In doing this Watchdown over the past 3 years, I’ve learned to look forward to certain milestones in Whose Line history.
When I started the UK version, I looked forward to getting to the Neon Love Chicken episode in Season 6.
When I started the US version, I balanced out when I’d get to the Melissa show, the Captain Hair show, the Robin Williams show and the Howard show.
And now…we are here. 5×17. The one that even people who don’t know a goddamned thing about Whose Line know about. The Richard Simmons episode.
The entire internet has united behind the fact that this is the funniest moment in the show’s history. When I started going on YouTube to find clips from this series, back in 2006, this was one of the few clips that was already there, waiting. Hell, if it weren’t for the public outcry for WL clips after the Richard Simmons one went huge, 12Medbe may never have started posting clips on a weekly basis, and the fanbase for the show may have never been cemented.
[I know I keep bringing up 12Medbe a lot, but I can’t quite root the success of the ABC family era of the show back to bigfishpotatoe or TadekDDZ, can I?]
So, I’m gonna be looking at this episode, this Greg episode from the 504 taping that we already got 5×10 from, that the fans have dubbed the funniest one in the show’s history, and I’m gonna try and figure out why. I like this episode a lot, but I never found it as funny as everyone else did. So I’m gonna really dive in and think about what here is so amazing.
Multiple Personalities: Greg, Ryan and Wayne are on a safari in the deepest African jungle when they realize their guides have deserted them and they are lost
Fly-swatter – Richard Simmons
Machete – Elvis
Binoculars – Scooby-Doo
One of the things I love about this show is how they set up the guest star with the games before it. This and Newsflash foreshadow things a bit.
Also, interesting that once again they pick Wayne to play this over Colin. Woulda loved to see Colin’s Simmons impression
Greg, as Simmons, immediately rushes to Drew, who’s one of the ‘natives’, and starts doing his schtick: “I can help you. Go through my plan, each day take one of these, one blue card, one PINK CARD, ALL RIGHT?”
Greg, finally to Drew: “You need to get up from behind that desk, mister!”
Wayne’s Elvis is INSANELY strong, going into a Heartbreak-Hotel-esque song about going ‘that wayyyyy’
Ryan, finally, and immortally: “RUH-OH.”
We were all waiting.
Wayne, as Richard: “Oh my god, there’s…RIGHT’AS ON THE RUH-ROH…”
Just trying to interpret Ryan
I love that when Ryan passes Wayne the binoculars, he tries to do it without getting the Simmons flyswatter, and grits his teeth, NOT WANTING to do that impression
I also love Greg agreeing with Wayne AS SCOOBY. Like a Scooby-fied ‘that’s what I was trying to say’.
Wayne grabs the flyswatter from Ryan, and for a second, does Simmons AND Elvis, and does great. He passes Ryan the machete, so it’s not as long as it could be. Greg, thinking well, gives Wayne the binoculars, and he does a ROUSING ‘Scooby Doo as Richard Simmons’ routine, doing army crawls on the ground as Scooby. It’s hysterical
A pretty good Multiple Personalities. Not exactly the height of the game, like we’ve gotten recently, but all 3 had fun, and Wayne was a tour de force.
Drew gives a “special YIPEE-YI-OH for Ryan Stiles”
Ryan: “I never tire of it.”
This makes a lot more sense in the context of 5×20
Newsflash: Greg and Ryan in the studio, Colin in the field in front of clips of Richard Simmons
Greg and Ryan’s intro is one of my favorites in the game’s history:
Greg: “So she’s left! I woke up this morning, and the place is…just empty.”
Ryan: “She’s over at my place.”
Greg: “What d’you mean she’s over at your place.”
Ryan: “Give her a call, she’s just staying for a couple-”
I wish the rest of the times they try this sort of opening were as good as this one
Just from the opening shot:
That’s just great
My theory is that RIGHT HERE:
RIGHT HERE…Ryan realizes who the guest star might be for this episode.
Also, let it be known that THIS is the first phallic Richard Simmons gag of the show:
Greg: “This has been described as one of the most terrifying sights any human can imagine”
AND HE’S HERE TONIGHT!!!
Colin, motioning to Richard: “It started off quite small, and then it grew to THIS.”
Right after a shot of Richard’s vibrating chest
Colin: “I’m sorry, sometimes I just have to STOP AND LOOK.”
Colin gets it right, thank god.
Not a bad Newsflash, though like the Springer one, the clips themselves did a lot of the work
Song Styles: Wayne sings a disco song to Richard Simmons, backed up reluctantly by Ryan, Colin and Greg
And now…we go down the rabbit hole with Richard Simmons
I love Wayne’s surprised arm movements once he finds out who’s here. Like he’s kind of frightened.
