Whose Watchdown is it Anyway: S04E11 or …And we’re back to you and the wife

The US run has been lined with unsuccessful guest bits by people the producers were absent-mindedly trying to push. We’ve had bad runs from Archie Hahn, Sam Johnson and Jane Brucker, and a less-than-positive run from Ron West.

Tonight, the duo of Chip Esten and Ryan Stiles are thrown back into the field to face off against the duo Patterson and co were pushing LAST US run…Jim Meskimen and Chris Smith, in their last appearance on the show (so you can guess how well this one went)

Clive’s opening remark, introducing the show as ‘the show that does for comedy what Warren Beatty does for chastity’ gets a nice response from the audience, even if he mispronounces his name.

Film and Theatre Styles- Ryan and Chip (in a pet shop)

Clive, puzzled by a suggestion: “NOGGIN THE NOG? WE COME ALL THE WAY TO AMERICA TO GET NOGGIN THE NOG?”
[Who the hell would know that in America? Besides some audience plant]

Clive announces the scene (“you’re going to Chip’s pet shop”), and both Ryan and Chip make fun of how he pronounces that one.
Clive: “Or Pet’s Chip Shop, if you’re from England.”

Ryan: “I’m interested in a big birdseed ball thing.”
Chip: “Aren’t we all?”

For the Moliere style, Chip just repeats what he just said in a thick, over-the-top French accent. I think that just about nails that one.

After Ryan and Chip just switch back to english
Clive: “Well there you are, Moliere’s famous rhyming couplets…as rendered so accurately…”

They win it back during the 50s B-Movie style, Ryan prancing around campily towards both sides of the screen, trying some sort of West Side Story thing I think.

Ryan: “You’re from the wrong side of the track, and I’m from on top of the building! YOU’RE FROM SPAGHETTI AND I’M FROM *MEAT!* DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND WE’RE BOTH TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT THINGS?”

In Laurel and Hardy style, Ryan goes into a perfect wimpy Laurel voice. Chip attempts to get him to stop crying by poking him in the eye…which is so effective that he actually sticks a finger into Ryan’s eye-socket, drawing him back.
Chip realizes what he’s done, tries to stay together, and, realizing he’s done a three stooges move instead of a Laurel and Hardy move, goes “WRONG SHOW…”

Clive: “Let’s go for some science fiction.”
Chip: “YOUR EYEBALL’S POPPED UNDER THE SINK!”
Ryan: “Give it to me now! I will cover it with seed!”

Old Job New Job: Chris and Jim are nuclear scientists- Ryan comes in, but he used to be a pro-baseball player

For suggestions of Ryan’s job, somebody in the audience shouts out ‘MTA!’. I can’t imagine this going on BBC or whatever, and anybody in the UK getting that. That is a specific reference to the New York subway system that I get as a New Yorker, but probably went right over Clive’s head.

Jim cracks up as he’s justifying the scene (two guys putting radioactivity into smoke alarms), and covers by saying ‘I’m just laughing at that thing you told me earlier…’

For the first bit, Ryan is doing umpire stuff, but I think he’s gotten the point once he grabs crotch while Jim’s trying to explain something.

And then, as Ryan compliments Jim and Chris, he gives them both butt-slaps. I’ll say that it’s really nice seeing Jim as the straight man for once.

For once, there’s an ending that’s constructed by the straight men. Chris, realizing he should play by Ryan’s lingo, says he needs to pick up some containment stuff ‘in left field’, prompting Ryan to be in base-stealing position. Then, Jim and Chris get him in a rundown between bases, throwing radioactive material between each other, to prompt Ryan to go ‘OH, YOU BASTARDS!’ I never expected a natural ending would ever form in a game of this.

Nice enough game. Even as he heads back, Ryan realizes he was doing an umpire instead of a player for a while.

Props: Ryan and Chris vs. Jim and Chip

There’s some intrigue and applause in this NY audience, because Ryan and Chris’ prop looks like a bong. Very highbrow stuff here.

