Creator Backlash: Jim Sweeney admitted a few years ago on MySpace that he never really cared much for Whose Line. He explained that while it was fun to do, true improv should never be seen more than once, as would be the case for live shows. He said that Whose Line loses its quality if you watch reruns because you already know what's going to happen, and there's no spontaneity.
Richard Vranch also has mixed feelings about Whose Line? He mostly feels he was wasted on the show as he too is an improvisor, but he was only ever used for doing the music. He actually kept begging the producers during almost his entire run to let him be an actual performer for a few episodes, but they never did.
All of seasons 7 and 8 of the U.S. version are merely cobbled together from old footage not used in previous episodes. As the tapings can take 2-3 hours, it's easy to get a half hour of footage multiple times from them. That said, there are also deleted scenes and games on the season 1 DVD sets, which didn't appear in any proper episodes.
Parodied in-show with the game "Scenes Cut From a Movie".
Executive Meddling: During a playing of "Title Sequence", Drew asked for the names of two unlikely roommates; he took the suggestions Bill Cosby and Adolf Hitler. Almost instantly, a director came up to Drew and informed him that he had to use something else in place of Hitler. Drew reluctantly settled for "Bill Cosby and the Insurance Salesman". Amusingly, the remainder of the episode consisted of the cast mocking the director's decision by working in jabs about Hitler. In particular, Ryan's hoedown about directors (where he said the director of Whose Line "should sprout a moustache and move to Germany!") received a standing ovation.
Fandom Nod: Before announcing the return of the Hoedown, Aisha acknowledged that the fans were waiting for it.
U.K. version: Only the first two seasons have been released on DVD (and, ironically, only in the US), and there's been no news since.
U.S. version: As of 2011, repeats no longer air on ABC Family or any station, for that matter. And aside from the complete first season and a handful of episodes on a Best-Of DVD, the rest of the series hasn't been released on DVD and there's been no news of further releases in several years.
Missing Episode: The entire second half of the eighth season has never seen the light of day on American television. Also, there's still enough unaired footage and material left to make at least another half season.
Name's the Same: Wayne goes through a variant of this trope with special guest Florence Henderson, better known as Mrs Brady.
Mike often did female roles, long before Colin became known for it.
Speaking of Colin, you do not cast the balding middle-aged man as the romantic female lead. One can onlywonder why.
One of Us: Aisha is an avid gamer in Real Life. (Those gamers who've seen her host the Ubisoft pressers at E3 for the past three years should know this by now.) Not to mention her personable hosting style: sometimes she's practically fangirling over the cast right in front of them.
She also really loves Hoedown, and cheerfully joins in on singing the final line.
Sleeper Hit: The U.S. version wasn't expected to be a huge hit; after all, it aired opposite of ratings juggernaut Friends. Nevertheless, Whose Line gained unexpected popularity. ABC didn't really have a major reason to remove it from the schedule if it received at least modest ratings, given its relatively low production costs.
Society Marches On: Pretty much everything indicated by a TV-PG rating evolved in the decade between American installments, necessitating the use of the word "partner" in place of "girlfriend", and paving the way for a more lighthearted attitude toward dirtier jokes. Also, the cast is more diverse than ever before.
The Cosby/Hitler incident. When the sketch was prohibited right there on the stage (Hitler had to be changed to "insurance salesman"), the cast retaliated by bringing up Hitler as much as they could during the rest of the episode.
Similarly, whenever Drew warns the performers not to come near his desk (usually during "Weird Newscasters" or "Let's Make a Date"), it's near impossible to resist.
Some games were repeated because of some technical mistake like the music synthesizer suddenly doubling its tempo. Wayne's bemused attempts to keep up were too funny to leave out of the official version.
After the playing of "Showstopping Number" set in a factory, Drew threw to commercial, but instead of fading to black like usual, the camera kept rolling while Drew laughed hard at the skit he just watched. This "bonus footage" goes on for a good fifteen seconds.
"Irish Drinking Song" is usually played with all four guys just standing around and maybe waving their mugs, but in the revival series, Gary Anthony Williams apparently decided to liven it up by dancing around like it was a church revival. For all intents and purposes it worked.
