Well…it’s that time. It’s time to talk about how and why one of the funniest and smartest comedy minds of our generation, Mr. Stephen Colbert, sucked on Whose Line.
Colbert’s record speaks for himself: he got his start in Second City, and in the improv scenes of Chicago and New York, teaming with Steve Carell early on, then joining the writing staff of the Dana Carvey Show and getting sketch comedy experience. His credits then played like a comedy writing hall of fame: several years as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, then eight years as the host of the similar show The Colbert Report, and finally…the latest host of CBS’s The Late Show, where he has remained to this day. To say Colbert is funny is an understatement, and possibly an insult.
So…why didn’t he work on Whose Line? Well, according to Colbert himself, he didn’t know WL would be so dependent on short-form improv. Unlike Ian Gomez, Kathy Kinney and Phil LaMarr, I don’t believe that he saw the show ahead of time in order to prep, and didn’t seem to be the greatest fits for many short-form games, especially one in particular.
This is all from recollection, and Colbert’s retrospective disappointment may not connect to this being a good episode or not. So, let’s see what we’ve got here:
Weird Newscasters: Stephen anchors, Colin, mother doing baby talk to the anchor, co-anchors, Wayne, Bill Cosby, does sports, while Ryan, in love with the camera, does weather
Stephen is dry as all hell as anchor, and I did see him trying not to laugh during Colin’s initial briefing, though his eventual turn back to camera with “Keep us up to date on that, Bill”, got a laugh from me AND Drew
Surprisingly, Stephen’s doing the best so far, because Colin’s was kind of one-note, Wayne’s hasn’t aged well and is ALSO one note, and…now we get to Ryan
Ryan’s is damn near masterful. First he catches passing glances of the camera. Then predicts “a little moisture”, which gets a laugh. Then eventually does a spinning move from a 30s romance movie, spinning about under the camera, singing something. It’s pretty graceful, especially given Ryan’s usual bawdiness
Eventually, Ryan sees the other camera, goes “who’s he?”, then beats the other camera to a pulp
[Stephen, under this, tries to wrap up, but Ryan’s not done. They kept the feed where his mic doesn’t pick up as much, but it’s still audible]
An uneven WN, that’s for sure, but damn if Ryan didn’t bring it
Scene to Rap: Avalanche
As they get up for this, Stephen feigns an excited expression towards Colin. One of the things the producers promised Stephen, according to retrospective interviews, is that they wouldn’t make him rap. And yet…
And then there’s this shot:
…which is great
Okay, the start of this scene is great, because Stephen and Wayne coordinate a very fun skiing dance.
Wayne: “oh look at my, oh look at me
I’m the only black guy here to ski”
Stephen…has a different rhyme scheme than Wayne, and is a bit clumsier, but still has the style down. I mean, at least he’s trying
Ryan does hop in as a ‘St. Bernard’, who gets them to safety, which is a nice touch
Colin’s just as clumsy as Stephen, comes in with a magnifying glass, and…gets stuck on the end of his rhyme, so just goes into the next verse, going “way way way way…SAFER.”
Wayne, at the end, goes “OH…NOW..” thinking the song’s gonna keep going, but it ends…and Drew buzzes. Everyone cracks at that.
An EXTREMELY clumsy playing of this. Which is to say…a Scene to Rap playing
Moving People: Two Navy SEALs at the beach about to embark on a mission to blow up an enemy boat
Drew, on Colin’s mover: “Uh, Bonita’s spanish for lots of bones”
Ryan’s mover is having trouble getting Ryan to smile, so he’s just waving at his cheeks. Drew gives him more direction
Ryan: “I see something in the distance”
Ryan’s mover drops him to his knees
Ryan: “…it’s VERY LOW in the distance”
Ryan, whose mover keeps raising his arms: “I’m using semaphore!”
Colin, whose mover is only moving his leg back and forth: “…so am I, but just with my legs”
Ryan’s mover pulls his head out from on the floor after 10 seconds: “AGH! I ALMOST SUFFOCATED IN THE SAND!”
