The British version liked to mock the Conservative government of John Major, while the American version liked to poke fun at both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. One US episode features the "Voted for Ross Perot" Irish Drinking Song (the prompt being "something you regret").
The 2013 revival has had several jabs at the Republicans and failed 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney. There's even a rare case of Colin doing it, choosing to add "the mayor of Toronto" to his horror movie characters act.
Acceptable Targets: The US version had a trend of hillbilly jokes. In the UK version though... it was Americans...
At least during the first few UK seasons, which had a maximum of 1 American player on occasion (Archie Hahn and Ron West in particular). As time passed and more Americans were added (reaching a 3:1 ratio eventually), any jokes were either Self-Deprecation or followed by snarking at something British.
Bald people and Canadians (especially the exchange rate with the Canadian dollar). So in other words, Colin.
Ryan's height, big nose, and big feet. Therefore, also, his ridiculous shoes.
In a few episodes of the U.S. version, Ryan also wore a Western-style shirt: Numerous cowboy jokes were lobbed at him. "...And a special yippy-yi-yo! to Ryan Stiles!"
Adaptation Displacement: Some of the games (even more in the UK version) will still make sense with just the audio - the only indication left of this show's radio origins.
Adored by the Network: An unusual case. The show's ratings were never that good, and ABC would almost certainly have canceled it, but it had two things going for it: a ridiculously low production cost for even a single taping, which over about 6 hours could produce anywhere from 3-4 shows, and it was going up against ratings juggernaut Friends - in a rare moment of insight, ABC executives realized that nothing they could put on in that timeslot would do any better, really, so they might as well put something cheap on. Also, being one of the most unique and different shows on at the time would bring in at least some viewers, as well as the "anything but Friends" crowd.
Awesome Ego: Colin, fan favorite that he is, (jokingly) developed a bit of this as the American series progressed, which showed in his increasing indulgences. Of course, the audience just loved him that much more for it. Hell, he still has this:
After one sketch, Drew was joking with the cast, unaware of a stage hand hunching over his desk and refilling his cup with Pepsi. When he finally noticed her, the woman ran off. "Who the bleep was that?" Drew asks. Capping it off with "More ale, wench!"
One episode was edited in a special way: rather than just coming back from commercials with Drew welcoming the viewers back to the show, we see Wayne sneak over to Drew's desk and record, "My ass, my ass, my ass, my ass," into his tape recorder (that already had "One thousand points!" recorded on it) while he was off stage. Wayne then hurries back to his seat just before the audience is cued for applause.
The episode where Drew gave away the one millionth point on the show, which unleashed a bunch of balloons from the ceiling while "The Stars and Stripes Forever" played. The celebration was short, came out of nowhere, and the balloons were cleaned up after the commercial.
Biting-the-Hand Humor: The first US show had jokes at the expense of ABC and ABC Family (including the fact that the latter is owned by Pat Robertson), and the second show jokes about the CW's younger viewer range.
Any time one of the guys makes fun of Drew, really.
Call Back: One episode has the game "The Millionaire Show" set in the world of 1930's gangsters. Wayne impersonates Paul Muni in the 1932 movie "Scarface" by saying "Nyah, see?" a lot. Colin doesn't get the reference and says "That's one smart sheep", thinking that's what Wayne was doing. A later episode has a game of "Scenes From A Hat" has the suggestion of "Circus acts that didn't last". Wayne does his Paul Muni impression and says "Nyah, see? I'm a talking lamb, see?".
Creator's Pet: The Hoedown seemed like the skit version of this. Drew loved it (and so did the studio audience), to that point that he often called it his "favorite game in the whole wide world" and whenever Drew participated in a game at the end of the show, most of the time it would be a Hoedown. The others...not so much (especially Ryan.) And they would joke about how much they hated it regularly.
Crosses the Line Twice: Colin coming up with "Mary Had a Little Lamb" as the title of the animal porn movie he was watching. Simultaneously dirty and hilarious.
During a playing of "Hollywood Director" where Wayne and Ryan are motorists in a traffic accident and Brad plays a cop. As soon as Brad gets in, he says "LAPD, LAPD." and starts beating Wayne up.