Drew Carey merely wanted to produce the show, after learning about Ryan Stiles and Kathy Kinney's improv background in The Drew Carey Show and finding the UK version. The network wasn't interested until Drew offered to host, giving the show significant name recognition.
Wayne Brady said in a radio interview that he really hoped for Stephen Colbert to become a semi-regular 4th Seater like Greg and Brad, but the producers were not impressed by his one appearance.
According to Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson auditioned for Whose Line, but was turned down. However, the producers didn't turn her down because they didn't think she was funny. She was turned down because Fry had already brought over Tony Slattery, Hugh Laurie (for the radio version), and Peter Cook (all old friends of Fry's from Cambridge), and the producers didn't want people to think they were only letting people associated with Fry to be on the show. Fry has stated this is one of the reasons he quit Whose Line after the first televised season.
In the "Party Quirks" where Ryan played a guy who noticed a hole in the wall which gave him a full view of the women's locker room, a good chunk of the skit was merely Greg and Ryan with their faces up close to the camera, pretending to look into the locker room. Colin revealed that because of this, he and Wayne were stuck just waiting in the background with nothing to do, as Greg wasn't paying attention to them (and thus, couldn't guess their quirks). To combat boredom (and also to give the audience something else to laugh at), Colin and Wayne mimed playing cards. You can catch a brief glimpse of this when Ryan and Greg get out of the way of the camera for a second.
In an interview with Colin, he once mentioned he and Wayne had met some fans the day before a taping. This included a nice older lady named Lee, who remarked on what a "nice Christian boy" Wayne was. Fast-forward to the taping, and Lee is the lucky lady chosen for a game of Song Styles. And the style Wayne must sing to her as? Singing strip-o-gram. The game itself is hilarious, but the real fun is watching in the background as the normally calm Colin loses it repeatedly as Wayne's song gets more and more inappropriate, since he knows about Lee's comment from the day before.
In an interview with Debra McGrath (Colin's wife), she mentions auditioning for the U.S. version of the show, when the producers were looking for another female performer to fill the void left behind by Denny Siegel, though ultimately was rejected (partly to avoid the obvious nepotism of having both Colin and his wife appearing on the show). She and Colin both then suggested the producers audition Kathy Greenwood, which they did, but she too was rejected, so Colin and Deb kept badgering the producers into hiring Kathy, until they reluctantly gave in, and although Kathy's second audition passed muster, the producers decided to keep her from participating in certain games, like Hoedown, or Irish Drinking Song.
Expert: From the UK run. The audience picks an obscure subject, then one player acts as the interviewer speaking to the other player, the 'expert' on the subject.
This simplistic format also spawned similar games like Interview (the audience names a fictional character to be interviewed) and Book Writer (the audience names an obscure subject that the 'interviewee' has authored a book on).
Expert Translation: also from the UK run but not to be confused with Expert above. Using the same concept behind Foreign Film Dub (see below), the audience is poached for a foreign language and an obscure subject instead, and one player is the 'expert from overseas', lecturing about the subject as the other player 'translates' for him.
Explanation: again from the UK run. Two players are given a subject to explain or discuss from the audience, but as predetermined characters - Kirk teaching Spock how to use a toaster, or 2 preschool kids explaining God, etc.
Its predecessor was named Couples instead, with the difference that 1. the players were just given a generic / mundane situation, and 2. they acted as more than one pair of characters, called out with each buzz, giving them about one line each before switching.
Film Noir: Performers act out a Film Noir scene at a location picked out by the audience.
Infomercial: Performers spoof home shopping infomercials, using a box of props to try and sell a "miracle product" to cure a personal problem suggested by the audience.
The UK version of this game, named Home Shopping instead, involves just two props and a nonexistent one suggested by the audience. Performers had to make up whatever function they were intended for.
Moving People: Two players are expected to act out a scene with one major handicap - they do not move at all unless moved by two audience members.
Scene With An Audience Member: two players and one randomly picked audience member act out a scene. Two of the playings featured the audience members improvising with the performers, but the other two featured pre-written lines for the audience member, similar to "Whose Line", and were cued to say them by Ryan or Colin. You'd think this was a wish-fulfillment game of sorts, but the game fell flat after four sessions because of some nasty stage fright on the audience members' part.
