- PHOTO COURTESY OF CAL POLY ARTS
- JOKE’S ON THEM! : Whose Line is it Anyway? stars Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood don’t know what they’ll be doing at the PAC this Saturday, but you can bet it will be genius.
Colin Mochrie has the perfect lazy man’s job. In fact, the star of the improv show Whose Line is it Anyway? has built a career on his lack of preparation. For the past seven years, Mochrie and fellow Whose Line…? veteran Brad Sherwood have toured the country with the utterly spontaneous The Colin and Brad Show—and Cal Poly’s Performing Arts Center is next on the list. New Times caught up with Mochrie to talk about absurd situations, selective amnesia, and the arbitrary censorship of American television.
NEW TIMES You’ve been doing your two-man show with Brad Sherwood for several years now. How has your relationship with one another developed as you’ve been touring together?
MOCHRIE We’ve known each other for 20 years, so we almost have like a sibling relationship. The seven years we’ve toured, we’ve never had an argument or a cross word. We both have the same sort of work ethic, always trying to make the show better. So it’s been really good, and I consistently beat him at cards.
NEW TIMES Has he ever beaten you at cards?
MOCHRIE Every once in a while I feel sorry for him and let him win.
NEW TIMES I read that you’ve had a few misadventures as far as booking gigs goes, a few surprises. I thought the funniest thing was the gig in the middle of the Native American Craft Fair. Have you had any other misadventures like that one, any other stories?
MOCHRIE Oh, we tend to block them out. But that was definitely one of the most memorable ones. We’ve had ones in a casino setting where people are laying their drinks on the stage and asking us to get their waitress for them. Usually, we play theaters, so it’s a more contained environment, conducive to our show.
NEW TIMES I can imagine it would be more difficult to play in front of a small amount of people.
MOCHRIE It’s really intimate. Part of the fun for the audience, I think, is that they feel anonymous; they don’t feel like they can be seen. But when you have 10 people in a boardroom, you can see everybody clearly, and you can see which ones aren’t laughing.
NEW TIMES You begin filming Drew Carey’s new improv show next month. How are you preparing?
MOCHRIE That’s the best part: There’s no preparation. Usually, we get to the theater, do a sound check, and then we just play cards until it’s time to do the show. You know, it’s the perfect lazy man’s job. … It never feels like work, which I think is why we still do it and still enjoy it. It’s always fun and unpredictable.
NEW TIMES I had read an interview with you, and I think you said that after the improv show is over, you have no recollection of what you did or said. Was that true?
MOCHRIE Yeah, pretty much. You know, as soon as you finish one thing you’re on to the next. … There are times when I’ll be flipping past the channels and see a Whose Line…? and none of it looks familiar to me. Even though I’m doing the scene, I have no recollection of it. It’s just absolutely theater of the moment. It’s there, you see it, and then it’s gone.
NEW TIMES Have you ever been given a situation during your improv act where you just found it totally impossible or uninspiring?
MOCHRIE Well, there are a lot of situations with things we’re unfamiliar with. The thing with improv is, you just go in there, you commit to some idea, and even if it’s totally off base, the audience sort of enjoys that, seeing that you’re floundering. But it also becomes the truth for that scene: Whatever we’re saying, that’s the way things actually are. We are never wrong. It’s a wonderful way to work.
NEW TIMES You use a lot of props, and you use people as props … .
MOCHRIE We try to make the audience work as much as we do, in a way. We’re always trying to get them to come up with suggestions that we’ve never had before, because it makes it interesting for us and keeps it fresh. Often we ask [the audience] for an occupation. The first two we can guarantee are going to be gynecologist and proctologist. Which always get a laugh, but really, no one wants to see a scene about that. One of the best suggestions we’ve had was lactation expert. I certainly don’t know the ins and outs of that profession. But it’s certainly one we’ve never had before, and it kept it fresh and because of that, the scene was really good. Unfortunately that’s the only one I can remember.
NEW TIMES You began filming Whose Line…? in the U.K. and then moved it to the United States. Did you notice any differences between U.K. and American audiences, what they thought was funny?
MOCHRIE The only actual difference between the two shows was the censorship. In Britain, there wasn’t any. We could pretty much do anything we wanted. When we moved it to the U.S., there was a censor who was in the booth for the entire time we were shooting because there was no script for them to look over. They had to watch and decide whether we were being dirty or not. And it got very confusing because the things that they would censor were unusual, to say the least. For one, they bleeped Ryan [Stiles] saying “hand.”
NEW TIMES What was the context?
MOCHRIE There was some reference to his hand that wasn’t pleasant. There was one where—it was a Greatest Hit—I said, “We’ll be right back to The Adventures of Captain Waldo and the Salty Monkey.” And they stopped the taping and tried to get me to confess that I had just made a penis reference. And it’s these things where, that’s certainly the last thing on my mind, and it’s very odd that you would think that. … Some things that they said, I still don’t understand why they bleeped it. And then there were some things that got by, that I just thought, “Really? There’s no way that should be on American television.” It was interesting for us, to try and figure out where the line was drawn.
NEW TIMES Did you have a list backstage, like, “good” bad words, “bad” bad words, etc?
MOCHRIE We basically know the seven words you can’t say on television. The producers trusted us to keep the show clean, because we want the show to get out there. So we were pretty good, but there were times … like when they stopped us from doing Hitler, which I thought was really bizarre. Because, yeah, there’s someone you don’t want to make fun of. God knows we certainly would have tried not to do anything in bad taste. But it was a learning experience.
NEW TIMES Are there some games you feel you are weak in?
MOCHRIE The singing games were never easy for me. I could try to work on it, but it just comes down to, I have a horrible singing voice and I’m not comfortable doing that. Of course, we have a couple songs in our show, because we like to be uncomfortable at all times.
NEW TIMES I would have thought it would be the rhyming.
MOCHRIE Yeah, the guys who do the songs, I feel, were kind of underrated. First of all, people always thought that they were cheating, but they were just really, really good at it.
NEW TIMES Is one of the goals of the Colin and Brad show to prove that? “Hey, we’re not cheating! We don’t have any kind of warning beforehand!’
MOCHRIE We always ask at the beginning, “How many people thought that Whose Line…? was rigged and we knew what was going on?” Always, a surprising amount of people think that. And I always wonder, first of all, why are you here then? We hope to prove that we have nothing planned. And also, we’re just too lazy to do that. The thing about this is just to do it on the fly. … It’s a weird thing. If it goes really well, people think it’s written. If it sucks, then people think, “Oh, it’s improv.”
Arts Editor Anna Weltner considered censoring the phrase “doing Hitler.” Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.