To quote Neil Diamond, WE’RE COMIN’ TO AMERICA.
…Appropriately enough, that’s a joke Ryan Stiles would kill me for, and he’s on the program tonight, along with Josie Lawrence, who, along with Sandi Toksvig, Greg Proops Richard Vranch and Mike McShane, made the flight to New York for the rest of the Series.
Debuting tonight are two performers trying to establish a comedy duo that would be the American equivalent of Sweeney and Steen- Jim Meskimen, son of Happy Days’ Marion Ross, [insert unneeded joke about a certain detail of his personal life here] and, to be perfectly honest, one of the single best impressionists ever to be scouted by Whose Line, and his then-comedy partner Chris Smith, whose blandness and straight-man-esque qualities complimented Meskimen perfectly.
Film and Theatre Styles v1: Ryan and Josie (customer and gas station attendant)
LITERALLY THE FIRST AUDIENCE SUGGESTION FOR A FILM STYLE CLIVE GETS is some guy going “ORGASM!”
Also, interesting to note that Clive does an impression of the Southern fella who suggests “MELLOW-DRAMMER…”
The first joke Ryan goes with is a fart joke. Nice to see he’s appealing to American audiences.
Ryan and Josie work off each other pretty well, especially in the Silent Film section, where both have the sort of mute physicality to keep things really funny.
Clive finally goes with ‘Orgasm’, or a porn film.
Josie: “…I’d like to check your gear stick…”
Ryan: “Let me get the oil for ya…”
And, for the first of many times on Whose line, Ryan does the ‘throws cock over shoulder’ motion.
Josie: “I like the way the gas just…drips from the end.
Clive: [holds buzzer for what seems like 10 minutes]
Clive: “…that was a mistake, obviously…”
Josie ends the scene in a ‘WHAT AM I TO DO’ pose, and Ryan…takes this the exact wrong way
Josie realizes what she’s done, flips the suit jacket over and lays her head back. Ryan’s just…amused.
BUZZ. Clive already seems to have had enough of America.
Very fun scene, which improved as it got more blue.
Film and Theatre Styles v2: Jim and Chris (hiring a private detective)
Clive gets insanely aggravated with all the audience members shouting at once, and has to section it off. Man, those Americans are starting strong.
Jim stumbles over his words, but rebounds: “It’s my wife- I think she’s been cheating on anoth…CHEATING ON ANOTHER GUY…ME!”
The Abbott and Costello sequence just proves how well Jim and Chris work off of each other, and how Jim just supplies the jokes while Chris acts as the backboard.
With the Bond style, Jim throws in his really nice Connery, which is basically a glorified Scottish accent but it’s very 60s Connery.
Chris, taking out a Bond gadget: “D’you see this pen?”
Jim: “Looks like nothing more than an ordinary fountain pen to me…”
Chris: “It is!” [spills ink on Jim] “They’re always expecting something more.”
YES! CHRIS MAKES A JOKE! Savor it now, as it happens very rarely.
Clive combines some styles, possibly knowing of the punchline, with ‘Bugs Bunny meets Jimmy Stewart’
Chris: “Eh, what’s up, doc?”
Jim: “…This is the largest rabbit I’ve ever seen in my life…”
Jim does manage to bring it back to the plot, but it ends kind of weakly, even if it wasn’t the worst F&TS.
Expert: Josie interviews Ryan, a watermelon expert
Yay, this game’s back! Ryan nailed it the last time, chasing Tony.
Ryan nails this with the characterization, adding some crazy-eyes and slightly manic affectations to what could be a simple character. Also, and this is a very long-shot reference, but the voice he gives his character sounds like a cross between Sweetnums from the Muppets and Mike Pipper from the Final Sacrifice episode of Mystery Science Theater.
Ryan: “And when ya cut ’em open, you can see things! One time I saw a….a VISION OF CHRIST INSIDE A WATERMELON! Just…the seeds were the eyes…”
Josie: “Now, pips.”
Josie: “You always have to spit out the stones, don’t you?”
Ryan: “SEEDS is what we call ’em, SEEDS!”
Josie cracks briefly, as if she forgot where she was.
Josie, losing it: “Now, when was the first time you saw your first melon?”
Ryan: “Well….I was a young boy in private school! The nuns used ta bring ’em in to tease us with ’em, you know? ‘FINISH YOUR WORK OR YOU’LL HAVE THIS UP YOUR-‘ You-know-what”
BUZZ. Josie completely bursts out laughing.
Just like last time, that was a fantastic Expert, with Ryan giving a great performance. I’ll say that Josie was a bit less competitive than Tony was, but her cracking up definitely helped the game.
Book Writer: Chris interviews Jim, who’s written a book on rodents
So…why not make this another game of Expert??
Jim does nail this, with some very slight physicality that gets the audience laughing early, plus the idea of the ‘Rodent Olympics’, which is bizarre enough to work. Again, Chris is mainly here to set up jokes.
