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Your show requires audience participation. How does that play out? Are you happy with the interactions you’ve had so far?
Oh yeah, we get suggestions from the audience, like starting points for the scenes and games and we bring up alot of audience members. Our live show is much more interactive with the audience than the TV show.
What does the audience suggest to you? Can you walk us through how one of these skits would play out?
Well, we have one that’s called “Moving Bodies.” We basically have the audience act as our sort of puppeteers. We’re like mannequins that can’t move unless they move every part of us. So they have to make us walk and pick things up and turn our heads and all that. We’re trying to do a scene as normally as possible while they’re in charge of all of our body movements.
So, that’s an example of them moving us physically. Then there’s other games where they have to finish our sentences and add into the dialogue and another where they do our sound effects. We really put a lot of the onus on them to get us into precarious situations that we then have to dig ourselves out of.
Okay, have you had any favorite audience moments so far in this current tour?
Not really. I mean it’s always, everything that we’re doing on stage because it’s not planned and it’s not scripted is kind of an “Oh my gosh moment.” It’s an entire evening for the audience and for us of going, “Oh my God, now what am I going to do?” And when something works, you’re like, “Oh great, that was amazing.” And then you’re right on to the next thing.
So you don’t really catalog moments like, “Remember when we did this thing in Montana and that happened?” You can hardly ever remember what went on in the previous show, just because you’re basically in crisis mode trying to turn stuff into funny things.
There’s extremely strong chemistry between you and Colin and the rest of the original cast from that show. Could you see yourself doing a tour like this solo? Or with anybody else?
Well, the chemistry element is really great. When you have two people that are really good and have worked with each other, you kind of get to see a well tuned rowing machine going through the water as fast as possible. But, if you’re a really good improviser you should be able to improvise with a person literally that you met on the street and in front of a live audience and somehow make it funny, because that’s your skillset. It’s kind of like a comedy brain martial art. You need to be able to turn everything into something hilarious.
What kind of doors did the original run of the television show open? How did being on such a massively successful comedy show change your life?
I would say that the biggest door that it truly opened for me was the ability for us to do a live tour of improv that we’ve now been doing for 15 years. I’m proud and happy that it’s my major source of income. So that now when I do shows or projects in Hollywood, those are just sort of the garnish or the fun stuff because we both love performing live and before “Whose Line.” If “Whose Line” hadn’t come along, we would just be two funny guys that no one had ever heard of trying to do an improv show in a small comedy club and then we’d have to be relying on word of mouth to get people to come see us. So that was the platform for which we could really do this great, fun big tour.
What’s it like being partly responsible for bringing a genre of entertainment into the mainstream?
It’s really cool. I’ve been asked in the past, “Did you always want to be an improviser?” And I always joke that this job did not exist when I was a kid. There’s still only really maybe a handful of guys, mostly “Whose Line” alum, that even do this on a regular basis and get paid for it. It’s still sort of the frontier. We’re like astronauts, there just aren’t that many of us.
So, you prefer performing live as opposed to being on the set of a movie or a television show.
Absolutely. I love performing live. I love the energy and excitement of being in front of an audience and you’re making them laugh, you’re making stuff up. I’m using my best talent, my super power as it were, to make these people laugh. When you work on a show, it’s sort of, you’re in a big group, it’s done by committee, you shoot it in little chunks. I always make the analogy that shooting a movie is like doing a 100,000-piece jigsaw puzzle with a bunch of people.
As the actor, you’re in your trailer and then they call you and you walk out there with your piece, you look at the table, you put it in and then you go back to your trailer and wait for them to call you back in to put the next piece in. It’s not amazingly creative and as a live performer, you don’t get a lot of feedback. All you get is rave reviews when the movie comes out, but the crew that you’re performing in front of, no matter how great your scene is, they have to be quiet. So if it’s a funny scene or a sad scene, they can’t be laughing or crying until the take is over. It doesn’t feed the performer in me the way live performance does.
Colin Mochrie & Brad Sherwood “Scared Scriptless” Saturday, April 7, 8 p.m.
$30 Wharton Center for
Performing Arts www.whartoncenter.com