Secret: Two players act out a generic drama scene, but the audience has designated, along with the setting, a 'location' where something has been kept secret - one player chances upon it halfway through the scene, whereupon the action centres around 'it'.
The revival series updates this to Mk II, by introducing a physical prop as the secret, hidden in a convenient box before The Reveal.
Sound Effects: This game went through several different formats.
One player performs a scene silently, while a second provides sound effects (included dialogue-ish sounds) from off-stage. These relied mainly on how the player doing sound effects reacted to the performer's miming, and how the performer reacted to the impromptu sound effect. In the US run it almost always involved Colin on mime and Ryan on mic, leading to a series of re-used gags: for example, Colin's vehicle ("played" by Ryan) always failed to start... only for it to kick into gear once he gave up and careen off, forcing a desperate chase.
A variant done in the late UK run had two or three performers act out a scene as normal... except that random sound effects would play without warning. This possibly led to the third variant...
Two players enact a scene given to them by the host; they are allowed dialogue and may requisition sound effects from the people with the microphones: two members of the audience, picked just before the game. Typically, the audience members' contributions are not on cue or even halfway relevant, allowing the game to go Off the Rails in spectacularly amusing fashion. For instance, it once resulted in a quacking elephant.
Whose Line: Performers do a scene inserting random lines as provided by audience members; sometimes an audience member is brought in, with all their lines being the random ones.
Has a UK predecessor, Every Other Line - one player acts out the scene however he likes while responding to the other, who's been given a book with a page chosen and every other line highlighted, and can only read from it for the whole thing.
(90-Second) Alphabet: Each performer's sentence must start with successive letters of the alphabet, ending on the letter of the alphabet it started with. "Xavier Hollander" probably got more exposure from this game than any other show in the past ten years. Usually time-limited to around 90 seconds.) The UK version usually only had two players, while the American version had three.
Dead Bodies: Two players (and one audience member or guest) have to play dead as the third, usually Colin, must not only move the other players around, but voice all their dialogue. Rather similar to Moving People (see above).
Dubbing: Not to be confused with Film Dub below. An audience member or special guest is roped in to participate in a scene, with the twist that only two of the players help him/her along while the third provides all of his/her dialogue.
Helping Hands: Two performers act out a scene, but one performer cannot use their hands. A third performer stands behind that performer and becomes their "hands". Later UK episodes added foodstuffs and other props that render all actors Covered in Gunge thanks to the awkwardness of the gimmick.
Hey You Down There: An Affectionate Parody of those 1950s workplace instructional safety videos. Two players (who say nothing the whole time) act out a scene while responding to the third player, who acts as the chirpy narrator.
Motown Group: Three performers sing a verse each, usually based on a job e.g. "Do The Firefighter". One performer (usually Wayne) gets an extra verse at the end explaining how to do the dance.
Variation: Doo-Wop seems identical to Motown on the surface, but 1. the style of singing is different and 2. the audience is poached for a name and a hobby, which is immediately spun into an unusual cause of death for the players to sing about.
Another variation: Boogie Woogie Sisters, also identical to Motown except for a style change, and as the game name suggests, the players sing as a girl group.
Multiple Personalities: Three performers act out a scene, but are assigned with three small items: whoever holds each item must act as an impression of a random character attached to it (whoever is holding the water bottle is John Wayne, whoever holds the telescope is Michael Jackson, etc.) This one seems designed to test each actor's range.
Newsflash: One performer stands in front of a green screen and acts as the "man on the street", responding to comments made by two other performers in an attempt to guess what scene is being played behind him (he isn't able to see it himself, only the other actors and the audience).
Old Job, New Job: Two performers start by acting out a scene centered around a certain job (either as workers or customers, or both), then the third man comes in, also a worker, but hasn't shaken off the habits from his previous job (which is usually suggested by the audience). Hilarity Ensues, of course.
Variation: Three of A Kind had all three performers acting like they hadn't shaken off their old habits.