Richard is…exactly what you’d expect. He rushes in, getting the audience to stand and applaud, getting the whole place to go crazy. And, of course, he gives Wayne a big hug. HE EVEN HUGS THE OTHER 3, which Greg gets a kick out of.
Literally, the whole panel’s laughing after Richard’s entrance. Richard is EXACTLY what they thought he’d be, and they can’t believe it
Richard, to Wayne: “You have the most beautiful teeth!”
And he’s as straight as you’d think, as well
Drew: “I want my clothes back after the show”
Richard: “I have a tank-top for ALL OF YOU, TONIGHT”
Greg, as Drew intros the game, is HOWLING laughing. Haven’t heard him this giggly in a while
Wayne, right before he starts, to Richard leaning on his shoulder: “MA, CAN I KEEP HIM?”
Richard: [gets the entire audience clapping]
He cannot believe this
Then, Richard goes to Ryan, and Colin and Greg but mostly Ryan, and motions for him to come up. Ryan, of course, would rather not.
Ryan, as this is not his comfort zone, stays to the background, DJing
Richard is SO into this number, dancing around and hyping Wayne up as he sings to him. Richard may not know a lot about improv, but he knows one of the golden rules- MAKE YOUR SCENE PARTNER LOOK GOOD. And not only is HE making Wayne look good, but he’s got the entire audience AND the other 3 on his side, dancing and clapping. He’s making sure Wayne can’t fail even if he tries. And that’s admirable as hell.
Richard does a dance move that has Greg double over in mid dance move
Also, middle of this, Colin glances at Drew:
Colin’s just amused as hell
Wayne: “When I say P-H-A-T, damn, he’s so phat”
Very careful there
Wayne, in the middle of another dance move, in song, “WHAT THE HELL YA DOING, RICHARD?”
[I always laugh at that. It goes from ‘look at him go’ to ‘WHAT THE HELL’S HE DOING?’.]
Richard, and then Wayne, lift a leg up while laying down. Greg and Colin, meanwhile, take pictures in between legs
[Poor Ryan. Turning away]
Wayne: “I’m funky with Richard, WHAT’S MY WIFE GONNA SAY?”
Immediately after the song ends, Colin checks his pulse. BROTHER, JUST YOU WAIT.
Drew: “I dunno about you, but I feel 10 pounds lighter already.”
Wayne: “I feel 10 pounds lighter and JUST A LITTLE DIRTY.”
Greg’s howling in the back. I don’t blame him
Greg: “Aw, man. If you all got to see what me and Colin got to see…”
Ryan: “LITTLE RICHARD!”
Greg: “He was dealing so much more than a meal!”
A really strong Song Styles, with a ton of energy, some fun lyrics, and some great participation from everyone. And OF COURSE Richard loved it.
Living Scenery: On a luxury cruise liner, a couple, Ryan and Colin, makes the most of a day of sunbathing, water sports, and entertainment.
Wayne and Richard will be all the props for these men
EXPECT LOTS OF WORDS
I love how once Richard pops up next to Ryan, he’s gonna put an arm around him or something, but he has no idea what to do with said arm, and he just…awkwardly places it by his side.
Richard, still very high energy: “THIS IS MY FAVORITE GAME, HOW ABOUT YOU ALL?”
My…god. There’s a Never Mind the Buzzcocks where Jedward had a whole thing of chocolate before they went on and bounced off the goddamned walls. They’ve got nothing on Richard
Drew explains the game: “However, since they don’t have any pro-”
Richard, STARTLING THE HELL OUT OF COLIN: “I’LL BE THE PROP! I’ll be ALL THE PROPS for these men…”
I love that Richard knows he’s winning over Wayne, Colin and Drew, but not Ryan, so he just does this…butch, arms-crossed, gruff position, just trying to either act like or make fun of Ryan, and drops his voice down a few octaves, a lot closer to his actual tone I believe, going “…hey Drew…”
It’s like he knows he just made a gay joke, and is jokingly trying to contradict it by acting really masculine. Richard Simmons may have been more self-aware than anyone realized
Ryan wisely casts himself as the woman early. Just to give Colin a break. God knows what Richard would do to Colin if HE’S the woman.
Colin first uses Richard as a city-based telescope thing, which Richard does well, only, uh…
Colin: “…this one wants more coins…”
The audience is already dying at this. Richard once again tries to kiss him, and they laugh harder. Just making this clear- the big laugh that puts the game off-kilter happens right at the start, not just at the jet-skis
Of course, the reactions to the coins line…are huge
Meanwhile, Richard’s still trying
Ryan, rationalizing: “I saw something funny!”
Colin: “Why don’t we get out the deck chairs? You get the shiny one.”
Yep. Switch who gets Richard
[they’re all still howling]
Ryan: “THIS ONE’S WET!”