In a game of "Party Quirks", Colin was someone who wasn't sure about the genders of the other performers, and was groping them to find out.
"I didn't mean to cook your dog..."
"You simply wait for traffic then you ... push the old lady."
Cult Classic: Maybe the show never quite achieved the mainstream rub the creators obviously wanted, but the show still has a devoted following that's stuck with the Whose Line gang for many years. ABC's low expectations (and the show's low production cost) saved Whose Line- during Whose Line's first run, they were on opposite NBC's ratings juggernaut Friends. Later joined by CBS and Survivor. ABC decided to put Whose Line opposite those shows because while they knew it would never beat those shows, it did have a dedicated fanbase.
Dork Age: You may not believe it, but Colin attempted some Gag Penis jokes early on, before leaving them to the expert i.e. Ryan.
Ear Worm: Wayne can be counted on to churn out some very infectious refrains when he sings, including one time when he breaks into a Public Enemyblack power rap to a parking attendant. He even did the earworm-y theme song to another ABC series, The Weekenders.
The theme music for either of the Once an Episode show-ending songs: the Hoedown theme, or the "Ooohhhhhhhh, hidey hidey hidey hidey hi-dey hi-dey di!..." for the Irish Drinking Song.
The UK theme tune.
Embarrassing First Name: In the "Helping Hands" game when Drew is Ryan's girlfriend on a camping trip, Ryan calls "her" Drew-illa.
Ensemble Dark Horse: Jeff Davis, a guest star in only a few episodes and the youngest comedian in the show turned out to be extremely popular and later played a bigger part in Drew Careys Green Screen Show - which unfortunately did not last. Eventually, this led to him being the first fourth-seater in the 2013 revival. And he keeps showing up in the fourth seat in all three seasons of the new version so far.
Mike McShane was one of the most talented of the UK show, but vanished following the show's move to the United States (and, reportedly, a violent back-stage argument with one of the producers.) McShane appeared in a cameo of Frasier and after having gastric bypass surgery and losing fifty pounds, became unrecognizable. Though he seems to have gained some back in his appearance in the Doctor Who episode The Angels Take Manhattan.
Among the new faces in the 2013 revival, Gary Anthony Williams.
Clive: But there is a bit of a falling out here, because, having made you the big star that you are by bringing you on—you've gone off with another man! You've gone off to America to do the American version of Whose Line, which is exactly the same as the British version, except I don't introduce it!
Greg: Well, you know, Drew Carey hosts that one, and he's a bit different than you. He's very gentle. But, you know, Clive, I like it rough.
Freud Was Right: One game of "Greatest Hits" set in Dallas had Ryan come up with the song title "Everything's Bigger", leading inevitably to this.
One playing of Weird Newscasters has Wayne as Michael Jackson at the age of 100 determined to show he's still got it. Michael only made it halfway there.
Even better(?); here he scores a two-hit with MJ and James Brownin a celebrity deathmatch.
One suggestion in Scenes From a Hat was, "Bad times to tell her you don't care." Wayne's joke was miming flipping through TV channels before doing an uncaring, "Yeah, I love you too". Drew then remarks, "Scenes from Wayne's real life." This joke isn't so much funny anymore since Wayne got divorced.
They just did it again in the 2014 series, from Wayne as the sportscaster "going through an entire relationship" with Aisha, down to the breakup phase, to an Irish Drinking Song about divorce (a suggestion they've had before by the way)
During a hoedown Drew did a verse about Wayne's wife being out with him at 3 AM.
Don't forget about the time Wayne's wedding ring flew off his finger...
In a game of Let's Make a Date, Ryan Stiles played TV's Crocodile Hunter. At one point, he "dies" after clutching his chest and falling over. RIP, Steve Irwin. Really, any time they impersonated Steve Irwin seems weird now that he's gone.
In the original British radio program, Clive asked Stephen Fry to "be a manic depressive". This was seven years before Stephen was diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder.
After a disastrous game of Party Quirks in which Tony failed to guess Ryan's very obvious quirk, Clive remarked "I don't think we'll have [Tony] on the show ever again." This actually did turn out to be Tony Slattery's last performance ever, as he was fired and removed from the show after that episode.
