15 Minutes with Brad Sherwood & Colin Mochrie
May 10, 2018 04:00PM ● Published by Brian Saucedo
When was the last time you laughed so hard that your body physically ached? Or your faced streamed with tears because you giggled uncontrollably? If you have to think about it, then it’s time for a few laughs. Let’s start with Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood.
The pair are well-known as the stars of the Emmy-nominated improvisational show, Whose Line Is It Anyway? Both Mochrie and Sherwood joined the cast of Whose Line when it was a British improvisation series and continued as series regulars on the American version hosted by Drew Carey.
After the show ended in December 2007, it was revived in July 2013 by The CW Network with host Aisha Tyler. While Mochrie is an original cast member, Sherwood will join the cast for the fifth season.
Unlike stand-up comedians, improv comedians create their material out of thin air, on the spot, which both Mochrie and Sherwood have become quite brilliant at. The pair of comedians has taken the phenomenon of improv to new heights with their decade running two-man tour, “An Evening with Colin & Brad,” which has become the longest running international improv show in history.
“You have to always stay open to playing in the unknown. The hard pitfall is not to default into a character you do a bunch of times or guide a theme too far in a direction. Improv is the only thing you get better by doing it over and over again, but doing it differently.” – Brad Sherwood
Each show is filled with an evening of laugh-until-your-side-aches hilarity that’ll tickle your funny bone. While the duo not only takes turns in humiliating one another, but also themselves, the entire show is driven by audience participation.
“It’s hard to explain to people the joy we get when we go on stage with nothing and have a show at the end of two hours. For some people, that’s terrifying. For us, it’s what we love.” – Colin Mochrie
Don’t miss two of the greatest improvisers in the world on Saturday, May 12th, 8 p.m. at the Weinberg Center for the Arts as part of their Colin Mochrie & Brad Sherwood: Scared Scriptless tour. Tickets range from $30–50 and can be purchased on Weinbergcenter.org.
At what age did you develop an interest for comedy improv and how did you get involved with it?
Brad: I always liked being funny ever since I was a little kid. I loved watching comedy on TV. I got interested in improv when I saw a live group in college once. I had never seen or heard of it, but I was blown away by it. A couple years later when I moved to Lose Angels to try and be an actor, I was working in TV production. Someone said I should check out an improv class, so I went to it and it was like the heavens had opened and the angels were singing. At that point I knew this is what I was meant to do, so I started doing it and never stopped.
Colin: I started off as a fan of watching comedy. I was a big fan of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Bob Hope, and all of the old timers. I was also a very quiet, studious kid, so my plan was to be a Marine Biologist. My friend convinced me to join a school play and that’s where I got my first laugh. I wanted to pursue getting that laugh again, so I got involved with theater and was introduced to improv a couple of years later. I never thought it would be my career. I’m really thankful for Whose Line for giving us that opportunity.
Improv typically started as a way for actors to warm up before their performances. How does it feel now that improv has been able to stand on its own and you get to be a part of it?
B: It’s pretty crazy. When I was a kid, this job didn’t even exist. This art form was a work shop tool for people at Second City to work on sketches and create characters. There’s only about 10 of us, maybe, in the world that can call this a full-time, paid job. So, it’s still at the forefront of it being a money-making endeavor, but the cool thing is kids now grow up knowing about it because of Whose Line and it’s even a curriculum through grade school, high school, and college drama classes.
C: It’s been great. I think that was one of the great things of Whose Line is that it made improv more mainstream and introduced it to a lot of people. Since the show has been on the air, it keeps evolving. I work with a lot of different improv troupes around the country and there are so many different styles of improv. I just did a Dungeons and Dragons improv. I know nothing about that, but it still worked. It’s so much fun and I think we’re just scratching the surface on what we can do with improv.
How did you get involved with Whose Line Is It Anyway? What would you say has been the most rewarding part being involved with the show? Has there ever been an instance you’ll always remember?
B: I was doing Second City out in L.A. and I was an understudy for the cast members at the main show in Santa Monica. One of the guys I was an understudy for was Ryan Stiles. He said the producers of Whose Line, which was only in England at the time, were coming to look for new people, so I want to the audition, got on, and have been doing it ever since.
I would say the best part of the show is that it created an opportunity for Colin and I to go on the live two-man show around the country over the last 15 years. We make more money doing our live show than we ever did on TV. The TV show is the means to the end of actually getting paid.
Everything that happens is always so unexpected. We were doing a live theatre version of Whose Line in England a couple of years ago and Clive, who used to be the host, brings a girl on stage for me to sing to. He asked her what her job was and I thought she said Doula, so I launch into this song and start getting a luke warm reaction from the audience. I’m singing about child birth, placentas, etc. At the end of the game he comes up to me and said she was a Jeweler, but with his thick accent I didn’t hear it, so I just launched into a song about birthing. That was a pretty horrifying moment.
C: I was in Second City and they were doing a North American tour auditioning people. They came to a Second City show and really like all of us and auditioned the entire cast. In Second City your supposed to be an ensembled cast and make each other look good, so no one stood out, and none of us got casted. It wasn’t until next year when I moved to Los Angeles that I auditioned again and that time I didn’t know anyone, so I said “Hey, screw you, look at me.”