So at least he’s amused
Colin, lost: “why don’t we, uh…”
Ryan: “JETSKI. I’D LOVE TO!”
Again, Ryan saves Colin’s ass in thinking of this
And Ryan scurries over to Wayne. This is the opposite of most Living Scenery playings. Usually, Ryan races AWAY from Wayne to get to whatever hot guest they have. Here, he’s racing TO Wayne
Colin…shows his inexperience. He flips Richard over, so he can get a better bend, and uh…
Richard is bobbing his head in place, making this the single most suggestive goddamned thing in the world.
WAYNE NOW SEES THIS
AND NOW *HE’S* GONE. And he still has to do the scene and be neutral
Now Ryan’s gone
This is…the hardest I’ve seen Drew laugh in a while. He can barely breathe
Colin, obviously getting the joke, smokes a cigarette after he gets off Richard
After this, Drew’s dead. Greg has completely folded over, crying. AND FOR THE FIRST TIME, WE JUST SHOW THE AUDIENCE
THEY’RE LOSING IT
Ryan: “IT WAS REALLY ROUGH OUT THERE”
Colin, smirking: “…believe me!”
Ryan now realizes he needs to set Colin up for more suggestive Richard things, since that seems to be the game here.
Ryan: “Honey…PLEASE climb that tree and get me a coconut…”
Wayne’s still dying
Colin just grabs one off his crotch area. Of course. Low-hanging fruit.
Colin: “…this tree fell down”
And Colin collects some coconuts from Wayne’s crotch area. Poor Wayne
EVEN RICHARD’S laughing at this
Ryan tries to progress the scene forward: “we need to build…a raft to get off this island.”
Colin: “…we’re not using the jetskis?”
Ryan, saving Colin’s ass: “THEY’RE BROKEN NOW”
[“WAIT A MINUTE. THE CAT.” “THE CAT’S WET NOW”. Same energy.]
Ryan: “And you know how to build a good raft? You put pieces of bamboo together”
Ryan: “LAY THEM DOWN ON THE GROUND-”
Okay, now this scene’s got to me. This scene has a very clear game, and that’s that Richard jokingly wants to screw all three of these guys. And it’s a very belabored game, and they keep hitting beats over and over…but eventually, it breaks me. It’s the old Sid Caesar ‘This is Your Life’ bit. He goes back to repeatedly hugging his Uncle Goopy like seven times, and you get to the point where the second he gets up you start laughing. So seeing Richard knowing exactly what’s about to happen, and breaking the forth wall and adding that little Bugs Bunny touch…that’s what does it for me. Not just the jetskis, or the coins, but everything right after each other, pounding and pounding until it’s all washed over.
Ryan, continuing to screw with Wayne: “IT’S GOTTA BE TIGHTER! TIGHTER!”
Drew is CRYING. Wayne can barely keep together himself.
And this is the visual we end on:
After a few seconds of paddling, Ryan, looking RIGHT AT DREW, literally goes “OH, FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE.” Drew finally buzzes.
I love that that’s how it ends. Ryan literally calls an audible. It’s like Clint Eastwood ending his takes with “that’s enough of that.” Ryan literally goes “for heaven’s sakes”, and the scene ends. I don’t blame him or Drew
Sure enough, Richard gets an UNPROMPTED Standing O. The audience knows he delivered one of the funniest improv scenes they’ve sat through in a while, and they give back.
As they head back, Ryan’s recounting his favorite bit, and he’s cracking while repeating “this one wants more coins”. Greg’s crying. Wayne’s exhausted. Drew’s wiping his eyes.
Colin, of course: “You know what? I have never had a jetski lesson in my life. BUT…I THINK I’M TAKING IT UP!”
I love Colin. He admits his inexperience led to that blowjob joke. And he’s still standing by it
They’re all still basking in it. Drew’s making fun of the jetski. Ryan’s making fun of Richard’s mouth with the coins. Greg’s just…crying. Literally crying.
Greg, finally composed, sums it up: “…I’m just so happy!”
So…that was a fantastic game of Living Scenery. It had a very funny ‘game’ to it, Ryan and Colin responded well to Richard’s suggestiveness, then kept using it to elicit laughs. Lots of really funny bits that have been overheralded all over the internet, but enough that still makes me laugh. May not be THE funniest one, according to me, but still really damn good. Also…Richard Simmons was born for this game. He was INSANELY capable. And funny as hell.
Moving People: Ryan is an outlaw who holds up beautiful heiress Colin’s stagecoach [moved by Drew and Richard]
I like them bringing this one back for Richard, knowing it’d be fun
Richard: “…where’s Wayne?”
Wayne, at the desk: “…wassup baby, how you doin?”
