The improvisational comedy TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway? was long a favourite of mine since I saw it in the early 1990s. This was the British TV version, conducted by Clive Anderson.
For those who are unfortunate enough to have never seen it, I will tell you that it was a game show, featuring 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.
But, I think you will understand better with examples. Lets take one of my favourite games.
Alphabet, saw two performers enacting a given scene in which each sentence had to begin with the subsequent letter of the alphabet, beginning with an audience-suggested letter. The performers had to go through the entire alphabet once. Have a look at some examples.
Two surgeons performing an operation, starting on ‘L’, with Mike McShane & Tony Slattery.
Mike: Lucky sod, you get off this weekend.
Tony: Michael, this is sudden. What causes jealousy?
Mike: Perhaps your wife doesn’t happen to be the best nurse on the hall.
Tony: Quite, she isn’t!
Mike: Really, I thought you had more tact and morals than that.
Tony: Silly person! Can’t you see you’ve just taken out his windpipe?
Mike: Tracheotomy time!
Tony: That goes under the neck …. Under the neck, that goes!
Mike: Very good!
Tony: Whooo! We’ve done it.
Mike: The Xyvalogovu Ridge seems to be opening up.
Tony: Yes, that’s right.
Mike: Zip that baby up and I’ll break for all of us for lunch.
Tony: Awww, he’s dead.
Mike: Big deal!
Tony: Careless butterfingers!
Mike: Doctor Cockup!
Tony: Every time!
Mike: Forget it, I’m hungry.
Tony: Good, me too.
Mike: Hell, let’s go to that new salad bar.
Tony: I’d rather have a steak.
Mike: Well, jam it up my …. Jam it up my kaboga, I’ll have a steak too!
Tony: Kaboga, what’s that?
Mike: Linear tract of the … forget it.
Take another one….. Two pilots landing a plane, starting on ‘Q’, with Tony Slattery & Mike McShane.
Mike: Quentin, can you open up the flaps? We’re coming in pretty fast.
Mike: Sure is wild the way you work those wing flaps.
Tony: Terrance, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you and I’d like to tell you before we land.
Mike: Under duress, I hope.
Tony: Very duress, yes.
Mike: Well, spit it out.
Tony: (long pause) Xerxes is my name, it’s not Quentin after all.
Mike: Y’know, I’d suspected that for quite some time.
Tony: (long pause, reaches for radio) Zero Foxtrot Bravo, Zero Foxtrot Bravo, we’re going to bank around the airport a couple of times.
Mike: Altitude seems to be holding up.
Tony: Bloody hell, the petrol’s falling out of the back of the plane!
Mike: Cor, blimey, guv. We’re going to crash!
Tony: Dive, dive, we gotta dive!
Mike: Enough of this folderol, quick, get back in the emergency fuel tank, try to get some speed up, we’ll come back in slow.
Tony: Fuel tanks fractured!
Mike: Great Leaping Lungfish, we’re gonna toast!
Tony: Help! Help! Help!
Mike: In case of an emergency scream real camp. Yeah, that’s gonna do a lot of good.
Tony: Jeanette, Jeanette, serve us some coffee!
Mike: Knowledge of her name is not going to help us out of any situation for crying out loud.
Tony: Leave her alone, she’s my wife as if you didn’t know.
Mike: My woman, as if you didn’t know.
Tony: Nanette, what are you doing here? I thought you were in Switzerland?
Mike: Oh, Nanette, you’ve been down there the whole time.
Tony: Please, Nanette, not now, we’re going to crash.
To be continued……