Further variation: Reunion sets up a scenario where all three performers meet up for a reunion, while - you guessed it - still riddled with the old habits of whatever job they'd been together in. It ends with an attempt by all players to sing the same Alma Mater Song, which later spawns the All in One Voice game.
Stand, Sit, Bend / Stand, Sit, Lie: Performers act out a scene given to them, but one has to be standing, one has to be sitting, and one has to be lying down (or bending over); whenever one performer changes their position, the other actors have to change accordingly. Bending or leaning players often end up in a Captain Morgan Pose.
Two-Line Vocabulary: Performers act out a scene, but two of them can only say two specific lines given to them by the host (the third can speak freely).
What's in the Bag?: Introduced in the CW reboot. The love child of Infomercial and Good Cop/Bad Cop - Three performers act out a scene; two of the performers are each provided with a purse from an audience member, and they have to take out items from the bag to use on the third.
Action Replay: Two players are given a scene to play straight, while the other two, their hearing shielded with earphones, have only the first pair's movements to go by as they try to repeat the entire thing, substituting with their own dialogue.
African Chant: As Song Styles, with one player as the lead "chanter" and the others backing him up. A bit on the edge between good and bad taste.
All In One Voice: The audience is poached for a song title: split into two pairs, the players have to improvise said song while singing back and forth, each pair singing together as one each time. One of the hardest games.
Audition: From the UK version. After the audience is asked to make up a title for a musical, one player is designated as the producer while the other three 'audition' for parts in the musical that he makes up for them, sometimes including musical numbers.
Authors: From the UK version, the audience suggests a title for a novel and the players take turns to narrate this 'tale' in the style of their favourite authors, or subgenre of literature like Dick and Jane children's books or magazine articles. Even air hostess manuals and mistranslatedporn.
Variant: Remote Control, where TV shows instead of novels are the focus, the audience suggests a generic subject instead of making up a book title, and the players went in random order.
Awards Show: An Affectionate Parody of awards ceremonies - two players are the award presenters of a specially themed awards show, while the other two are nominees sitting in the audience, whe step up to receive the award later on. The game starts with the camera randomly picking audience members for the 'presenters' to make up names and whatever they were nominated for, before settling on the 'winners'.
Bartender: two or three performers approach the fourth, singing about some subject sugested by the audience, and the 'bartender' sings his advice back to them. This one began in the UK series as Prison Visitor (criminal sings to visitor about their crimes) then later became Psychiatrist (patient sings to doctor about their mental problems) until they finally settled on a bar as the setting.
Courtroom Scene: after the audience suggests a trivial crime, one player is the judge, one is the public prosecutor and the remaining two are the witnesses called in to testify, with the addition of some random hats for them to form their acts around.
Daytime Talk Show: An Affectionate Parody of, what else, daytime talk shows, particularly Jerry Springer. Rather than some pressing issue, the audience suggests a known fairy tale to base the 'talk show' around: one player is the host, two are the interviewees and the fourth is placed in the audience, posing questions to the interviewees.
Fashion Models: An Affectionate Parody of fashion shows. The audience suggests a random profession or some other theme, then one player gets to be the commentator while the other three strut up and down the stage, one at a time, then together all holding to the topic at hand.
Fixed Expressions: From the UK version. All four performers act out a scene, played straight apart from having to keep the same randomly-assigned facial expressions the whole time, regardless of how the scene plays out. Notably one of the hardest games.
Foreign Film Dub: Two performers act out a scene in a "foreign language" (anywhere from Hebrew to Klingon to Canadian) and are translated by the other two performers.
Forward/Rewind: Introduced in the CW reboot. Four performers act out a scene that periodically alternates between rewinding (regressing through their previous lines and actions) and going forward (repeating their reversed actions in the proper order).
Funeral: Three or four players enact a funeral service, and the audience is poached for a name and a hobby, which is immediately spun into an unusual cause of death. The difficult part comes up when all three players have to make up a tribute song and sing it all together on the spot.
Game Show: the audience makes up a silly name for a game show, and the players act it out, with one as the host and the others as contestants. Usually structured as a three-round affair.
Hats: Split into teams of two, each team is given a box of hats to wear for gag scenes; this was almost always "the world's worst dating service video." Very often a Hurricane of Puns.
