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The improvisational comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway, a U.K. import that last aired on American television in 2004, is being resurrected this summer on The CW. I wasn’t too psyched about the revival until I saw the new host is Aisha Tyler, who voices Lana on Archer and co-hosts The Talk. It’s a welcome update to the show, which usually only featured one female comedian or one non-white comedian at a time. Much as Whose Line made me giggle from time to time, it usually reached for the most grandma-friendly humor possible. The main three castmates from the Drew Carey years will still be on hand: Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles and Wayne Brady. They’ll be joined each week by a guest comic.
Past guests have included regulars like Linda Taylor, Greg Proops and Brad Sherwood, plus celebrities like Kathy Griffin, Whoopi Goldberg, Stephen Colbert and Robin Williams. Some guests were better than others; some sketches bombed while others were funny. But looking back at some sketches on YouTube, the whole concept seems wildly outdated. There are a lot of moments in which simply saying the word “gay” is met with gales of laughter from the audience. If the new Whose Line really wants to change things up, there are a few guest stars who should be added to the list ASAP.
Guest: Louis C.K.
Best sketch: Sound Effects, the game where members of the audience make all the sound effects for the actors as they play out a scene.
Louis C.K.’s isn’t much of a physical comedian, but his ability to make something funny out of nothing is unmatched. I’d love to see his dry, grown-up humor mixed in with the absurdity of the Whose Line crew. As we’ve seen, when Louis is uncomfortable, he only gets funnier.
Guest: Alison Brie
Best sketch: Film, TV or Theater styles, the sketch where the actors have to change up the style of the sketch (anime, musical, horror).
Alison Brie already played out about a thousand and one film styles over the last four seasons of Community. Brie is a serious actress, but not afraid to make herself look like a fool (as in Community’s last Christmas episode). Also, the girl can sing.
Guest: Neil Patrick Harris
Best sketch: Song Styles, the sketch in which Wayne Brady serenades a member of the audience in the song style of the audience’s choice.
Look, I know this is supposed to be Wayne Brady’s moment in the sun, but NPH is certainly qualified to sing a duet with him. For one thing, NPH is a former Broadway star. For another, Brady and Harris have played brothers on How I Met Your Mother to hilarious results.
Guest: Danny Pudi
Best sketch: Mission Impossible, the sketch where actors have to perform a mundane task (like washing a car) as though it were a covert-ops mission.
Pudi, like Brie, has transformed himself for a variety of Community episodes to hilarious result. Give him the opportunity to morph into a secret agent, and I genuinely think he’ll do something unexpected and funny.
Guest: Aasif Mandvi
Best sketch: Press Conference, the sketch were one actor plays a press secretary while the others grill him on a ridiculous event.
On The Daily Show, Mandvi will turn to the camera and say something so stupid with such absolute conviction that you can’t help but crack up. The guy is fantastic, and I’d love to see more of his humor outside of his Daily Show beat.
It’s hard for me to imagine sketch shows thriving in a world of single-camera comedies. Right now, comedy trends toward the weird, the absurd and the severely uncomfortable. (See: Louie and Girls.)
It’s possible audiences will respond well to something a little safe, a little retro — something trivial and goofy. I’m hopeful that casting a star from a truly weird comedy like Archer will push everyone to up their game on Whose Line and make the show a success. With any luck, this new Whose Line will be the goofy, lovable sketch show we know it can be — plus a little bit of modern edge.