In one playing of Weird Newscasters, Ryan was to do the weather as "Siegfried and Roy whose act is going dangerously wrong." In October of 2003, Roy was mauled by one of their male white tigers, Montecore, during a performance in Las Vegas.
Some jokes about certain celebrities veer into this after their deaths or other unfortunate circumstances.
The second episode of the CW reboot features Kevin McHale from Glee as the celebrity guest. While it was probably exciting at the taping, the episode proper ended up airing three days after Glee star Cory Monteith's death. Even worse... Wayne joked about getting a role in that show. Now that they're a man down...
The second revival season has a game of "Helping Hands" where Ryan accused Michael Weatherly of NCIS of using a forged passport - at about the same time that the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was attributed to at least two passengers slipping aboard on stolen passports.
It was a more innocent time when the worst joke that could be made about Bill Cosby was his sponsoring Jell-o. However, ever since 2015, in light of the accusations of sexual assault, those light-weight Cosby jokes really date the show.
The revival managed to have a Cosby reference, with Keegan-Michael Key in the role of the Big Bad Wolf from Red Riding Hood, a role that's often been interpreted as an allusion to date rape.
There was the "Scene To Rap" about getting hit by a tsunami that was long before the Christmas 2005 disaster made people realize how serious those can be.
The biggest example has to be on the British version before Princess Diana died, they did a small joke about her getting divorced in a Hoedown, and they did "Let's Make A Date" with one man pretending to be her, as a eye-batting ditz.
Genius Bonus: In the first playing of "The Millionaire Show", Brad (portraying Regis Philbin) mentions, "I'm just happy to be anywhere without that Cathy Lee Crosby!" For the unaware, this is just a silly name mix-up, but for the film buffs out there, it's amusing that he mentioned the name of an actual actress with that name.
The Hollywood Director with Wayne as a pig farmer. One of the apparently random names he makes up for his pigs is 'Szechuan', which is actually a subset of Chinese cuisine, which tends to have a lot of pork.
In the "Scene to Rap" about The Exorcist, Ryan's verses were "I'm here to say, here to tell / I have come right straight from hell / I want your soul, gimme gimme / Why you do this to me Dimmy?" For those uninitiated, "Dimmy" seems like just a nonsensical way to rhyme with "gimme", but this is an actual quote from the film.
Colin displays some knowledge of Greek mythology in one "Props":
Growing the Beard: Everyone agrees this happened at some point. There are people who prefer the British show over the American one, and there are people who love Wayne Brady and hate Tony Slattery and Steve Frost. Many think the show improved after John Sessions left, due to his large hatedom.
Wayne and his wife got divorced in 2007. Which makes Drew saying "Wayne, how's the wife?" before Song Styles to be this. As well as a suggestion made during Scenes from a hat:
Wayne: (What your wife is saying right now) "I love my husband, Wayne Brady."
A game of "Sound Effects" by audience members has Ryan and Colin play buddy cops. It was filmed before 9/11, because of the flippant way they throw around the word "terrorist".
During the final season, there was a bit of a running gag about Drew Carey asking Wayne Brady how his marriage was doing, before introducing a particularly attractive guest star for him to sing about, such as Undarmaa the contortionist, body-builder Jane Tricker, or incredibly handsome actorDavid Hasselhoff. (He always says it's fine, but he sounds kind of uncomfortable.) During his ode to Undarmaa, he actually makes a joke about getting a divorce.
Robin Williams jokingly asking himself "I have a career. What the hell am I doing?" during a game of Scenes From A Hat is harder to watch in light of his suicide.
In an episode with Kathie Lee Gifford, Wayne makes a joke about being her "black Frank", with the episode only airing about a month before Frank Gifford's death.
In the taping of the Sid Caesar episode, one of the languages given to Drew and Sid to fake in Foreign Film Dub was Arabic. The taping was days before 9/11. Guess why they cut that one before it made it to air...