I’ll say that the Chip-Jim combo is a bit more compatible than Ryan and Chris, as they can very quickly get ideas across, and they kind of have the same humor. Ryan sort of has to be the dominant performer here, as when Chris is left to his own devices he lets loose a 1940s slur.

It’s an alright game, but it’s curtailed when Ryan, without any ideas, repeats his Bingo prop idea again.

Bartender: Chip
Chris: angry about his divorce
Jim: trying to forget the stock market
Ryan: is impotent

Chris’ verse is unspectacular, but Chip’s comeback:
“I think you could be rich
if you just ditch the bitch
And get yourself some alimony”
Really nice.

Clive, dodging a suggestion for what Jim’s trying to forget: “Baldness is disallowed, for a reason…a reason that may be quite obvious…”

Damn, Jim’s singing technique in this game is different, fitting into the verses with excess and still pulling it off vocally. It’s a tad showoffish, but it really works.

Chip even throws in the callback line of “I thought you’d be upset because you’re going bald…”

The Chip-Jim one is great because Jim even backs up Chip, and makes it a pretty nice overall musical moment.

Clive: “You were doing so well, Chip…til you threw it all away with that unkind remark. We stick together, us baldies…”

Ryan, almost immediately: “Why aren’t there any women in this bar?”

Richard comes in with this upbeat, march-time type song, which cracks up Ryan, and he eventually just starts bopping along with it. It’s actually a really nicely done backing song.

The Ryan-Chip number is also really nice, with some pretty smooth boner puns from both sides, and the strength of the backing track.

Expert: Chip interviews Ryan, an expert on algae farming

Ryan, introducing himself: “John…Pukalakalay…don’t bother, it’s Canadian…”

Ryan, indirectly screwing with the guy who made the suggestion: “Well, it’s very difficult, algae farming, as algae floats on water, and farming involves soil.”

Chip: “I understand you’ve lost 10 or 12 tractors-”
Ryan: “Yes I have! Good tractors!”

Chip tells Ryan he’d like to see some of the slides he’d brought, so Ryan plugs in his microscope and starts cueing them up, only to realize Chip meant the other kind.

Ryan, explaining a slide: “This is me trying to run across water. It was a brief second, and then I was back underwater with the tractor again…”

Ryan, stopping Chip from flipping slides: “Oh-oh, that’s the wife and I…”

Ryan’s rationalization, which this game thrives upon, involves saying that he planted fish underneath the soil so the algae could grow on top, and then putting his hands up and going ‘DON’T ASK ME HOW!’

Chip: “…and we’re back to you and the wife.”
Ryan: “As you can see, I’ve laid the algae out on the wife here. Makes her nice and slippery and supple.”
Chip, ending the game on an incredible pun: “I guess you’re a real fun guy.”
BUZZZZZZZ

Characters: In a laundromat, with Captain Kirk (Jim) and Mr. Spock (Chris)

This is an unrelated anecdote, after 5 years of impressionist Jay Pharoah being on Saturday Night Live, his sketches became less involved with setups, and more just ‘let’s just have Jay do impressions for 3 minutes’. And that’s what we’ve gotten to with Jim and Chris. Just two impressions and a location. Alrighty then.

Clive asks for a place for them to meet. Some smartass in the audience shouts out ‘IN BED!’

This game works because of Jim’s excellent Shatner impression, which the audience recognizes as such almost immediately.

Chris tries using his tricorder, which leads to some weird popping sound effects.
Jim, smirking: “Sounds like you’ve still got gnats in there, Spock…”

This does have a very nice payoff: they find the sock, and Jim explains “This is the thing that is HOLDING everybody in a STATE of PERPETUAL WARRR…”
Chris: “…I was wrong, captain- this is the sock-”
Jim, throwing the other one away: ‘OF COURE…THIS is the thing that’s HOLDING EVERYBODY in a STATE OF PERPETUAL WAR…”
Chris, holding up something else: “Um-”
Jim: “Don’t tell me.”

