1 9 8 8 – 1 9 9 8 (UK)
136 x 30 minute episodes
1 9 9 8 – 2 0 0 6 (USA)
220 x 30 minute episodes
Beginning as a radio show on BBC Radio 4 in 1987, this half-hour show of improvised comedy based on studio audience suggestions – where “everything’s made up and the points don’t matter” – was performed by alternating ‘alternative’ comedians under the sceptical eye of chairperson (and ex-barrister) Clive Anderson.
Several of the performers went on to additional TV things: Josie Lawrence in Josie, Paul Merton in Have I Got News For You?, Mike McShane in S&M and The Big One (with Whose Line regular Sandy Toksvig) and Tony Slattery in S&M and The Music Game.
In the mid-1990s, the series filmed occasional episodes in the United States. The popularity of these outings led to an American version of the series being launched in 1998, with Drew Carey chairing.
Clive Anderson was asked to host this version as well but declined because he neither wanted to move to or commute to Los Angeles, although the final season of the British programme was in fact filmed on the set of the American version. By that time, aside from Anderson, the majority of the performers were American, with only the occasional British performer guest-starring.
Cece Worrall Rubin