The US series was responsible for a few of these - apart from obvious ones like Greg's suit, Ryan's shoes or Wayne's tight tees, the preference to short-sleeve shirts while junking the coats and ties from the UK version actually allowed the players to cut loose as physical movements were less impeded. In defiance of that, Jeff Davis' very sharp suit and tie became so iconic that he made sure to wear one for the 2013 revival.
Steve Frost (from the UK version) has his Hawaiian shirts.
Josie Lawrence's frilly blouses.
David Hasselhoff and Richard Simmons were certainly dressed appropriately when they appeared on the show.
It's the Same, so It Sucks: Whenever a guest star appears on the US version on the show, expect the games to be played to be from a short list: Song Styles/Duet, Dubbing, Living Scenery, and Helping Hands.
Memetic Molester: Because he once randomly touched Ryan's crotch during a game of Helping Hands, and humped Chip Esten during Scenes From a Hat, Archie has this reputation with some fans.
Memetic Animutation: Colin appears in almost all such animations created; he played the sun in the very first one.
Plenty. One of the more popular ones is a response to a post with a picture of Colin reading from a card, accompanied by text with a reverse-engineered Scenes from a Hat pitch for the post.
Misaimed Fandom: In-show example during Scenes from a Hat, when the topic was, "Things that Make the Audience Boo"
Ryan: "You simply wait for traffic, then you push the old lady! Push the old lady!" (Cue strange mixture of boos and applause) "...I wasn't looking for applause on that one, I was looking for..."
Most Annoying Sound: Some fans found the studio audience laughter to be often shrill and distracting.
Nausea Fuel: The mass of maggots footage in "Newsflash". The 2013 version adds another with footage of a dental procedure.
In the "Improbable Mission" on walking the dog: "Hey, you still got that tapeworm?" It made the audience groan.
Never Live It Down: In one episode, Drew accidentally calls Africa a country instead of a continent. People still remind him of this one.
If someone epically screws up, expect it to be referenced constantly for the rest of the episode. Other examples include Wayne spelling Howard as H-O-R-W-A-R-D (multiple times, in song). And then there's the infamous "Cosby and Hitler" incident.
Drew was in Geppetto. Wayne got away with it though.
Padme Lakshmi may at least dance better than him, but this trope applies more to the "Helping Hands" act, where she speaks the most authentic French in the show's run, then plays along by eating something Colin was going to feed to Ryan, then waiting till Ryan did so to smear it more liberally over his face.
NBA player Matt Barnes goes further than that, joining in on the action by pouring more stuff into whatever Colin was mixing up for Ryan, and even taking something out of Ryan's mouth to help the dialogue along.
Noodle Implements: The game of "Dubbing" with Jerry Springer as a stripper has Ryan pretend to pull brass stripper poles out of a closet, apparently just in case there was a stripping contest needed.
Painful Rhyme: Averted for the most part in the singing-type games.
Replacement Scrappy: Aisha Tyler has been labeled this for replacing Drew Carey in the U.S.A. version's 2013 revival. Of course, for a while, Drew Carey was this for Clive Anderson, at first.
Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Aisha became a lot more popular with many fans during Season 11, when she started participating in the sketches more often and more importantly, doing it willingly.
The Scrappy: John Sessions is considered unfunny by many, and Archie Hahn (who was on during the same period) was derided in some quarters for his carrying props around and having an unfair advantage.
Kathy Greenwood. Sometimes just for being a woman, sometimes for being the most commonly-used female performer, and sometimes for "getting in the way" of the Ho Yay. Aside from those reasons, often people think she just didn't contribute as much to the show as the other players: there were a lot of games that she never participated in (any of the singing games, "Sound Effects", "Film Noir", etc.) and in games like "Let's Make a Date" or "Party Quirks" she was usually the "normal" contestant. As a result, she had far fewer opportunities to create the memorable moments that the other contestants were known for.
Seasonal Rot: With each passing season of the the U.S. version, there was a heavier reliance of guest appearances. While some were uproariously funny (Richard Simmons' appearance was outstanding for one), the act got tired after a while with usage of guest stars reaching its peak in Season 5.
The revival has a similar reliance on guest stars, appearing on every other show at least.
