It’s at this point in the Whose Line journey that we must discuss the tragic downfall of Tony Slattery. A performer who was synonymous with the show in its early era, evolved with the Americanization of the show, and thrived alongside both John Sessions AND Ryan Stiles. Around the end of Series 5, however, his cocaine habits began to take hold, and awaken the more drastic aspects of his burgeoning bipolar disorder and general anxiety. Tasks that were once so simple to Tony, like guessing people in Party Quirks or getting through a singing game, were approached with nervous giggles and a general unfit nature.
Simply put, in Series 7, Tony Slattery was a shell of his former self. Everyone knew it. The performers knew it. His comedy partner, Mike McShane, knew it. The producers knew it. And, with Episode 6, the audience would know it too; this would be Tony’s final episode of Whose Line (not counting compilations). It would also be the last appearance for a few years for Mike McShane, who would leave the show out of respect for his friend Tony.
All of this being said, I think the episode does deserve to be looked at on its own, aside from the controversy surrounding it. This still has a great matchup, with Tony and Mike taking on Ryan and Colin. Colin and Mike hadn’t worked with each other since Series 3, so this was a nice change of pace.
Superheroes: Hole in the Ozone Layer
Colin: Tight Trouser Man
Ryan: Jilted Lover Boy
Tony: Obscure Reference Boy
Mike: Coquettish Slut Man
Colin’s opening physicality is fantastic, GETTING INTO said tight trousers, and having all sorts of struggles. Hell, the tightness even affects how he moves, as he sort of wiggles about without being able to move his legs very much.
Ryan, entering and noticing the elephant in the room: ‘Sorry I’m late, I couldn’t OHHHH MY GOD…”
Ryan: “…I would have been here earlier, but the BITCH HAD SOME ERRANDS TO DO!”
[Thankfully this is the type of character Ryan plays very well]
Ryan thankfully gives Tony something he can excel at. After Colin mentions the crisis again, Tony goes “And not the first time. REMEMBER? …Yes…” With a wink and a thumbs-up to the audience.
Mike: “WELLLLL, that’s a mighty-big hoooollleee…”
Ryan, outraged: “I KNOW HER! I KNOW HER!”
Mike: “Oh, you know me baby…”
Colin: “DON’T GET TOO CLOSE, MY PANTS ARE TIGHT ENOUGH!”
Ryan can’t think of a good exiting line, so he pauses, goes “…yeeeahhh”, then exits.
Colin, trying to wrap up: “Well, thank god that….[feels around his back]….the HANGER’s still in here!”
A really successful Superheroes, giving its best moments when everyone is interacting, especially Mike and Ryan, who had a really nice moment.
Secret: Ryan and Colin are prisoners. The secret is in the curtains
Finally, the debut of this simple but classic game.
Clive, getting the secret placement suggestion: “In the toilet??? They don’t have toilets in prison cells. Those are buckets!”
And then, “Between the curtains? You’re a frustrated theatre director, aren’t you? You can see it all…this prison cell with TOILETS and CURTAINS…”
Ryan starts the scene playing darts. Which reestablishes the ‘ridiculously high-end prison’ thing.
Ryan, then: “Wanna have a jacuzzi?”
Ryan and Colin actually do some really great acting pre-secret, with high tempers, and really nice lines about life outside prison. Proof that scenes like these could really bring out the best in them.
Colin, finally opening the curtains: “…My god…a HAMSTER WITH EXPLOSIVES AROUND ITS WAIST!”
Ryan: “…That’s Jerry. See, they don’t put bars in this prison, they just…wire up small animals. Same with the trip-mines. Like, anywhere you walk, you could set off a squirrel…or, a rhino could go off right in front of ya!”
[That’s some really bizarrely funny stuff from Ryan right there]
Colin: “THAT’S IN…HUMAN!”
Ryan: “I know it’s inhuman, but we’re saving money, don’t you see? People are tired of paying for prisons…and they hate small animals!”
Colin: “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE LITTLE ANIMALS??”
Ryan: “WHO CARES? It’s not just the LITTLE animals, Phil.”
With that, he rips off his mask and pulls his arms up to his chest as Colin shrieks. Of course, that’s when Clive buzzes, as the scene can’t really top that.
Whoa…my god. That was some really bizarrely funny stuff right off the bat for this game. It was also surprisingly well-acted, and had some great serious moments for both guys.
Clive, postmortem: “How would you describe that improvisation. Surreal or drug induced?”
Foreign Film Dub: The Russian film ‘The Death of Boris Simpsinsky’, acted by Mike and Tony, dubbed by Colin and Ryan
Someone, when asked by Clive for a Russian film title, yells out ‘The death of Bart Simpson.’
Clive: “…That’s very big in Russia, isn’t it? Could we do the death of somebody else, somebody a bit more Russian, maybe?”
Another audience member: “Bart Simpson in Red Square.”
