In 2014, Ryan Stiles fell ill before a taping of Whose Line is it Anyway, currently being filmed in Los Angeles, California. While short-term preparations were made (Jeff Davis was brought to suppress current-guest Greg Proops), the long term realization was the fact that this was the first time in 20 years that Stiles had missed an episode of Whose Line.
The last time was, of course, this episode of WL, the last time Patterson and co would try to stack a panel with people that weren’t Ryan, after the success of two shows in Series 5 featuring Sweeney & Steen. Instead of doing that, they showcased the OTHER series regular, Tony Slattery, the two frequent old-guard guests, Josie Lawrence and Mike McShane….and an impressionist and actor that hadn’t been on since John Sessions was still a regular, the talented Rory Bremner.
So we had a strong, nearly S1-esque panel…right before the remainder of the series, which is all Ryan stuff. This could be the last gasp of the early era of the show…or a reason why they never went back.
Scenes from a Hat:
As Clive explains the game, Mike starts making silly, competitive glances with Josie, to the point where, as Clive is about to announce the first game, both SQUAT INTO A SUMO POSITION.
Clive: “…yes, very convincing.”
This is the energy at Moment 0
Clive: “What your adolescence was really like”
Tony: “‘t’s true!”
Clive: “We all believe you, Tony.”
“Two politicians meet in the urinals.”
Rory, premiering his infamous John Major impression: “I must say, it makes a change to take the piss out of myself…”
Clive: “Unlikely erogenous zones.”
Clive: “The Biggest Jerk in the World.”
Josie, IMMEDIATELY: “..Tony?”
Clive: “Pointless things to take when crossing the sahara.”
Josie: “I’ve got the sand!”
Tony: “And I’ve got Marg Thatcher.”
Sports Report: Tortoise and the Hare- Rory and Tony in the studio, Josie and Mike in the field
Clive: “In the field will be Josie Lawrence, who will be interviewing anyone who comes along…and anybody who comes along will be Mike McShane.”
Mike: [nods. “figures”]
Instead of this being a NEWS REPORT, this is actually covering the race, replacing the world-famous News Report music with some SUPER-90s SPORTS MUSIC. There’s not a lot of time for Rory and Tony to do the ‘fast-motion silent babblin’ while the music comes in, but Tony does manage to say ‘..shall I bring a bottle’ right before Rory goes in.
Rory: “Tortoise and the hare- the hair, of course, a subject very close to Clive Anderson’s head.”
Rory, in proctoring, focuses less on jokes and more on mimicking a sportscaster, which is not to Greg caliber, but still very indicative of Rory.
Josie: “You don’t think you’re being a bit cock-sure about this?”
Mike: “Listen sweetheart, I’ve bred maybe 50 family members this morning, I’m sure cock-sure…”
Rory, afterwards: “Right, a man that makes Chris Eubank look, uh, modest, there.”
Mike’s slow movements as the tortoise win over the audience very quickly.
Josie: “D’you think you’re going to win?”
Mike: “……………..It depends.”
Tony and Rory do well, but are making references to very specific people and sports things, so that it’s not an especially accessible round, but was still very funny, especially the Josie-Mike stuff.
Film Dub: Tony and Rory are three (!) men arguing over what to have for lunch
Tony, upon Rory’s first impression: “Yes, I’m afraid I’ve got a very boring Michael Caine standing behind me…”
AND THEN, WHO SHOWS UP…
BUT THE ONE GUY RORY CAN *REALLY* DO AN IMPRESSION OF
Rory: “…Afternoon everybody…I ordered the egg mayonnaise..”
Tony, as a foreign general in a great accent: “YOU KNOW THIS MAN IS EVEN MORE BORING THAN MICHAEL CAINE.”
The shot holds on this for 10 seconds, while Moore is still talking. There’s silence. So Tony improvises
Tony, as the foreign general: “NO ONE’S SAYING ANYTHING, BUT WE’RE THINKING VERY LOUDLY.”
Rory: “I see you went to the same acting school I did!”
Tony: “WHERE I COME FROM, WE KILL PEOPLE LIKE YOU.”
Rory, in delivery that will never not kill me: “…..very interesting.”
Tony: “I walk with this terrible piece of acting towards the camera, and you are all left in the background. Now, tell me what you think about that, eh?”
[PERFECT. Even Clive’s losing it.]
A very, very fun scene, made better by Tony’s accent and Rory’s fantastic Roger Moore impression.
Prison Visitor: Josie
Tony: stole a jumbo jet
Mike: smuggled a grandfather clock
Tony has a great moment that not a lot of people catch:
Tony embraces the goofiness of his, by singing about how he ‘hooked a 747 down my pants’.
As Josie sings the rebuttal verse, Tony grabs the bar set and swings it to whichever direction he’s bobbing to, which is a hysterical visual, the prisoner picking up the iron bars and dancing with them…and not choosing to escape.
Tony gives Josie a look at the end of her rebuttal verse, and as Tony walks back to the seats, Josie gives him a swift kick in the butt.
Then, as Clive gets the suggestion for Mike, Mike is doing a Gorillas in the Mist routine with Josie over the bars.
Josie, in a high-pitched voice: “I CAN HIDE THE GRANDFATHER CLOCK, I CAN SHOVE IT UP MY BUM…BUT I’LL BE IN A LOT OF PAIN, WITH THE SWING FROM THE PENDULUM…”
A very cute number all around from Josie and Mike, and a capper on a really fun game of Prison Visitor, which is refreshing in the age of Bartender taking over.