One game of Newsflash starts inadvertently with the green screen showing the studio cam's view instead of the archive footage intended. Chip and Ryan have some fun reaching to the far left to "touch" Colin's head.
Perhaps the best example of this is in the UK version wherein one prop broke, then continued to deteriorate throughout the sketch.
In a playing of Props, another prop breaks and hits Colin in the face.
That Came Out Wrong: The game of "Film, TV, and Theater Styles" had Colin as a hot dog vendor visited by robots from the future Ryan and Wayne. Ryan says "Greetings. May I sample your pork tubeage?".
That One Level: The games may all be in good fun and the points certainly don't matter, but some games like Changed Letter, Multiple Personalities and the Questions Only variants can be pretty difficult.
Certain games get audible groans and expressions of dread from the performers, such as "If You Know What I Mean" (Ryan once described it as a party game if you want people to leave), "Hoedown" (Ryan again- he hates this game), "Number of Words" (during the 100th episode, Ryan groaned and quickly said, "I mean, "yay"!"), "Hats" (Greg, who will most likely complain about how immature or unamusing he looks while using said implements), "Song Titles" (which suffered from very poor judging at times from Drew, and was similar to Questions Only) and "Questionable Impressions" (or, as Drew puts it: "We're gonna change the name of that game to "Hey, Let's All Make Idiots Out of Ourselves").
They Changed It, Now It Sucks: A lot of fans of the UK version didn't like the American humor of the American version. Other things included how vastly different Drew's hosting style was to Clive's; Drew interacted with the players a lot more and even participated at times while Clive was far more low-key and actually made the points "appear" to be important.
And there are plenty more who are fine with all of that... but just can't stand the way the U.S. audience screams every time anyone opens their mouth.
Widely considered to be inverted with "Sound Effects", which seemed to improve in hilarity when it changed from "Ryan makes sound effects for Colin" into "audience members make ridiculously bad sound effects for Colin and Ryan."
Much like the UK version above, a lot of fans of the first US show don't care for the 2013 revival. Aisha is considered a poor replacement for Drew, largely due to an almost complete lack of friendly ribbing that made the interactions of the cast so entertaining. Furthermore, the fact that the show has a larger budget means that props are used much more frequently, taking away from the original show's charm of the guys making due with what little they had. And the few games that did use props, which tended to be well-received due to their scarcity, are now done so often as to lose what made them special in the first place. Helping Hands comes to mind. An overuse of Guest Stars doesn't help either.
Too Dumb to Live: Many characters portrayed, but most of all, the 2 people stuck with limited speech in "Two Line Vocabulary".
We're Still Relevant, Dammit: The U.S.A. version's season 9 (2013 revival) insisted on promoting Twitter hashtags on screen during nearly every game. From season 10 onwards, this was just reduced to #WLIIA throughout each episode.
Win Back the Crowd: The "Newsflash" with the maggots is considered by some to be one of the grossest playings of that game, so the cast had their work cut out for them to recover from that game for the rest of the episode. Opinions vary on whether they were successful.
Drew: And you can't show people smoking on TV. But you can show that.
Win the Crowd: Jeff Davis' first episode was decidedly underwhelming until a Scenes from a Hat bit "If people celebrated mundane events as if they were touchdowns", and Jeff stepped out. He said "It's a boy! Yeah!" and spiked the "ball"at the ground. The audience broke into hysterical laughter since that alone made him stand out over many of the other rotating players.
Apparently Brad Sherwood took a little time to follow British pop culture when he debuted in the UK series, namedropping EastEnders before attempting emo-core Britpop in Song Styles. It worked out pretty well.
Wayne Brady's singing talent had already ensured himself some new fans in his debut in UK season 10... then he went along with Brad addressing him as "that guy with the microphone" during Daytime Talkshow, and busted out a massive-stadium-speakers voice impression that brought the house down.
The Woobie: In between Drew stating when they came back from a commercial "Welcome back to Whose Line Is It Anyway?, the show that gives Colin Mochrie a reason to live," to Chip actually making a drinking game out of all the times that they rip on Colin, it's hard not to see him as this.
Drew: "Oh man, never make fun of the popular, funny guy, that's the thing you shouldn't do."