A Preview of Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood’s Show, Scared Scriptless
Since I was a child, I’ve been a huge fan of “Whose Line Is It Anyway”—an improv comedy TV show more colloquially known as “Whose Line” that originated in the United Kingdom. My younger sister and I used to stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. just to watch the re-runs on ABC Family, and I’m pretty sure 99% of our senses of humor came from that show. I even found out recently that the US version of the show premiered on my second birthday, and I took that as a sign that it was meant to be a huge part of my life. So when I heard that two of the cast members, Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood, were bringing their show to the Fargo Theater in March, I was thrilled. Just to see them perform live will be a treat, but I was lucky enough to talk with Colin before he and Brad come to Fargo. I chatted with him about his time on “Whose Line,” his draw to improv, and the two-man show “Scared Scriptless.”
Interview with Colin Mochrie
I wanted to cover the show that you’re doing with Brad [Sherwood] in March at the Fargo Theater. I have some questions for you, the first being: have you ever been to Fargo?
C: No, and oddly, Fargo is the only place in the 20 years we’ve been doing this show that we had to cancel the show because we couldn’t get to it. We were trapped in Minneapolis. That was like… maybe ten years ago?
Oh no! Was it a snowstorm?
C: Yeah. So we’re due!
And Fargo’s not too far away from Canada, too, so I’m surprised you guys haven’t been here before.
C: Yeah, I’m kind of shocked myself. I don’t know what’s happened.
Do you have anything that you’re looking forward to in Fargo?
C: I don’t really know much about it, so I’m looking forward to everything. All I know is the movie. Unless there are constantly people in woodchippers. I don’t know what to expect.
Yeah, the woodchipper is here, though, in Fargo. So you can go visit that at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitor’s Center.
Yeah! There’s a replica of it outside the Visitors Center, and then there’s also the actual one inside. But it’s funny because Fargo wasn’t actually even filmed [in Fargo], it doesn’t even take place in Fargo for the most part.
C: Oh, dear. Hollywood just constantly lies to you.
Speaking of being in Fargo, I want to know about the show you’ll be doing here, Scared Scriptless. What does the typical show consist of? I know it’s improv, but is it “Whose Line”-style games, or what is it all about?
C: Yeah, we like to say it’s like a live version of “Whose Line” without, you know, the cast members we consider “dead weight.”
Every scene starts with a suggestion from the audience. We have audience members on stage with us at various times. We have some games that will be very familiar to “Whose Line” fans, like sound effects. And then there are games we’ve had to adapt because it’s just the two of us. We don’t have a host. And it’s all totally improvised, it’s all goofy, it’s a lot of fun.
It looks like a lot of fun, and I’m super excited to see it! I’ve been a fan of “Whose Line” for as long as I can remember. It’s actually—this might make you feel a little sad about how old it is, the US version of it premiered on my second birthday.
C: Wow. I started doing the show in Britain, and my first show, my daughter was two months old. We’re about to film our next season, and she just turned 32. So I already felt old, Sam, I didn’t need you to tell me.
Did you know? Colin Mochrie announced in November 2022 that season 19 would be the last season of “Whose Line is it Anyway?”
That’s fair. I’m super excited to see you guys live. I have been waiting for you guys to come to Fargo. I saw the clip on your website—it was a game. I think, was it called ‘New Choice?’ Did that originate on Drew Carey’s Improv-a-Ganza? That’s one of my favorites.
C: I think it started [with] Drew Carey— when he was hosting “Whose Line.” I think that’s when it first came up. I think Brad was actually the one who came up with that game. It’s one of his inventions.
That’s awesome. Speaking of Brad, I wanted to know what your favorite part of working with Brad is.
C: Well, I mean, we’ve known each other for a long time. I would say—well, yes, thirty years. I think this is like our twenty-first year of touring. So, obviously, we get along. Otherwise, we would not still be touring after [all] this time. What is great about him is, he’s a little OCD. So, he’s very detailed-oriented, which is something I am not even close to. So, you know, little things that I would never think about, he obsesses about and deals with it. And basically, I’m there to make sure he doesn’t get a stroke. He makes the tour better, and I just keep him alive. It’s a simple recipe for success.
That’s great. What’s your favorite part about doing improv in general?
C: It’s the most death-defying thing I’ll do where there’s actually no death being defied. It’s walking in front of an audience with no show—[a show] that [the audience is] expecting—and somehow, after two and a half hours, having done a show. I love that I’m working with someone. You know, unlike stand-up, [where] you’re there by yourself against the audience. This way, I’m working with someone. I’ve always been more of an ensemble guy. And it’s just fun! I love that, you know, unlike rock bands, we don’t have to do our greatest hits every show. Every show is a totally different show. That audience will be the only audience who sees it. So it’s kind of cool in that way.
Do you have any pre-show rituals or any way that you prepare for a show before you go on stage, or do you just kind of wing it?
C: Yeah, we just kind of wing it. Especially at this point, you know. There’s really nothing… It’s not like you can rehearse anything. You know, we basically talk about anything except the show and kind of just get to a point where we’re totally relaxed and we’re confident that we can walk out on stage with absolutely blank brains. Brad’s much [better] at doing that because he’s not really smart.
But, yeah, it’s a good job for lazy people. You just show up and get the audience to do most of the work.
What made you want to do improv versus stand-up? Was there any thought in your mind that you’d ever do standup, or was it always improv for you?
C: I mean, stand-up was never a thing for me. Just from the aspect that there’s a lot of work that goes into it. You have to write your material. And then there’s also sort of an adversarial relationship you have with the audience. They’re sitting back saying, “all right, funny boy, you think you’re funny? Prove it to us.”
