As a kid who only had antennae for TV, my programming choices were limited. There was always PBS, usually ABC, sometimes NBC and randomly CBS. Besides that, the other choices were VHS copies of Space Jam, Toy Story and Babe, but one can only watch that trio of movies so many times. When I outgrew PBS kids’ programming, I started watching Whose Line Is It Anyway? At that time, I knew nothing about its history as a British program or any of the people who were on it. Hell, I only understood half of the jokes on a good day. It was the only choice I had amid the static oblivion, but I didn’t mind.
A couple years into high school, our part of New Hampshire had finally become technologically developed enough to get cable TV. All right, I’m probably exaggerating. The technology was probably already there, but with so few houses on my street, it wasn’t profitable for the cable company to run lines up there unless more households became customers. Either way, with the introduction of cable to my house, I cast away my long friendship with Whose Line and watched all this new programming at my disposal.
After realizing that a lot of the stuff I watched was crap, I decided to revisit Whose Line through the magic of Youtube. Some very dedicated users have created great compilations of jokes and certain games (Scenes From A Hat, Props) that can kill so much time. I’d link them, but I’m too afraid of being responsible for getting them removed. You can find them easily by yourself.
After watching a bunch of these videos, it led to a debate (with myself) as to who was the best person on Whose Line. It was easy to narrow it down to the big three regulars — Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles and Wayne Brady — but it became much more difficult to choose just one out of those three. We could go with point totals, but they don’t matter (Side note: While putting together this post, I found a website that tallied up all the Whose Line points. I don’t know if this person should admired or institutionalized). Here is my attempt to outline the strengths of each player and come to a conclusion as to the best. I expect disagreement, but I think you might agree with me that no answer is wrong. That’s not a cop-out, though. I DID choose one person.
The man with the ugliest shoes on the show has some advantages by being taller than Mochrie or Brady. Due to his stature, his level of physical comedy is an asset. Stiles’s height combined with his elasticity makes me draw comparisons to early Jim Carrey. Some great examples of this are these Party Quirks games in which Stiles has to play a newborn foal and footage of crash-test dummies, respectively. (Look for the Stephen Colbert sighting in the second one!)
Stiles’s tendency to do anything for a laugh makes him the player most susceptible to injury. He has no regard for his well-being in his quest to get the best reaction from the audience; he’s the Michael Vick of improv. When he gets hurt, as seen below in the two clips, he powers through the pain for the sake of the show.
DAMMIT KATHY GREENWOOD, JUST GUESS ALREADY. That is an MVP-quality performance by Stiles: not breaking character as Carol Channing after smashing his head against a freaking light bulb. Suck it, Brett Favre.
The final quality to highlight is Stiles’s use of puns, a joke device that can be so hit-or-miss. In this compilation of Dating Service games, Stiles really shines. Enjoy 12 minutes of non-stop wordplay.
Colin Mochrie has the special ability of making the other players (and Drew Carey) laugh as much as the audience. He kills the joke flow of a sketch or even simple banter, but in the best way possible. The best example of this is this “arctic tern” sequence that developed from a brain fart by Mochrie into a shutdown line.
Wasn’t that great? Here are eight and a half minutes of Mochrie ruining jokes and making them better (the “arctic tern” is in this one too, but it’s worth watching again, so shut up).
That’s the best part of Mochrie; a lot of his greatest moments come from his inability to improv quickly enough. Or is his failure to think of a joke quickly enough part of the improv? Either way, Mochrie’s ability to f*ck everything up actually made it all much more enjoyable.
I’ll admit that when I was younger, my least favorite parts of Whose Line were the ones involving music. For some reason, I didn’t find them as interesting as the regular jokes. After revisiting some of the songs Wayne Brady created in numerous “Song Styles” games, I realize how wrong I was back then.
Think of how difficult Brady’s job is, as he was the premier player for anything musical on the show. For some of the games like “Song Styles” or “Greatest Hits,” he was supposed to pull off an impression of a musical act, be funny, and make it sound like an actual song, all at the same time. Add the physicality he had for other jokes that the older guys couldn’t do, like doing the longest touchdown celebration ever in that “Party Quirks” video from before, and he’s got to be the most valuable player, hands down.
I think the most representative video of all Brady has to do at once is below in a “Greatest Hits” game. Stiles and Mochrie do what they do well with the banter (and Mochrie’s skill of making Stiles break), then Mochrie makes life difficult for Brady. Brady relishes the challenge, though.
Here’s one more video exemplifying why Brady is the best, as he imitates Louis Armstrong in this “Song Styles” game. Impression, rhyme, humor, and probably Robin’s phone number (hey gurl).