So many people think that Whose Line Is It Anyway was groundbreaking for its time. Except it wasn’t of course, it was pubprov. Short form games amost all adapted from Spolin’s training games, played for quick laughs, and it created a creative ghetto that improv hadn’t been in before and still struggles to break out of today. Improv began with sketches. When Del Close called out “we should have a name for this thing” and Bill Matthieu called out “Harold” they were talking about an alternating of the short scenes they’d been doing at Second City and games. Now for so many people it’s just the games.
So why do I like that Youtube video? For maybe the wrong reasons. Because of (for me) the clear demonstration that when improv gets too formal, too corporate, it loses its charm. Check out the Vegas show. Those are expensive suits, and nice ties but the play is gone. The effect is deadening. The show failed. Now I’m not dissing suits here, the British Whose Line Is It Anyway survived Tony Slattery’s and John Sessions’ very sharp dressing. However the early American WLIIAs have a sense of camaraderie, of play between friends, which give them enormous charm. The Vegas show doesn’t have that.
The early shows feel authentic. They feel like we’re watching a bunch of genuine friends play in a safe relaxed environment. And they’re charming. People can relax and make utter buffoons of themselves and it’s all ok. The rules are made up and the points don’t matter.