Richard, dropping octaves and using his butch voice, smirking: “I’m doing pretty fine, Wayne, how YOU doin?”
Richard, realizing: “…who’s gonna move…Wayne?”
Ryan: “…WAYNE’S ALREADY BEEN MOVED…”
Drew: “ya can’t move him anymore, he’s been moved already…”
In the interest of time, this scene starts in progress, and only lasts 1 minute. But I wouldn’t want to cut any of Living Scenery either
Colin suggests Ryan feel his butt
Richard, doing what he’s told:
Ryan: “…HMMM…LET ME COMPARE THE TWO.”
Aw god, it’s like no time has passed with him and this game
Ryan: “…your butt is much firmer than mine…”
There’s a lot of random head movement between Drew and Richard, until we get this:
And, of course:
THAT breaks Colin. THAT does it. Ryan’s already had trouble staying together, but when it finally hits Colin, after a whole show of staying together, how ridiculous this is, that’s when you know you’ve got a good one.
A good, fun game of this…but I really wish we’d gotten an extended cut of this. I would have traded Newsflash for it. Just to see the top half of this game. Unless it really WAS that short. In which case…why? It was slightly haphazard, but why THAT short?
Ah, whatever, it’s the Richard Simmons show, so it’s still great.
Overall: Damn. Aside from a few games that were kind of alright in the beginning, this was a jolt of energy. i’ll admit this isn’t THE BEST guest star show (Florence Henderson still tops this one in terms of quality), but in terms of laughs. Oh, man. Song Styles, Living Scenery, and even Moving People are all legitimately funny. It should also be pointed out that Richard Simmons was a lot more lawful of an improv presence than you’d think. In Song Styles, he makes sure everyone’s on Wayne’s side. In Living Scenery, he does the best object work he possibly can, while also being himself. Yes, his fast moving in the ender does take away from this, but it’s not like you can say he wasn’t a good improviser. It’s not like you can say he didn’t want to be there. And it’s not like you can say the show suffered from him being there. This is everything the producers wanted from a guest star taping, and in the future, they’d judge every guest star booking in comparison to this one, trying to find more ‘Richard Simmons moments’.
The other thing that surprised me was how this…still aged pretty well. There was no gay-shaming. The gaiety of the show wasn’t rejected or blocked or anything. Richard still came off as an unmistakable personality despite his flagrant personality. And the laughs did not come from Richard being gay- they came from Richard Simmons being Richard Simmons, and all of these suggestive things happening with him CONTINUING to be Richard Simmons.
Hell, you can even argue that this show solidified Richard’s place in popular culture. The weight loss videos made him a star, but this Whose Line episode made him a wholesome gay icon that was able to make people laugh, intentionally or no. After this show, Howard Stern would have Richard on his program all the time, where he would repeatedly chase after Stern’s producer Gary Dell’abate [“GARY??? GARY WHERE *ARE* YOU?”]. You can also make the argument that the only reason people don’t call Gary ‘Baba Booey’ as much as they used to is because of Simmons yelling specifically ‘GARY?’. Whatever pop culture bookings would happen with Richard contemporarily, it would be this Richard, and the Whose Line episode put the image in people’s minds that this is who Richard was.
However, you can also make the case that this episode ruined his legacy. Since 2014, speculation has loomed over why Simmons hasn’t made any public appearances, and whether or not he’s being held by members of his estate against his will. The same portrayal of Simmons that Whose Line helped cement, the accurate portrayal, was the one in people’s minds when imagining Simmons being held down by his housekeeper. And through all the other false rumors, including one where he was apparently undergoing gender confirmation therapy [which has been debunked], people had to have been thinking about the Whose Line Richard Simmons. The openly gay, innuendo-friendly Simmons. And how this could be his life, and how much sense it made.
Now, granted, you can argue that Simmons made that persona for himself once he started doing weight loss videos and public appearances in general, which I don’t have a big amount of knowledge on. Maybe this is how he was even when marketing to overweight middle-aged women in the 80s. Maybe he didn’t tone it down for them at all. But I honestly think that this was the first mainstream window into how flamboyant and suggestive Richard could be, because everything else might have been either too niche or too sanitized.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m overstating. But Whose Line may have created the legend of Richard Simmons in the modern lexicon. And if that’s the only way average people know about Whose Line, then fine.
Show Winner: Wayne
Best Performer: Wayne Brady. How can I not?
Worst Performer: Greg had the least to do, but even he had great lines during the games he wasn’t in.
Best Game: Living Scenery. It’s a classic for a lot of reasons, and I can say I understood most of them.
Worst Game: Newsflash was the most okay.
COMING UP NEXT: Somehow we have to follow this show. Here’s one from the Salute to TV taping, and some amusing games and runners featuring Brad.