary and useless) and then at the end a winner is declared.  What the games and points part did was to give a little structure to the improvisational skits that the performers did for the audience. 

In any case, right before the very first game, “Film, Television and Theater Styles,” you can see Ryan Stiles shake Colin’s hand and say “good luck.”  Who knew this would be the start of an incredible partnership.  By the time the fifth series rolled around, Ryan Stiles was one of the regular performers, appearing in nearly every episode, and Colin Mochrie was a regular rotating player, appearing in four or five times a season.  Finally in the 8th season, Colin and Ryan were appearing in every single episode together.  Clearly, by that point, their chemistry together was making them a sought after duo.  From series 8 to series 10, they were together in every single episode.

Just as the British Show was on its last legs, it was brought to America by sitcom star Drew Carey.  Ryan Stiles, who was a regular on The Drew Carey Show, introduced Drew Carey to the improv show, and he brought it to the network, ABC.  (While third chair favorite Wayne Brady was not quite a regular, he did appear in most of the first season episodes and from then on appeared in appeared in every episode following that first season).  Colin and Ryan were regulars from the start, and their chemistry already developed from their British days that the American audience grew to love and appreciate the duo even more.  Here are just a few examples of their hilarity: A regular “game” of the American Whose Line during this time was called “Greatest Hits” and featured Colin and Ryan as TV pitchmen selling a compilation album around a particular theme (“Songs of the Fireman,” “Songs of the Lunch Lady,” etc.), while Wayne Brady (and a fourth, if they also could sing) would sing the title and performance style that Colin and Ryan suggested.  However, Ryan would set up Colin by asking questions, “what comes to mind when I say…” and would sometimes put two seemingly nonsensical items together and ask their connection.  Colin wouldn’t bite and would come up with something completely of the wall.  Another example would be Narrate (doing a parody of a film noir sequence), and Colin and Ryan would try to top each other with dramatic pauses and outlandish twists.  The game “Sound Effects” had two versions, both hilarious: in the first, Colin would act out (silently) to sound effects done by Ryan, and in the second version, Colin and Ryan would act out sound effects by two audience members; the audience member version typically would get the biggest laughs because Colin and Ryan would deliberately misinterpret the audio cues done by the audience members.  Improbable Mission, a mission impossible parody with a ludicrous mission, was a fourth game that showed off the skills of Colin and Ryan, with each performer trying to top each other with the craziest, funniest solution to solving their mission. 

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and in 2004, Whose Line was cancelled by ABC.  While unaired recorded sessions of the show eventually made its way to ABC family from 2005 to 2007, the show had seen the last of the incredible duo.  Colin and Ryan appeared together for a while with Drew Carey’s live touring show, Drew Carey’s Improv All-Stars, but then Ryan Stiles took a break.  But then in 2011, Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza premiered and while not successful, nevertheless featured Colin and Ryan together for the first time in several years.  Finally, in 2013, the unthinkable happened: the CW brought back Whose Line is it Anyway, with the three favorite performers, Colin, Ryan, and Wayne and a new host, Aisha Tyler.  Finally, and amazingly the duo was back.  Here’s to hoping that Colin and Ryan will entertain us for years to come.  

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