Surprisingly funny, even if it was a very simple impression showcase. Again, as ineffective as these guys were, they could still be funny when they were given opportunities. They just didn’t ace them all.

Party Quirks: Chris hosts
Chip: a prisoner on a chain gang
Jim: boxing trainer ringside
Ryan: rodeo rider

Ryan, upon reading his quirk, nods accordingly, holding a chuckle.

Chris works at this game, but his very relaxed delivery does detract from it, as he does take a very passive approach with working with each participant.

Jim does crack me up doing what is essentially an impression of Burgess Meredith from Rocky, just keeping this craggy sort of character, and yelling at Chris when he goes to let in Ryan, “when ya open the doorbell, LEAD WITH YOUR LEFT!”

Ryan, from the moment he enters, is just this ball of incredible, hilarious physicality, rambling around the room on this bronco. Chris does get it in about 10 seconds, but the visual of Ryan doing that, Jim shouting at him, and Chris looking helpless and trying not to crack up is a truly great one.

Pretty nice game, but it’s a short one, and I don’t really like Chris’ demeanor and passive stance on the whole thing.

Helping Hands: Chris is at a casino gambling with Ryan (ft. Jim’s hands)

Jim struggles to get the visor onto Ryan’s head for a few seconds, before getting it on crooked, so he looks like Geordi from Star Trek.

Chris, again, is taking a very passive approach to the game, so Ryan’s exuberance has to carry this one completely.

Ryan, as he tries to spin: “RRRROUND AND ROUND SHE GOES…..I CANNOT SEE A THING, THE VISOR IS COVERING MY EYES.”
Chris, actually having a nice improv move: “Actually, in that case, I won!”

Ryan: “Pick any card, I won’t look….ACTUALLY…to prove I won’t look…LET ME PUT THAT VISOR BACK DOWN OVER MY EYES AGAIN!”

Very nice game, lifted solely by Ryan, which you could also say for this whole show.

Scenes from a Hat:

Clive: “Naming a baby.”
Chris, grabbing Ryan: “…well, he LOOKS like a Clive.”
Clive, ever the cheeky one: “yes, well, there’s a reason for that.”

Clive: “A Jimmy Stewart convention”
Chip, Chris, Ryan and Jim, all simultaneously” “WA-WA-UH-WA-WA-WA-WA-”
BUZZ
I will never not laugh at that.

A convention of cheese makers
Jim and Chris keep going for a bit without a joke. Ryan enters finally, thinking of the punchline.
Ryan: “WA-WA-WA-WA…Oh, I’m at the wrong convention, I’m sorry…”

Clive: “Two men comparing each other at the urinal- OH, PLEASE…”
Ryan, to Chip: “Hey, not bad-”
Screen Shot 2018-01-20 at 12.27.58 PM.pngScreen Shot 2018-01-20 at 12.28.08 PM.png

And that’s an outstanding visual to end the show on.

Overall: Like E10, another odd case. There weren’t any truly bad games, but you could see the dissonance between Meskimen & Smith and Ryan and Chip’s more WL friendly improv ideology. Again, while Meskimen and Smith were very funny, with an emphasis on Jim tonight, their brand of humor didn’t really fit the show, as much as Patterson wanted them to. Meanwhile, for the second show in a row, Ryan carried the entire show on his back, appearing in all but one game, and having some truly terrific moments. This isn’t to discredit Chip, who had a much better episode than E10, and had some great moments in Bartender and F&TS. It was just an uneven and lopsided show, despite being really funny in parts.

Show Winner: Jim
Best Performer: Ryan, for continuing to cement his status as the face of the series.
Worst Performer: Chris Smith, for not taking any risks or being active in anything.
Best Game: Again, I go with Expert, not out of habit, but because it was truly funny again tonight, with Ryan’s dynamic with Chip augmenting it a bit. F&TS and Old Job New Job were considered.
Worst Game: Props. Not a lot to it.

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