Whereas with improv, you know, we’re getting suggestions from the audience. So they have a little more vested interest in us doing well because we’re using their suggestions. And when I was growing up, improv wasn’t really a choice because, there was improv, but nobody really knew what it was.
Robin Williams had come along at that point. People had more of an idea, but it really wasn’t until “Whose Line” that it was in the public consciousness. So, I was doing improv, but it was something that I thought of as a fun thing to do on the weekends. It was still a fairly new art form. I never thought it would be my career. So, [I’m] very grateful that “Whose Line” changed all that and gave me a job.
Speaking of “Whose Line,” I was just curious, what’s it like for you working on the show? I’m a little heartbroken that I heard that next season’s the last one because I’ve been watching it for most of my 26 years of life. How are you feeling about that?
C: Well, I never say never, because once we finished the Drew show, I thought “well, that’s it,” then [the show] came back. But, you know, it’s also time to let younger people do it. New faces.
I mean, the great thing about “Whose Line” is it’s such a small part of our work schedule. We have four tapings.
And each taping is like twenty-two to twenty-five games. So from that, they can get four to five shows. So it’s quick and easy. I think part of the reason it’s gone on so long and why we still like each other is because we don’t spend a lot of time with each other. It’s always fun. We shoot and then we don’t see each other for like a year or two years. And so, when we see each other, it’s always like “Oh, we’re all friends!” And then we goof around for four tapings and it’s done. We’re off again.
Did You Know?
Colin and Brad have been touring together on and off since 2002!
Yeah, sounds like when my family gets together for holidays.
C: Exactly. But there’s probably less tension on the “Whose Line” set than with families.
Probably! Continuing on that “Whose Line” train of thought, what’s your favorite “Whose Line” memory? It can be from the last twenty-some years—if you can remember it.
C: There are so many. I mean, when Robin Williams did the show, that was an amazing memory because he was someone who we all idolized, and then to see what a generous and open and lovely guy he was, made it even better. The Richard Simmons scene, that is a scene that people always show someone if they don’t know what “Whose Line” is.
But this is what the show is. Part of the curse and part of the pleasure of improv is once you’ve done something, it’s gone. You don’t really remember it. With that scene, I’ll remember—because people send it to me all the time, like I sit in the dark and watch all my old scenes from television or something—but, I still remember… there’s usually no editing at all in any scenes, and in that scene, they had to cut down the laughter, because when Richard’s head was bobbing at my crotch, the audience was laughing for an uncomfortably long time, [longer] than the rest of us. I was just standing there with Richard Simmons’s head on my crotch for an extremely long time. And the audience was just losing their minds. Nobody could say anything until they sort of slowed down. So in the final product, we see on the TV show, they actually chopped out a large part of the audience’s reaction.
That’s crazy. I mean, I can imagine that being there live and seeing that would make me laugh really hard, too.
C: Yeah, it was, I have to say—in all due modesty—I think that was one of the funniest scenes that have been on television. In the history of television. Because, god bless Richard Simmons, giving his all, being really committed, and yeah. It was very funny
Did You Know?
The original “Whose Line Is It Anyway” was a British show, and it premiered in 1988 and ran until 1999.
Did You Know?
Richard Simmons appeared on the fifth season of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” in 2003—a whole 20 years ago!
That kind of leads into my next question—have you had any favorite guest stars on the show aside from Richard Simmons and Robin Williams?
C: When Sid Caesar was on. You’re way too young to remember Sid Caesar, but he was big in the fifties. He would do a live show—an hour-and-a-half show of comedy, and it had some of the top people who went on to become incredible comedy writers. Mel Brooks was part of the writing staff, Woody Allen, the creators of “MAS*H” and “All in the Family.” So, I remember him as a big influence and he came on the show and was great. Again, was lovely. We were very lucky. Whoopie Goldberg was on the show, she also was lovely. We’ve been very fortunate with our guest stars.
What’s your favorite game to play on “Whose Line?”
C: My favorite game has always been “Greatest Hits.” First of all, I got to sit down, which was cool. And I loved that it gave Ryan and I a chance to sort of banter and fool around, then we hand it over to the incredible musical improvisers— you know, Wayne [Brady], Brad [Sherwood], Chip Esten, Jeff Davis—and then watch what they did with what we gave them. So, it was a scene where I got to be a participant and also a viewer and I enjoyed both parts of it.
I would have to say “Scenes from a Hat” is my favorite, but I think the way that I was introduced to “Whose Line” was just watching big YouTube compilations of “Scenes from a Hat” non-stop for like four hours straight.
C: Sam, I’m worried about you.
Yeah, I’m worried about myself, too, don’t worry. [laughs] The last question I had was, do you have any advice for budding improv comedians out there? If I were to—and I’m not saying that I want to—but if I were to do improv, what advice would you have for me?
C: I’d say if you’re wanting to do it to become famous or anything, find something else that you like better. But if you want to do it just as like a life skill, or just to perform, do it as much as you can. It really is a muscle that has to be exercised, you find out quickly. Unfortunately, it’s not something you can really learn from a book. You have to succeed and fail in front of an audience and find out where your strengths and weaknesses are. I always say watch people who you admire who are improvisers and see what it is that they’re doing that sort of attracts you to them. Always work with people better than you because you learn so much by doing that. And again, just do it wherever and whenever you can.
It was a childhood dream come true to interview Colin Mochrie, and it made me even more excited to see him and Brad live. I never would have imagined getting to talk to someone who was so formative for my childhood. They say to never meet your idols, but Colin was an exception! He was so kind, and I am glad I got to get to know more about him and his show.
Check out their show, Colin Mochrie & Brad Sherwood: Scared Scriptless, at 8 p.m. at the Fargo Theater on Friday, March 3!
Tickets at tickets300.com