Colin, after a crash:
Colin: “I’M IN THE WATER, SIR!”
Ryan, whose hand is still raised upward: “…I must be in the german army!”
Colin: “Sir, the boat is right in front of us!”
Ryan, as his mover is just moving his arms periodically in poses: “QUIET, I’M EXPRESSING MYSELF”
Another very clusterfuck-y game, with at least a few amusing moments, but they couldn’t do anything because of the ineptitude of their movers
Props: Wayne and Colin vs. Ryan and Stephen
Stephen: “…forgive me father, for I have sinned…”
Colin: “whoever killed these smurfs meant business…”
Colin, doing a great props joke of this for the second show in a row: “I have brought you the head of Woody Woodpecker”
Pretty damn good Props round. I’m glad Stephen and Ryan worked well together
Greatest Hits: Songs of the Pro-Bowler
Am I the only one who would have loved to see Stephen do this game with Colin?
Ryan, after some bizarre opening tangents from Colin: “…you’re drinking coffee again, aren’t you?”
Ryan nearly cracks before his, as he’s got basically nothing, but comes through with ‘gutterball’ right at the last second. Colin cracks as well
Ryan’s crying as we get back from Wayne’s song
Colin: “Hey, don’t cry, you’re not that good an actor!”
HA! And Colin just goes right back like nothing’s happened
There’s a laugh after Colin gives Wayne his Jerry Lee Lewis title, “bowl me, strike me, spare me?” Is there another connotation here, other than the fact that Wayne has to sing a Jerry Lee Lewis song?
That being said, Wayne’s Jerry Lee Lewis voice is pretty damn good in this.
Wayne high-fives Laura after this one. Must have been another ‘beat THAT’ GH playing, which…have been beginning to tire me out.
Party Quirks: Stephen hosts
Wayne – World’s longest touchdown celebration
Colin – Lobster trying to talk his way out of being cooked
Ryan – Footage of crash test dummies
Colin’s has him immediately facepalming
Colin has me laughing almost immediately, with his little pincer hands. He looks at the appetizers, and goes “…I HOPE YOU’RE MAKING TEA…”
And Ryan is fantastic at his, because he’s great at imitating the moment of impact by having all his limbs just go limp at once, and then going back and doing it again. So far, Stephen seems to have no leads
Wayne is getting all the laughs from Drew by continuing to high-five audience members, hooting and hollering…and he knows Stephen has no clue
Yes, a lot of this is just Stephen looking around, looking insanely overwhelmed by all 3
Stephen cracks a little when he realizes what Wayne’s been doing, which is nice
Ryan just…does his whole motion again. And restarts.
Stephen, still dumbfounded: “…you’re an amoeba”
Yeah, as funny as everyone was being…poor Stephen. He was completely overwhelmed, and not even in a Tony Slattery way
Drew does this in place of Stephen, but I would have loved to see Stephen attempt a Hoedown
A lot of these are ho-hum, but, as per the theme, Ryan’s is good: he talks about how there’s nothing on, and there should just be a show about him, “and it’ll happen when [whispered] I murder Drew Carey”
Forgettable Hoedown for a forgettable show.
Overall: Good lord. Even the Kathy Kinney show had a few games that not only worked, but were funny. What did this show have? Props? Ryan in WN? Party Quirks? Gosh, this one was really dull and uninspired, with no real standout games, and Ryan’s usual standout stuff keeping it chugging along. Stephen seemed to do well when he could, but overall…he was just miscast. I don’t think he was right for this show, and he seemed to know it, even if he was having a good time. Perhaps if he was given one more show, he would have really nailed it and swapped off with Greg Proops, but…as is, he got a better career by not being on WL.
Show Winner: Stephen
Best Performer: Ryan, for just…doing his thing
Worst Performer: Stephen. Poor fella never had a chance
Best Game: Am I really just gonna say Props because it’s easy? Yeah.
Worst Game: Hoedown had basically nothing.
Coming Up Next: Thank god, a Denny show. This means it’ll be a ton better…I HOPE.