Line? Line?

For those of you eagerly anticipating the Australian version of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, big news!

New Foxtel series Whose Line Is It Anyway? Australia announces its ensemble cast of seven exciting and talented performers. Comedy superstar Rhys Darby is joined by comedy festival favourites Cal Wilson, Tegan Higginbotham and Susie Youssef, along with world-class improviser Steen Raskopoulos, and newcomers Bridie Connell and Tom Walker.

It’s no Thank God You’re Here, is it?

Still, unlike that overly controlled exercise in celebrity hand-holding, Whose Line Is It Anyway? has – in the US version at least – always been much more about actual improv. It’s a format that allows those who’re skilled at improv comedy to really shine, while providing not a whole lot in terms of a safety net for those who aren’t up to scratch.

But still, improv comedy? Part of the success of Thank God You’re Here was down to it smoothing out the bumps – you rarely got something insanely funny (Bob Franklin aside), but there weren’t all that many segments that were a dead loss either (Rebel Wilson aside). No doubt some decent editing could manage a similar result with “real” improv. Eventually. If they spent days filming it.

Improv appeals to people who like the “anything can happen” element. Unfortunately, once you record something for television you’re adding in a whole bunch of layers where “anything can happen” turns into “enjoy this processed product”. Which is great when those layers are used to add in more comedy: when you’re working with improv nothing is funnier than the version shown live. And often that’s not very funny at all.

The US version worked for so long because they had really, really really funny people on a show that felt throw away enough that anything really could happen. Hopefully the Australian version will be taking similar risks.

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