Hoedown: Performers sing a four-verse country-style song on a topic given by the host (usually chosen from audience suggestions), one verse at a time. One of Drew Carey's favorite games in the US version, possibly because he was halfway decent at it, which led to the others getting rather sick of it.
Hollywood Director: Three performers act out a scene, while the other performer acts as a director to stop the scene periodically and make odd suggestions on how to improve the scene.("Do it like you're all ______!")
Irish Drinking Song: Performers sing an Irish drinking song, one line at a time.
Millionaire Show: Only in the American version, the performers act out a parody of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, their characters holding to a theme. Unlike the real game show, however, there are only two lifelines and one of them is a helper in the audience (one of the performers) instead of polling the entire audience.
(American) Musical: Possibly the most elaborate UK game. One audience member is interviewed, giving his name and occupation and hobbies etc, which are then depicted as a stage musical for the plyers to act out, complete with the improvising of up to 4 different songs.
Musical Film Review: From the UK version. A title is picked at random from an almanac of movies, after which one player, acting as film reviewer, must make up a synopsis of the movie and musical numbers for the other three to enact out.
This one was sprung from the same concept as the UK game Musical Directors, except that the audience is poached for a title and the players are divided into two pairs: one pair is the brainstorming team behind the stage musical that the other pair must act (and sing) out.
News Report: From the UK version. Holding to the subject of some popular children's tale or mundane event, the performers are split into two pairs: one pair portrays the in-studio news anchor and an expert on the subject, while the other pair are 'in the field', a reporter and a 'random' interviewee.
Number of Words: A scene is performed, but each performer can only speak sentences using a set number of words. This usually includes someone who can only say one-word sentences.
Panel Show: From the UK version. The audience suggest a topic to discuss, after which the players, with the help of some wigs and hats, act as random characters on a panel show discussing the topic.
Party Quirks: One performer hosts a party and tries to guess the others' secret quirks (for example, "thinks (s)he is _____", an impression of someone/something famous, or some ridiculously elaborate character/situation).
Press Conference: Three players act as reporters, one player acts as someone who has just made a huge announcement. Using the questions of the reporters, who are told what is going on, the player who called the press conference has to guess who he is and what he's announcing.
Props: Split into teams of two, each team is given a bizarre prop that must be used as the subject of a gag every time they are buzzed in.
Questions Only: A scene is performed where performers can speak only in questions. If they fail to, they are buzzed out.
Questionable Impressions: As Questions Only, except the performers also have to do an impression of a famous person (real or fictional, dead or alive).
Questions With Hats: Pretty much self-explanatory.
Questions With Wigs
Scene to Rap: Performers act out a scene, rapping every bit of dialog.
Scenes from a Hat: Situations, suggested by the audience, are picked randomly from a hat (such as "inappropriate things to say to someone on their deathbed"). Easily one of the most popular games.
Variation: Scenes Cut From The Movies, dedicated to movie parodies, and the audience is poached for movie titles at first.
Song Titles: Like Questions Only, a scene is performed where performers can only speak using full song titles. If they fail to (either by not coming up with one, or using one that the host believes is bogus), they are buzzed out.
Storyteller: From the UK series. The audience is asked to make up a title of a story and An Aesop that may or may not go with it, then one player takes the role of a children's storyteller, making up the tale that the other three players act out, while making sure to lead up to the aesop... more or less.
Superheroes: The audience gives one player a strange superhero name. He starts the scene, dealing with an odd (yet thematic) crisis. Each other player enters the scene one at a time, given their own odd codename by the most recent player to have entered. The last player "solves" the crisis somehow, and each of the players proceed to leave in the opposite order that they came in.
Tag: From the UK series. Two players start the game by acting out a scene, but at any time one of the other two can call 'Tag', freezing the action, then replace one of the onstage pair, and lead the scene in a completely unrelated direction depending on whatever poses they'd been frozen in - and sometimes regardless of what it actually looks like.
Telethon: More of a Take That than an Affectionate Parody of TV charity drives; the audience is poached for a suggestion of "people you wouldn't normally raise money for", then two players act as either hosts both, or one host and one of the "beneficiaries", while the other two sing the fundraising charity theme as whichever celebs they can muster up.
