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Whose line is it anyway? is a comedy show in which participants are given a theme and they are supposed to come up with an act according to the theme given to them.

According to Oxford Dictionary, one possible meaning of anyway is to ask a question, like

What are you doing here anyway?

but I am not able figure out the meaning of anyway in this expression. Maybe it is because I am not able to imagine the context it has been said in.

What is the explanation?

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3 Answers 3

Anyway in the context you provided, means regardless of other things or leaving other things aside. So what are you doing here anyway? means that I am not interested in whatever other things you are doing or may have. I just want to know what you are doing here.

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As noted in the History section of wikipedia's article about the Whose Line Is It Anyway? show,

Indeed the title of the show itself is a comedic riposte to another radio show, What's My Line, merged with the title of a 1972 teleplay (and eventual theatrical play) Whose Life Is It Anyway?.

The adverb anyway (with conjunctive sense “regardless; anyhow”) when used in questions like “Whose line is it anyway?” or “What are you doing here, anyway?”, has a sense of “other questions aside”. That is, “What are you doing here, anyway?” is more or less equivalent to “Ignoring other questions, what are you doing here?”

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I believe the origin was a hoary theatrical anecdote about a play that had been running too long, so the actors completely forgot what to say in the middle of a scene. The prompter hissed the line, but was ignored; repeated it at increasing volume, and was asked by one actor "Yes, we heard you; but whose line is it anyway?"

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I absolutely do not believe this origin, precisely because of the "anyway". In the context of the anecdote, "anyway" doesn't make sense: the identity of the actor is the whole point. Without the "anyway", the anecdote is perfectly believable, but has nothing to do with the title. –  Colin Fine Dec 30 '12 at 18:10
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