Colin Mochrie talks improv

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-114668136524912.jpg’, ”, ‘Colin Mochrie’);

Colin Mochrie is the consummate family man. He doesn’t hide his love for his son and wife, Deb McGrath. In fact, he spent a large part of the last year co-starring with his wife on the Canadian sitcom Getting Along Famously, just so they could spend more time together.

Mochrie is far more shy than you might expect, mentioning how paranoid he gets when people are staring at him on the street. But, if they do stare, it’s with good reason.

With the help of some comedic friends, Mochrie brought the world of improvisational comedy to the forefront of American culture with the TV series Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Since that time, Mochrie, who credits much of his talent to watching television comics such as Don Knotts, Bob Hope and John Cleese, has toured theaters and campuses across the U.S. and Canada, bringing his love for improv to countless fans.

Mochrie checked in with The Rock River Times before his Saturday, May 6 stop at Rockford’s Coronado Theatre with Whose Line co-star Brad Sherwood.

The Rock River Times (TRRT): The reason that we’re talking today is because you’re coming to Rockford to play a show at the Coronado with Brad Sherwood. That’s a show that you yourself rate as being PG or PG-13. Do you make a conscious effort to keep it clean?

Colin Mochrie (CM): We’re both pretty good that way. We don’t tend to go in that direction. We certainly made a conscious effort when we realized we have such a wide age range of audience. We have everyone from 6-year-olds to 80-year-olds. We do keep a conscious check on it, but it’s not something that we really have to work hard on. It’s not like with Drew (Carey).

TRRT: When we spoke a couple of years ago, you talked about how improv is your way of being daring or death-defying. Can you explain what you mean by that?

CM: It’s the closest I’ll ever come to skydiving. I get that feeling of skydiving where your every nerve is alive. When we go out onstage, we have absolutely nothing except each other and an audience that has paid good money to come see a show. So there’s a bit of a rush there, and the fact that it always seems to work out always amazes me. I love it because it’s always fresh. It never gets old. I’ve been improvising now for 26 years, and I still have as much fun now as I did when I first started.

TRRT: During that 26 years, was there ever a time when you doubted your ability to do this for a living?

CM: Oh, sure. Around the 16th year, where nothing is happening, and you think “what in the hell am I doing?” My wife and I actually sat down and thought, “It’s time to get out of this business. With a child now, I guess it’s enough.” So we broke down and made a list of our skills. And it was a pretty sad list. In fact, there was nothing but doodles on it. We couldn’t come up with anything. But we stuck with it, and thank God, Whose Line came along.

TRRT: In your time in the field, how has improv as an art and craft changed?

CM: Because of Whose Line, I think there’s been a higher profile of improv. It seems now, whenever we go to a city, they all have an improv troupe, which is great. The thing I love about improv as an art form is that it keeps you young. People are always trying to figure out new ways of using it and making it a more interesting art form.

TRRT: Is there a key to doing it well?

CM: Basically, it’s just total trust in the people that you’re with and listening and having the ability to totally commit, even though you have no idea what you’re committing to. You have to accept everything that comes your way. And it’s really hard because the world of improv goes against everything that we do in real life; having to listen to people, having to be very accepting to their ideas. So it’s not a natural thing to do.

TRRT: Do you ever visit places, where for one reason or another, you have a bad crowd?

CM: We’ve been fairly lucky. The only times we’ve had trouble with crowds is in some of the casinos we’ve been in, due to liquor. Sometimes…it’s difficult because you’re trying to get the audience involved and…the line of how involved they’re supposed to be gets erased.

TRRT: Currently, and for many years, you’ve been involved in lots of charities, most of which involve children. You seem like a guy that has social and political opinions on things. Is it difficult to keep those out of your comedy, or do those things sometimes slip in there?

CM: Because of the nature of our show, we tend to go for silly more than political satire. Actually, we’ve found in the last couple of years that the audience is changing a bit. Whenever we did a (George W.) Bush joke, we would immediately divide half of our audience, which was very odd, because making fun of presidents is something that has been going on since there’s been a presidency. So it was very odd that the audience would take it so personally when we’d make a Bush joke. I was a big (Bill) Clinton fan, and when he was having his problems, I was the first to jump on that bandwagon. The audience always went along with it. So it is interesting that this was the first president that we couldn’t actually make fun of…and there was a lot of material there.

TRRT: What can the audience here in Rockford expect when they come to see you and Brad?

CM: Expect to walk away from the show having learned nothing, but hopefully you’ll get a couple of good laughs. You’ll recognize a couple of games from Whose Line, but then there are some games that have never been seen. It’s just a fun evening. We have a great time doing the show. So far, the audiences seem to really enjoy what we’re doing. We’re hoping to keep that streak alive.

Tickets for “An Evening with Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood” are on sale through all Centre Events ticket outlets or online at The show begins at 8 p.m., Saturday, May 6. Tickets are $48, $38 and $23. For more information, visit Colin Mochrie’s Web site at or

From the May 3-9, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!