Clive: “…No, make the PERSON a bit more Russian…you’ve peaked too early with your suggestion there…”
Ryan, after a passionate Tony line: “Tell me, are you a man or a woman?”
[Both Mike and Tony crack a smile at that one]
Colin: “Today’s Tuesday,…So I’m a man…”
After Colin suggests they drink a celebratory shot “out of these Mickey Mouse cups”
Tony, abhorrent: “DAAAHHH”
Ryan, taking him literally: “…Yes!”
Colin takes a Mike line and translates it as “Why don’t you do that limerick you always do?”
Tony smirks, realizing that he has to do that now, and sighs.
Ryan: “…there once was a nan from Chernobyl…”
A MUCH BETTER Foreign Film Dub than the last few, made funnier by Tony and Mike both being really serious in acting, and Colin and Ryan moving the scene along AND being really funny.
Sound Effects: Colin is a barber, Ryan does sound effects
Clive announces the scene to Colin: “You’re at the barber’s. Obviously not an everyday activity for you OR me, but you ARE the barber…”
The first great gag is Colin raising the chair so high that the patron bonks their head on the ceiling. Then, there’s the bit where Colin sprays until he thinks he’s run out, then sprays it towards himself as IT SUDDENLY HAS FLUID IN IT AGAIN, as Colin winces.
Then, there’s the obvious:
Colin: [does first shaving motion]
There’s a great amount of physical comedy done here, which ends with Colin just knocking the guy over the head after he struggles. It’s a really nice scene, even though I didn’t always know what Colin was doing.
Animals: Mike has brought bad news to Ryan and Colin. All are dinosaurs.
The first few seconds of this is pure joy- all three roaming around the stage as dinosaurs. Obviously Colin’s is the silliest, but Ryan and Mike don’t do too badly. They’re just sort of goose-stepping in circles.
The best part of the scene is the fact that all three sort of play their characters as paranoid, sort of jittering around at any second. Ryan hears that a friend of theirs has gone extinct, and begins to wobble over there before Mike calls him back.
Colin does throw in a great sight gag, with a dinosaur trying to smoke a cigarette with such small arms.
Then, right after a serious Mike-Ryan discussion
Colin: “UGH! Laid an egg.”
Mike and Colin just keep laying eggs. Ryan even does the same motion.
Ryan, after a moment: “Oh, uh, that’s not an egg.”
Down a bit from the last few scenes, but still funny, and with enough silly physicality to keep people laughing.
Old Job New Job: Tony and Colin are waiting for their builder, Ryan. All three used to be models.
Tony and Colin are great in the first portion, using all sorts of excuses to strike various poses, looking dapper at any point.
Ryan: “I brought all my tools, including my hammer. It’s reversible and comes with a matching scarf.”
It sort of turns into a game of Stand Sit Lean, where all three pick various moments to pose with each other, in all sorts of positions.
Harmless but fun game.
Party Quirks: Tony hosts
Mike: in love with cameras
Colin: All 7 dwarves
Ryan: animals crossing the road
Ooof. Okay. This is where it begins to get hard-to-watch.
Mike, immediately won over: “….Nice cameras. Where’d you get ’em?”
Tony: “…are you Lionel Blair?”
Colin immediately gets the audience on his side, shifting into each dwarf after a second or so, doing all the obvious ones, giving a ‘fuck off’ sign for Grumpy, and, most cleverly, smoking a joint for Dopey.
The whole time, Tony is just watching bewildered. Without even trying to guess. After a while, the nervous laughter begins.
Then, Ryan comes in with his first of many silly animal quirks. It works as such- he comes in as an animal, glares at the camera, then tries to get across the stage. To be honest, if I were Tony, I’d be laughing at this too.
Tony does manage to get Colin, which is nice.
Mike starts pontificating about ‘early cinema’ and cameras…to the camera. Meanwhile, in the background, Ryan runs across, doing his fish impression. Tony can’t take any of this.
Tony: “Oh, Erich von Stroheim.”
Clive: “NO, BUT WHAT DOES HE LIKE?”
Tony: “DON’T RUSH ME!!!”
Mike, desperately trying to give it to Tony: “D’YOU KNOW WHAT I LOOOOVE???”
Tony: “You shut up, it’s MY PARTY…And I’LL BE CRAP IF I WANT TO!”
The sight continues. Mike points out the exact cameraman, Peter, and talks about wanting to see him buck-naked behind this exact camera, as Ryan’s running around in the background doing more animal impressions.
There’s a moment’s pause as Ryan gets back to the step. THEN HE COMES BACK AS A MONKEY, giving the PERFECT TIMED BEAT.
As Tony stares, bewildered, overwhelmed, Ryan gets on the ground and does a snake impression.
Then, once Ryan has been run over, flat on the ground, Tony points and goes “IT IS LIONEL BLAIR!!!”
Mike starts aggressively humping and kissing the camera. We cut back to Tony and he’s completely lost, and mentally drained. Yes, the audience laughs, but they think he’s doing this for a joke. He’s not. He’s completely overstimulated.