Jim, on the events in this olympiad: “Uhh, ‘Jump over a straw’…’run around the inside of a garbage can lid’…”
Chris, wrapping up: “And, uh, when will the games actually take place?”
Jim: “They will take place after the harvest…when all the nuts are buried, you know…”
Quaint enough game, proof that there was more to Jim than just impressions.
Song Styles: Spatula
Josie’s number is really lively, very cool, and very understanding of the style. Her best lines is saying “I am just a spat with an ula at the end.” She has a ton of fun with this.
Jim’s number is the first time they give an actual musician instead of a general style. Of course, they do this because of Jim’s award-winning Sting impression (i mean, I imagine it won some).
Even when he looks over to Richard, going “whenever you’re ready maestro”, he’s already doing a perfect Sting impression. He’s going for early-Police-era Sting (which, FYI, is the best Sting).
Jim’s number is quicker, but it’s funnier, and that impression is…SPOT-ON.
Jim: James Tiberius Kirk
Chris: Mr. Spock
A lot of this episode has been playing to Jim’s strengths- throwing Jimmy Stewart in, having Sting in Song Styles, and now rolling out a game that hasn’t been played in a season to showcase Jim’s insanely good William Shatner impression. I don’t think the show has played so much into a performer’s hand since the John Sessions days.
And yes, from the first line “Why…Spock, I’m…surprised you eat bread”, you can tell how good Jim’s Shatner impression is.
Chris: “I don’t understand, the holes are the size of a normal piece of bread, only slightly larger.”
Jim: “…yes, yes…” [slightly quieter] “…of course they are…”
Jim does send a message to Scotty [thanks to a tricorder noise from Chris that Jim knows is better than his], about sending down dilithium crystals. After a beat, realizing nobody can play Scotty, Chris just throws an intercom Scotty impression in there, under his hand.
Jim: “…Sounds like you’re in the Lincoln Tunnel, Scotty…”
A good game, though it relied mainly on Jim’s impression as a source of humor, only finding jokes in slightly dissonance in improv.
Party Quirks: Chris hosts
Jim: Wall Street businessman
Josie: Searching for buried treasure
Ryan: astronaut on the moon
Jim absolutely nails his, with the kind of manic energy that one would need for this specific quirk. Josie’s isn’t as good as, say, Jonathan Pryce doing the same quirk, but she’s having a good time.
And then…Ryan has his first ‘Oh My God’ quirk, coming in with zero-gravity, in near-slow-mo, backwards.
Ryan does have to give it to Chris basically, and Chris doesn’t do great as a host, but it’s still a funny round.
Helping Hands: Chris is a dental patient, Ryan, with Jim’s hands, is the dentist
Ryan immediately shines at this game, reacting well to Jim’s motions and still keeping the energy that the scene requires, while still working off Ryan. Jim even does a nice job keeping Ryan in check, giving him more things to do while still listening to him.
Ryan misses a golden opportunity after a moment of sexual tension, and Chris asks “Are you gonna pull my teeth or what?” I mean, if Tony was there, he would have gone “Yes, but first I’d like to pull something else…”
‘Western Hoedown’: Stone-Carving
Historians from years in the future will look to this episode as the first ever appearance of the dreaded, much-maligned Hoedown. Here, it goes by the name ‘Western Hoedown’, has a different key, and is slightly similar to March in that the last participant, Josie, gets a longer verse. Modern Hoedown would chuckle at this.
You can tell that Jim doesn’t love this game, as he sort of stumbles through his verse. Chris has firmer footing, but his verse isn’t memorable either.
Ryan does end up with a nice ending: “I find I’m often carvin’ when I’m alone; but I find it’s much easier when I’M stoned…”
He smirks afterwards, as if he doesn’t realize how many more times he’s going to play this fucking game.
Josie ends strongly, but…like March, early Hoedowns are very hit-miss.
Also, note Ryan’s spit-take once he finds out he’s won. It takes him a bit to build up his self-esteem on the show.
Overall: Not perfect, but a refreshing start to the American run. You can tell Josie’s a wee-bit out of her element, but also, thanks to the emphasis on US performers, the spotlight isn’t really on her as much, and she spends a lot of the episode sitting out, which isn’t a great sign. The emphasis tonight was on Jim and Chris, and while Chris…made, like, 2 jokes, Jim, for the most part, was worth it, succeeding in a ton of places, and winning over the audience. The asterisk on Jim’s night was that the producers were very much playing to his strengths, asking for his Sting, Jimmy Stewart and William Shatner impressions as they were his strong points in his NY house team (I think that’s what that was).
Ryan easily had the best night, as he was able to work off of everyone, and the US scenery allowed him to be a ton more comfortable, and go into more of his most trusted material. Tonight’s show is probably the first step to his eventual regular-ship in both series’.
Show Winner: Ryan
Best Performer: Ryan, for owning his screentime and coming into his own.
Worst Performer: Chris Smith, for not breaking out of his role as a straight man.
Best Game: Expert, for letting Ryan shine, and for bringing the giggles out in Josie.
Worst Game: Helping Hands, just by comparison.