There’s a wall-mounted tv set in the main breakroom where I work at night. Every now and then, such as last night, I am able to be in there when there’s a new episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway? being shown. Comedy in various forms- sitcoms, stand-up, comics, improv- are important in my life and something we learned at a young age to appreciate. But WLIIA? has a very special meaning to me; as I recovered from an auto accident (multiple surgeries, 18 days in hospital) frequent showings of both the British and the American productions of that show (culminating in a day-long marathon on New Year’s 2001) were very helpful in my recovery. Yes, I do participate in my own recovery.
Now I can watch episodes old and new on-line; between the CW network’s app, Netflix and Hulu, pretty much every insane episode is available at my fingertips. A great antidote to life’s stresses and disappointments. While watching, my mind occasionally contemplates certain bits (set-ups, if you will) that we don’t see any more (News Conference, # of Words). Or ones that have become too predictable; the same performers fill certain roles. Colin is always the News Anchor and Ryan the Weatherman, for example. Colin does a great job as The Director, but perhaps he should switch with someone else on occasion. Obviously there are certain things (singing) that some performers do much better- but as we learn in ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding‘, sometimes bad is good.
I can hear the performers respond with “but that’s programming!” – something also heard from many radio personalities; the same ones who want listeners to call in and participate; but only to a certain degree. As a Creative myself (photography, poetry, etc) I do understand the desire not to have one’s output twisted; turned into something other than what you intend. Our artwork is an expression of a deep inner truth that needs to be respected. Perhaps not something being said about improv.
Not to suggest that improv is ‘fluff’ – as with all forms of comedy it can reveal inner truths in a less-confrontational way. Nor do I think there’s anything wrong with being ‘light entertainment’ -see my comments above about how important WLIIA? has been to me.
The story goes that improv began as exercises to help actors- but clearly it is now a commercial product. Improv as a live event is promoted as being interactive; performers adapting to whatever suggestions are thrown at them. Just as Twitter and Facebook work better as participatory media; improv’s the ‘social media’ of comedy performances. And so it is totally appropriate to ‘crowd source’ not only specific small details of a sketch. I suspect other loyal fans would be happy to provide somilar feedback.
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Featured Image is a promotional photo from the current version of WLIIA? on The CW network.