Before the cameras started rolling on opening night (Jan. 13) of Drew Carey’s Improv-A-Ganza, (a stage show being recorded for the Game Show Network), Drew Carey channeled his former Marine self as he warmed up the crowd at the Hollywood Theatre at MGM Grand with a quickie stand-up act. And that’s “quickie” in the most prurient definition of the term. His roughly 15-minute off-camera routine went right for the crotch, invoking masturbation, fellatio and Brad Pitt in one heady hit. Fans of his family-friendly game show, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, must have felt like they were having their Drew Carey hole suddenly and violently widened. Most of the audience seemed to enjoy the sensation, but one shocked couple bolted for the door in the first few minutes. “Did I fuckin’ offend you already?”
Then there was sudden shift in tone from Carey’s stand-up to the main show—like walking out of Little Darlings and into Chuck E. Cheese—as the team of six comedians, including Carey, ratcheted down the action down to PG for the television cameras.
The rest of the performance was, as advertised, a series of improv setups driven by audience suggestions. The first instruction was for the audience to provide two nonsexual positions. The newfound prudery was a bit disorienting, especially for Carey, who was only able to let a couple of “fucks” slip out during the entire improv act. He looked like he was going to explode.
Overall, the main show was funny, and sometimes hilarious. Although improv’s free-form nature and reliance on audience input sometimes result in dead time and distinctly unfunny pauses, the All-Stars kept it going even when audience participants couldn’t deliver great setups. There were a few slow moments in the hour-plus show, but if the audience wasn’t cracking up all the time, at least it was chuckling.
It was a little disappointing that the format only mildly diverged from the Whose Line format. The show first started on British TV in the 1980s, and you’d think that in all that time they could come up with some new angle.
Nevertheless, these guys know their business. And the final game, familiar to Whose Line viewers, with shopping channel hosts selling music collections based on a theme while another pair improvises those suggestions to live accompaniment was a nicely placed finale. It truly showcased the team’s talent as they flawlessly improvised country, French café and ’80s pop tunes to the theme of a gas station attendant. It doesn’t take much to see where pumping gas, and lube, oil and filter could go. Fortunately for the television sound editors, Carey stood to the side for that one.