Tony, still trying to guess Ryan: “I said ‘a menagerie of animals’
Clive: “Yes, but what are the animals doing?”
Tony: [furrows brows]
Ryan, desperate: “LOOK OUT FOR THE THING ON FOUR WHEELS THAT RUNS ON UNLEADED GAS!!!”
There’s a serious of looks after that line that always kills me:
It gets to the point where Clive literally has to give Tony the card.
Tony: “They’re animals crossing the r-GET YOUR HAND OFF! They’re animals crossing the road!”
He then looks completely disappointed as the audience applauds for the end of the game. He smiles, then walks back to his seat, still overwhelmed and crushed by that entire game.
Clive’s postscript doesn’t help any: “Well done, Tony, you’ve finally got it…just from the skin of the improvisation of me showing it to you, written on a piece of paper. So, no points to Tony, in fact I don’t think we’ll have him on the show ever again.”
Yes, that is Clive being Clive, but…if you know what happens, it’s incredibly harsh and too mean-spirited even for Clive. I don’t know if Clive knew what Tony was going through, but you’d think he’d at least have a hint.
Still, from an improv standpoint it was still a funny game. All three quirks were hilarious, the way Mike and Ryan kept going even as Tony looked dumbfounded was still funny, and even Tony gave an intentional laugh with his triple-take at the end. It’s a BIT hard to watch, but it’s not by any means an unfunny game. It’s not like the Rizzle Kicks episode of NMTB. I can still watch it and laugh, without COMPLETELY feeling bad.
Colin: Angry about being jilted
Tony: in love with cats
Ryan: is celebrating being invited to the Queen’s garden party
Colin shakes his head in coming up first.
Clive: “…always strong on the singing ones, Colin…”
Colin does well enough, but eventually falls back to his own tricks:
“It wouldn’t happen ordinarily
But…la la la lee lee…”
As Mike sings his response verse, Colin takes a swig of the bartender bottle, and recoils immediately.
Mike sings a very fun verse, which Colin happily sings along to. As Colin leaves, he yells back a thank you to Mike.
Mike, under applause: “AND PAY FOR YOUR FUCKIN’ DRINK!”
Tony, upon entering, IMMEDIATELY takes a swig of alcohol, and he doesn’t seem to recoil as much as Colin did, though he does seem a little shocked by the blowback of whatever’s in that bottle.
Tony, immediately back to his best singing mojo:
“I’ve got a passion that can’t seem to be swerved
I’m like Mrs. Slocombe from Are You Being Served…
You may think that I’m some kind of wussy
But I can’t get enough of daily pussy so…”
Mike, immediately: “You’ve got a problem on your hands.”
Tony: [sniffs hand]
Mike: “I can smell it, it’s those kitty love glands…”
Tony: [bites lip]
Surprisingly cool stuff from Mike and Tony there, as Tony had left the strain of the last game completely behind him, it seems.
Ryan takes his suggestion and, because he doesn’t really know what the Queen’s Garden Party entails, twists it a bit:
“I got some kind of extraordinary news today
A special person’s called me over…for a little play
She’s the best one that I’ve ever seen
Unfortunately it’s not that same queen
that you’re thinking about…this girl’s name is Roy.”
Mike, as well as the audience, takes another bar to recover from that one
Mike does agree that Queen Roy’s parties are legendary
“There’s naked men…on a trapeeze
Nicholas Parsons covered with cheddar cheese
Singing from the balcony chandelier!”
Ryan: “Sounds like it’s great!”
Mike: “You’re just in time for the vomit fountain of beer.”
Ryan: [runs offstage]
A pretty fantastic Bartender, with all four getting moments to shine, and Mike having one last jovial singing game in his prime.
Overall: Well, there was exactly ONE hard-to-watch moment in the show, and that was the end of Party Quirks. Everything else was really, REALLY funny. A few games like Old Job New Job and Animals stop this from being a flawless show, but the rest of it? My god. Insanely funny stuff all around. It’s so funny that, aside from Party Quirks, Tony didn’t show too many other moments of anxiousness throughout the show. He was really funny in games like Old Job New Job and Bartender, mostly because he wasn’t being overwhelmed by having to guess people there. It was only the overstimulation of Party Quirks that did him in. In terms of the rest of the panel, nothing but gold stars all around for Mike and Colin for some solid work, but especially Ryan, for dominating another episode and even being a great supporter in games like Superheroes and Party Quirks. For such a monumental, end of an era episode, this one was a little sad, as Tony and Mike did make the show great, but mostly just a satisfying, truly funny show.
Show Winners: Ryan and Colin
Best Performer: Ryan, for doing some heavy lifting in big places tonight
Worst Performer: Tony, for showing improvement but still limping through Party Quirks.
Best Game: Secret, just beating Bartender simply for having some more consistent laughs, and less fear to go to more bizarre improv places.
Worst Game: Old Job New Job, just for having the least to it.