That'll Be Charlie Now: Three performers waiting for "Charlie", a friend of theirs, start describing him to the best of their ability - the fourth player enters portraying 'Charlie', and displaying every detail of their description to the best of his ability. Which usually involves having all kinds of weird habits at once.
An alternate version, merely named Here (S)He Comes Now, divides the performers down the middle into two pairs instead (two people describing two late arrivals).
Variation: Make A Monster, introduced for a Halloween episode in the US run, has the first pair as Dr. Frankenstein and Igor instead, and they make up the weird habits that the other two players must display by 'attaching' body parts that belonged to known celebs or characters previously.
Theme Restaurant: The performers act out a scene at a specifically-themed restaurant, two performers as patrons, the other two as waiters.
If You Know What I Mean: Performers act out a scene in which everything said is a double entendre, ending every line with some variant on "If you know what I mean..."
Living Scenery: Split into teams of two (sometimes with a special guest replacing one player) and then act out a skit where one team are the "living props" for the other team. One of the best skits featured Richard Simmons. Hilarity Ensues.
Picture: One of the most uniquely UK games yet, this involves two or three players filling the cut-out faces of a large painting. They must enact their scene with regards to whatever the painting might be of.
Scene To Music: Two or three performers act out a scene that starts normally, then a randomly-picked piece of background music would start playing, upon which the performers would adjust the portrayal according to the music.
Show-Stopping Number: The performers act out a scene normally, but each time the host presses the buzzer, the performer who said the last line of dialog up to then has to sing a musical number based on that line of dialog.
Sideways Scene: Introduced in the CW reboot. Performers go backstage to perform a scene while lying down on a specially-painted floor. Alongside that difficulty, occasionally Aisha buzzes in with a new style for them to act out, similar to Film, TV & Theatre Styles.
Song Styles / Duets: One or more performers sing in a particular style, originally about a household object, then UK season 10 introduced the better-known Mk. II variant where they sing about an audience member. Sometimes any remaining performers would be roped in to act as backup dancers.
One-time test games:
Ballad Of: A US exclusive game. Basically the same as Duets but in a specific Western style, as the name would indicate. As seen here.
Gangsta Rap: A US exclusive game. Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Two performers rap about an audience member. Probably nixed because "Song Styles" and "Duet" pretty much cover whatever genre is needed, so having a game devoted to one style is redundant.
Interrogation: A UK exclusive game, and only played once. Two of the performers would be the cops, and the third performer would be the suspect they're interrogating. It was similar in format to "Press Conference", in that the third performer had to guess what they were arrested for, based on hints by the other two. The one playing concerned Ryan mooning the Queen of England.
Meet the Family: A US exclusive game. Wayne and Kathy Greenwood, who are engaged, prepare to meet Kathy's parents, played by Ryan (the mother) and Colin (the father). Both have quirks, though: Ryan played a dominatrix and Colin played Dustin Hoffman's character in Rain Man.
Really Bad Hangover: A US exclusive game. A unique variant of Sound Effects involving all four players. One pair acts out the scene while the other pair provides sound effects through microphones with the echo level deliberately jacked up.
Remember That Song: From the UK version. A cross between Greatest Hits and Show Stopping Number, where the players act out a scene that includes musical numbers they make up about themselves, when another player determines what style.
Survival Show: A US exclusive game. A parody of Survivor, with one player taking the role of 'Jeff Probst' with the other three as 'survivors' in a randomly-chosen environment. The one playing had the scene of a post office, with Greg as the host.
There were two variations on what the winner did, both exclusive to their individual versions:
In the British version, the winner would be declared arbitrarily after the last game was played. They would then have to read the credits in the style of host Clive Anderson's choosing after he signed the program off.
In the American version, Drew Carey would switch out with one of the contestants and play the last game of the show (Drew would switch back out and make the cast read the credits in the style of his choosing). That contestant was the winner, and occasionally would be tasked with controlling the bell or buzzer should the need arise in the game they were playing.
The second American version would either follow what the UK version did, or just let all the players join the special guest in reading the credits.