The fact that it gave us a chance to do this, Brad and I, for 15 years, it’s given us an opportunity to travel the world and use our talent in a we wouldn’t have been able to without that show. It really opened up our career opportunities and gave us a chance to meet all these incredible people. I think we’re all very grateful Whose Line came into our lives.
I have to say the Richard Simmons scene. There are so many scenes that we do, but that one really stuck in my mind. As we were doing it, I thought to myself that this was a special scene. I think it’s a magical scene and throughout the years, people have sent that clip to me, as if I hadn’t seen it before. I think it’s one of the funniest moments in television. Whenever someone asks what Whose Line is, that’s the clip everyone sends them.
What would you say is the hardest part about being an improv comedian? While performing on tour and also for Whose Line, has there ever been an experience where you were stuck? If so, how do you handle it?
B: You have to always stay open to playing in the unknown. The hard pitfall is not to default into a character you do a bunch of times or guide a theme too far in a direction. There are one, two, three other people with different ideas and you just have to flow with it and not force anything. Improv is the only thing you get better by doing it over and over again, but doing it differently.
You’re stuck all the time. Every moment you say something, it gets a laugh, and then you have to reset. You live in getting stuck. You just trust yourself and the person on stage to throw something out that sparks an idea and you just take it and run with it. It’s a constant reset process. You just have to embrace it, similar to people that get the adrenaline rush from skydiving. You have to live in the moment just as you fall out the plane when you’re doing improv.
C: The hardest part for me personally, and it’s going to sound odd, is keeping myself uncomfortable. I think there’s a real danger, especially working with the same people over and over again, that you get into a certain trap of falling into something you know has worked when things start to go south. Working with Brad, we try to make it as far out of our comfort zone as possible. This way we can’t plan anything and we’re sort of in survival mode.
Oh, sure. Pretty much all the time. That’s where trust come in. You trust your partner and in yourself in times when you have no idea what’s happening and you open your mouth and see what comes out. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I have to say we’re both pretty fortunate that it’s pretty rare when we just kind of stand there staring at each other. The worst thing to see is two improvisers standing there with nothing happening.
What’s your favorite part about working with Colin/Brad? Do you ever try to mess with the other during a performance?
B: We get along so well and he makes me laugh, so I trust him implicitly. I always know between the two of us that he’s going to come up with something I can work with and vice versa, so we can run full speed into whatever ridiculous scenario we find ourselves caught in.
All the time, absolutely. Both of our goal is to make the other laugh in a way he doesn’t want to. It’s like spilt milk coming out of your nose. That’s your goal on stage. I always say we’re having a snowball fight and making a sandcastle on stage. Its collaborative and coactive.
C: Well I guess I’ll just have to make something up. There are so many things. We’ve been friends for almost thirty years now and the great thing about touring on an improv show is working with someone you know and trust so well. We really have a good time together on and off stage. What I do on the tour is try to get him to relax so he doesn’t have a stroke. It’s worked out beautifully between us.
A part of doing improve is making sure your partner is having a good time, while trying to make them look good. There are times where I look in Brad’s eyes and see that he has a little hoke he’s going to say that he’s so proud of and you start to almost laugh before it happens. We certainly don’t want to stop the show with us just laughing.
Where did the idea to perform an improv comedy tour with Colin/Brad come about? What can audience members expect from the show and how often do they participate? In what way(s) do you make sure that audience members know your performance is strictly improv and not planned ahead of time?
B: We’ve been performing live with Drew and other cast members in Vegas on Super Bowl weekends and did a run every week for six to seven years. I had been doing improv shows in comedy clubs with a buddy of mine and came up with a format to strip down a show to two people and give the audience the power and see where it goes. We went and did a two-week run and never stopped. It’s been really great.
You can never fully do that. We do have some people who think we really didn’t have advance notice to sing that French cabaret song. They are always convinced there’s no way we could do it. It’s almost the ultimately compliment and insult at the same time.
We make it very audience participate. They are on stage more than you would see in a regular taping. I would say we usually have about seven to eight people at least. We come up with some games variance and things from Whose Line, like the sound effects game and some things with music. It’s kind of wild. People who’ve seen the show, see it live and get the chance to see magic of giving suggestions and running with it.
C: It was pretty simple. Brad asked me and I said yes. That’s how much thought I put into my career. No, we had been working together at this point doing a show every weekend in Vegas. While it was a lot of fun, there was 12 people on stage, so you didn’t get a chance to do a lot. Brad had been experimenting with a two-person thing, so I thought it would be fun and a little outside of my comfort zone. We went on an experimental tour and 15 years later, we’re still going.
Part of it is getting suggestions off the cards from the audience. There’s no way we can push them in a certain direction. We’re really at the mercy of the cards. We have people on stage with us for about 80 percent of the show, which is approximately 20 people. That means we would have to pay 20 people to travel around with us and we’re too cheap for that.
It’s hard to explain to people the joy we get when we go on stage with nothing and have a show at the end of two hours. For some people, that’s terrifying. For us, it’s what we love. I always say, I can’t do brain surgery, but I believe when a doctor does it, it’s happening. It’s the same with improv, we’re actually taking your suggestions.
Audience members are not going to walk away any smarter from the show, but they will walk away with some laughs. For some reason, everyone seems to lose three to five pounds during the show.