It’s Their Line
Comedians Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood have an impressive combined number of years of training and experience in improvisational comedy that we’re sure they’d rather we tried not to calculate. Though the number itself is arbitrary. They’ve become two of the most recognizable names and faces from both the British and American version of the improv comedy TV show Whose Line is It Anyway?, which is being revived a third time on The CW with Mochrie returning to the principal cast. We sat down with them to talk about the show’s return.
“It’s the best gig I’ve ever had,” Mochrie said. “It’s always fun. It’s always fun goofing around with the guys.”
The two combined their improv powers for a long running live show, Two Man Group, that produced a best-selling DVD and continues to tour long after the long-running ABC version went off the air.
“We have the only show in the world that gives all the power and content control to the guys on stage,” Sherwood said. “The producers don’t have to give us script approval to do this or that. We just do it and hope we don’t have to drive the car into the wall to do it.”
Now that Whose Line is being revived for a third time on The CW with Mochrie returning to the show’s cast and hopefully Sherwood if the show returns for another season, the “Two Man Group” talked to Man Cave Daily about how they first joined the fully improvised television show and the joys and challenges of performing for one of the most diverse and consistently popular audiences in live comedy.
How Did They Start on Whose Line Anyway?
The duo made their way to Great Britain, the home of the original Whose Line hosted by TV personality Clive Anderson, from an audition in Los Angeles. Sherwood, a Chicago native raised in Santa Fe, won a short recurring role on the NBC drama L.A. Law and the syndicated sketch show The Newz. Mochrie originally auditioned in his native Toronto, Canada while performing at Second City but he actually didn’t impress the producers until he auditioned for the show a second time in Los Angeles.
“Unfortunately we were doing all the things you’re supposed to do when you improvise, which is to make the other person look good, so nobody stood out,” Mochrie said about his original audition in Toronto. “So no one got hired.”
Their first few seasons on the popular British show paired them up with improvisational actors such as Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops, Mike McShane, Josie Lawrence and many others who moved over to the ABC version hosted by Drew Carey.
“The first one was really nerve racking,” Mochrie recalled. “I didn’t do very well because I kind of psyched myself out. I met the improvisors an hour before we shot the show, so I didn’t get a chance to know them. It wasn’t until my second when they hooked me up with Ryan who improvised years before Whose Line that it sort of took off for me.”
When Did They Start Performing Live Anyway?
Colin and Brad became a comedy twosome during the ABC run when Carey would take the show out to Las Vegas during Super Bowl weekends to perform a special live improv show with 10 or more members of the cast. Sherwood approached Mochrie about taking a two man improv show on the road and the pair has been performing together for more than 10 years to sold out crowds across the country.
Sherwood said the live version gives them more time to perform and more ways of interacting with the audience.
“I like when we bring the audience members up on stage because you have this constant wild card factor that you have to deal with and that makes it more challenging,” he said. “So when we bring audience members up on the stage to supply us with dialogue or sound effects or whatever, I like that because you’re constantly in a state of ‘Oh God, what are they going to do and what am I going to do with it?’”
Of course, almost every show ends with the duo’s signature “Mouse Trap” game in which they perform a scene blindfolded and barefoot while negotiating a stage full of armed mouse traps. Sherwood admits that it’s “the least improv game” that they play but it’s become a crowd favorite for obvious reasons.
“It’s just a fun, goofy game that audiences love,” Sherwood said.
Why Do They Enjoy Doing Improv Anyway?
The biggest challenges for them (besides, of course trying to strengthen the nerve endings in their toes) is finding new ways to keep the show fresh and create new opportunities for comedy, Sherwood said.
“You’re constantly living in the now when you’re doing improv scenes,” Sherwood said. “It’s all about trying to go in a direction that you’ve never gone before.”
Mochrie said he likes the control it gives him, even if the goal of improv is to release that control and let random chaos drive them to a punchline.
“We’re sort of in control of our destiny,” Mochrie said. “If we do well, it’s because we’re doing well. If we suck, it’s because suck.”