World’s Worst: Person to be President During an Intergalactic Crisis
Rory, as Reagan: “…will ya give me another go?”
[Mike HOWLS at that one]
Tony: “Ladies and gentlemen, Richard Nix-….oh dear.”
The audience applauds, then boos, which Tony notes.
Tony: “…reconciliation, then…”
Clive: “topical now, but it’ll be great in 6 months time when this goes out.”
Tony: “He’ll still be dead!”
Rory, as Clive: “Right, well, I’d like you to form a government in the style of, um, well…”
Very funny round, especially for those dark highlights.
Props: Rory and Tony vs. Josie and Mike
Tony: “…Naomi Campbell!”
Rory, beating the props: “I learned to drum in a library.”
This one got REALLY silly after a while, especially on Tony and Rory’s side.
Duet: Mike and Josie sing an early rock and roll song about a boiler
Mike: “Early rock and roll, what, before THIS point in your hairline, or THIS point…”
Man, the Clive slams are coming from everywhere tonight..
Josie has a great start, but Mike amps the energy the second he starts singing, and gets the audience laughing along with him.
Party Quirks: Tony hosts
Josie: football player
Rory: thinks he’s Tony
Mike: pig wrangler
Rory, in a PITCH PERFECT TONY IMPRESSION: “WELL HELLO, I’M SORRY TO GAPE, BUT I HEARD THEY WERE FILMING A TELEVISION PROGRAM HERE!”
[Mike loses it in the background]
Rory: “WHERE’S THE CAMERA, IS IT OVER THERE?”
Tony, figuring it out: “OH, HA HA HA….HAAAAA HAAAA…”
The audience applauds for about 10 seconds after the buzz-out.
Tony, to the camera: “Can I just say….I’m not playing anymore…”
Mike’s is great, because he starts wrangling a pig, then tosses it to Josie, who bounces it on her head. It’s a fantastic collaborative move.
A lower-key party for Tony, even if it ends in him not knowing what a pig-wrangler was even after Clive gives it to him.
Clive: “You’ve proved one thing, Tony, that you can always recognize it when they’re impersonating YOU, so I’ll give you a few points for that.”
Tony: “SHUT YOUR FACE…”
Clive: “…and you can take a joke.”
Helping Hands: Mike is a plane passenger, and Josie, ft Tony’s hands, is the stewardess.
Tony, ever the cheeky one, holds his arms up so his forearms are right against Josie’s chest, which cracks her up.
Mike starts the scene by making a very oblique reference to Air Canada, and immediately apologizes for it. Either he was making a product plug, or there was a 1994-era reference that’s lost on me.
Josie mentions it’s actually Air Bangkok, and Tony responds by doing a lewd finger gesture.
Josie, realizing what Tony’s going for: “And if you’ve got a baby on the plane, we ALWAYS LIKE TO PUT…[..] a cake on its head…”
Josie: “They’re not thinking “OH DEAR I’M FLYING IN THE SKY”, they’re thinking “…what the bloody hell have I got a cake on my head for…”
Josie gets something in her eye, so Tony throws his hand towards Josie’s face. Josie, in a rare show of retribution, opens her mouth and bites down on one of his fingers. You can see, sort of like Colin’s coffee disaster, the pain and reaction. He also responds by grabbing Josie’s chest once again.
And not even playfully rubbing up against her chest. Tony, at the end of this game, is outwardly feeling Josie up, in an effort mostly to get a reaction out of her. In 2018, people would cry foul, but Tony was literally going for retribution and screwing with his fellow improviser rather than being a perv. It’s like Colin trying to figure out who’s a man and who’s a woman in Party Quirks.
The game ends abruptly, as Tony’s feeling around, and as Mike’s trying to revert the game back to good improv, but it’s still a funny enough scene, even if it did get a bit crazy.
Hoedown: Pony Trekking
Rory: “I like going on ponies, and bashing them with bricks
It doesn’t really hurt me but it makes them go much faster…”
Both Mike and Josie do more unconventional Hoedowns, and this only sort of works for them.
Tony: “I like to go a-trekking on the country on a pony
I’m very friendly with the critter, I say HELLO I’M TONY…
And then- OH LOOK OUT there’s something nasty in the way
It’s not a pony dumpy, but it’s Mr. Anderson’s toupee.”
ONE MORE CLIVE SLAM to end the night.
Overall: Another strong show from a very strong series. The presence of Ryan Stiles wasn’t exactly missed, as Tony, Mike and Josie were all strong enough together, as they have been on various occasions since the beginning. This was Tony’s show to carry, as coke-aside he was pretty funny tonight, working well with everyone, and giving good stuff in every game, even if he had to grope a fellow improviser. Josie and Mike excelled at musical moments, and gave some classy stuff to the proceedings. While Rory Bremner brings up the rear, this was still a welcome return for him; his impressions were fantastic, but his improv still needs work. He would return intermittently and interact with the Ryan-Colin-Greg crowd.
Show Winner: Mike
Best Performer: Tony Slattery, for making me laugh even while guessing himself
Worst Performer: Rory Bremner for not doing much else other than impressions.
Best Game: Helping Hands, for having so many funny moments in a short span, and for having some lampshading with Tony and Josie.
Worst Game: Props, by default