Makin' a scene with Whose Line stars Mochrie and Sherwood

A chat with the improv gurus from Whose Line Is It Anyway? before they headline the Mahaffey on March 9.


TRAPPED IN TAMPA BAY: From left, Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood headline the Mahaffey Theater this Sunday. - PUBLICITY PHOTO
  • Publicity Photo
  • TRAPPED IN TAMPA BAY: From left, Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood headline the Mahaffey Theater this Sunday.

Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood might not be household names, but they are household faces. You see them and realize, "Hey, those are the guys from Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

Yep. Those guys.

They're among the best at improvisational comedy, performing without the safety net of predictability in their two-man show. Every performance is different, and their 7 p.m. show Sunday, March 9 at The Mahaffey Theater will have surprises for both the audience and the guys on stage.

We e-mailed them a few questions about performing in advance of the show, and almost got a couple of serious answers.

CL: Colin, You're one of the most recognizable faces in improvisational comedy. How do you approach performing today as opposed to when you weren't as well known? Any extra pressure to perform up to the standard fans now expect?

Mochrie: My approach is basically the same. I do the least amount of work I can get away with till I'm on stage. There is extra pressure with the success of Whose Line to hit a certain standard, but I welcome that because it means I can't be comfortable and just go through the motions.

Brad, You and Colin both performed for several years on both the British and American versions of Whose Line Is It Anyway? What's the difference between how the two audiences react to that form of comedy? Did performing on one side of the ocean help you stand out on the other side?

Sherwood: The British shows had metric comedy. The American version was standard comedy. And both audiences laughed at me (but not at Colin).

In addition to performing on television, the two of you have performed on the road for years. How does that experience together benefit the audience, and how do you keep it interesting for yourselves?

Mochrie: Anytime you improvise with someone that you have known a long time, the comfort and trust adds another layer onto the show. I usually know where Brad is heading in a scene and when I don't, I trust enough to follow him. In the ten years we have been touring, we have been constantly changing the show so that we have no comfort zone. We found that the show works best when we have no time to stop and smell the roses.

Sherwood: Performing with Colin has taught me that not all Canadians are as talented as Justin Bieber.

How is a two-man improv show different from having a full cast, both as a performer and for the audience?

Sherwood: There are fewer people to blame if something goes horribly wrong.

Mochrie: It's nice not to have to carry the hacks that I usually work with and can concentrate only on carrying Brad.

Colin, people might be surprised to learn that you had to audition a few times for Britain's Whose Line before being accepted. How did you deal with that initial rejection and how did it make you a better performer?

Luckily I had years of rejection before Whose Line so I was more than ready to deal with it. It made me be a little more aggressive during the audition process, almost forcing them to take notice. After you have improvised in a small room at 10 in the morning for two people, there is no such thing as fear in front of an audience.

Brad, you appeared in just about all of the VH-1 I Love The series — '70s, '80s, '90s. Even toys. What's something you didn't love about doing those spots? 

Remembering my childhood, awkward teens, and awkward 20s.

For audience members who know improv only by what they've seen on television, how will the live show differ?

Mochrie: In TV, the scenes have to be quick, short and shtick-y. On stage we can take more time exploring the scene and seeing where it takes us.

Sherwood: This show differs because it will be live and not on their television.

Mochrie: Both versions do have fart jokes.

The Tampa Bay area has a number of enthusiastic improv groups, with dedicated performers playing to smaller crowds like you probably did when you started out. Any advice for those groups?

Mochrie: Just do it. It really is a muscle that has to be toned and worked. The only way you can learn your strengths and weaknesses as a performer is to jump in front of an audience and do it.

Sherwood: Keep following your dreams ... unless your dream is to be eaten by a shark.

Mochrie: Do it for the love and not as a way to show off. It's an ensemble art. I hope Brad reads this.

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