Colin Mochrie & Brad Sherwood bring the laughs to Shippensburg
SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. — Colin Mochrie has been with his comedic partner Brad Sherwood longer than most Hollywood marriages.
And Mochrie and Sherwood, who will make a stop for their Scared Scriptless Tour at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, at The H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University, are promising to be a lot funnier than most marriages, too.
Mochrie, who was calling from his Toronto home, said he doesn’t remember the first person who told him he was funny.
“I feel I should know that,” he said. “I don’t think there was one person said to me, ‘You’re funny.’ I was a very quiet kid. I was a studious bookworm. I guess in my little circle of friends, I was funny to them. I remembered a group laugh and going, ‘Oh, I got some comedy chops.”
However, the only chops he was thinking about were those attached to a shark as he wanted to one day be a marine biologist.
That all changed when he got cast in his first school play.
“When I got my first laugh, that was it. I imagine it was like shooting up for the first time with heroin would be,” he said. “I thought, ‘I want more of this.’ Immediately I changed my major to theater and made the slow, long climb to middle stardom.”
After college, he eventually found his calling at Second City in Toronto, where he started in 1998 and stayed for a decade.
Mochrie and Sherwood met each other in the early 1990s, when his wife of 30 years and fellow comedienne Debra McGrath, had Sherwood on her TV show. They were living in Los Angeles and would go to a club on Santa Monica Boulevard where many Second City alumni would do shows.
“I got to know Brad through that,” he said. “And shortly after that, we did ‘Whose Line,” he said.
The first time Mochrie tried out for the British version of “Whose Line is it Anyway?,” he didn’t get cast. He tried again and joined Sherwood, along with familiar faces from the American version, on the British version. On this side of the pond, he said that during the second year of the American version, hosted by Drew Carey, that Mochrie said he noticed he was being, well, noticed.
“It was doing very well in the ratings. And I noticed we were getting noticed more,” he said. “Previously, I was getting recognized by college students a lot because the British version was being shown on Comedy Central. When college students were supposed to be studying, they were watching us instead. Then it kind of opened up a bit, and all kinds of people were coming up to me. Families, too, saying ‘This is the only show we can watch with our kids.’”
Mochrie said when it came to censoring, American TV was a little more strict than British TV. Sometimes, he said, it was hard to follow where the line was being moved, and the audiences’ reactions.
“The live audience in Britain is subdued, I guess. The American audience was screaming from day one thinking they were going to win something at the end, which never happened,” he deadpanned.
But when they moved the show from the relaxed censorship of Britain to the U.S., “it was a period of adjustment,” he said with a laugh.
“It’s not that we were filthy in Britain, but I never knew where the line was,” he said. “There were sometimes things got censored. I thought, ‘That was actually pretty tame, but by censoring it you it made it seemed like it was much worse.’ Then there were things that got through that I thought, ‘I never thought in a million years that would make it to air.’ So we were like, we’ll just follow our instincts. We all do various tours and our audiences made up from kids to grandparents. We try keep it as family-friendly as possible.”
For some the thought of improv in front of an audience can be terrifying, but what Mochrie loves about it is that “you’re never alone.”
“Unlike a stand-up it’s more of you against the audience in an adversarial role, whereas they’re giving us ideas for the scenes. They have a vested interest in seeing the suggestion work well. They’re a little bit more supportive of us. And if we die on stage, we never die alone. There’s always someone by your side, and that’s a lot easier.”
It also helps when you have a veteran partner onstage. He said he usually knows about 80 to 90 percent of the time he knows where Sherwood is going with a scene when they’re improvising.
“And when I don’t, I trust him enough to go ‘OK, let’s see what happens,’” he said.
His favorite skits to perform with Sherwood change from year to year, he said.
“Recently, we added a game that involves music, which is when Brad or I can say to the person, ‘What do you mean?’ and this music comes on,” he said. “Our stage manager has 40 tunes she has set on shuffle. When one comes up, we have to start singing what we’re talking about, until the other person stops us. It’s terrifying because I’m not a singer. Doubly terrifying. It’s really been one of our favorite games because we never know what’s going to happen. There’s sometimes I’m really good with the songs, and sometimes I’m not even in the same zip code as the music.”
Top photo: Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood will perform at The H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center at Shippensburg University Saturday, Oct. 20. (Submitted photo)