Challenge,  On Writing

New Line! New Line!

Whose Line Is It Anyway?…

Because it has been a week to not remember, and Kris and I needed some laughter to cut the stress and worry, we went to see Whose Live Anyway (Basically Whose Line is It Anyway?) Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops, Jeff B. Davis, and Joel Murray.

Stunningly funny. Worth it if they come to a place near you. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.

And the show being in Vegas made it even funnier because of the crowd. The four of them had a blast with the crowd. Greg was doing a bit before introducing the other three and he asked the crowd what was something normal you would see on a street in Las Vegas.

Someone shouted prostitute and he went with that doing some gags. Then he said, “Come on, what do you really see on the streets in Vegas?” Another shouted homeless and he just started laughing. So he asked the question again, trying to get a straight answer, and someone shouted “Prostitute-eating squirrels.” And that was the end of him for a moment, he was laughing so hard. So that gag and combinations came back for the next hour or more in different places.

One of their standard things on Whose Line Is It Anyway is to have two of them acting out a scene suggested by the audience. In this case it was Stiles and Davis. And they would say a line in their scene and at random Greg would shout, “New Line!” And they would have to make up a brand new line.

At times he said “New Line!” four or five times in a row and they always ended up with something much funnier than the first or second attempts at the line that took the scene in very, very unexpected directions.

And all done at lightening speed. Those four were scary fast on their feet.

Something like this, although this is not what they said… Stiles would say, “My mom was cooking turkey.”

Greg would shout, “New Line!”

“My mom hated cooking.”

“New Line!”

“My mom was cooking dad’s sausage the old-fashioned way.”

“New Line!”

“My mom heated things up by sucking on them.”

When it was over and they were moving to the next bit, Kris turned to me and said, “That’s exactly how Wilhelm’s Rule works in fiction.”

And she was right. We had just watched entertainers (like writers are supposed to be) who had no fear of making a fool of themselves as they created memorable scenes and entertained their audience and themselves.

And as they created the scene, they were the living images of creative voices.

And they were having a blast. I think they were trying to make each other laugh almost more than the audience.

Creative voice is a combination of no fear and having fun.

Tonight, I got to sit in the audience, laugh myself almost to tears, and watch true incarnations of creative voices at play.

Damn it was fun.


  • David Wisehart

    Taking an improv class is a great way for writers to learn to let go of their critical voice and stay creative in the moment.

  • Gordon Horne

    I googled “Wilhelm’s Rule” and got lots of information on the reigns of various German kaisers. I also found threads discussing “Wilhelm’s Law” on several writing boards. At least two-thirds of the posts in each of those threads stated ideas were too difficult to come up with to throw the first three away, that there are no original ideas, that the rule cannot apply to genre fiction because genre fiction has to follow the formula.

    Oh dear.

  • Phillip McCollum

    I take an improv class regularly and it’s really amazing just how much it has in common with writing into the dark. The keys to a good improv scene are the same as in a story–you must establish a relationship, a setting, and a “problem.”

    There’s also an exercise called Swedish storyteller (not sure where the name came from) where you must start by telling a story and someone will shout out a random word along the way. You must then change your story immediately to incorporate that word. Talk about good practice! I highly recommend improv classes for all writers.