He was valedictorian at his high school, because he is flawless. He is an improvisational comedian, and his brilliance has illuminated The Second City and the British and American incarnations of Whose Line Is It Anyway. Everything this man touches turns to gold. Though for most of our readers, he needs no introduction. This man is…
David Luna: What is your earliest memory?
Colin Mochrie: I was playing with a girl named Mary Brown in Scotland. I think she was my first crush. I was probably around 3. She never calls.
DL: Growing up, who or what made you laugh the most?
CM: My family wasn’t very funny. They’re Scottish, and their humor tends to be quite morbid. I guess my grandfather. He had a good sense of humor. He was a joke teller. He loved telling stories, so it would probably be him. But everyone else was pretty dark.
DL: As you might know, Alexander Graham Bell was another Canadian born in Scotland. Are there any non-comedian historical figures that you revere with great passion, a figure that might inspire you?
CM: I’ve often been fascinated with people like Columbus or Magellan, these people who head out not knowing exactly where to, with some vague sort of goal in mind, but ending up somewhere totally different, sailing a world that they think is flat and could fall off the edge. It’s almost like improvising, except we’re never in any kind of mortal danger.
DL: Do you have a thirst for adventure, or are you a bit more sessile?
CM: I enjoy adventure in the grand sense of the word (going out, doing something I’ve never done before, going places I’ve never been). But, you know, climbing mountains or jumping out of planes, ehhh, no, not really.
DL: Will there be anything new that we might not expect with the return of Whose Line Is It Anyway?
CM: I don’t really know much about it except Ryan, Wayne, and I are doing it for sure, an improviser named Heather Campbell is doing it, and Aisha Tyler is hosting. So it’s nice that there’s actually women involved this time, so it will take some of the pressure off me.
DL: Did you ever have any say in who was invited as a guest on the show?
CM: We can make suggestions, but it’s really up to the producer, who’s a real control freak, so it’s up to him. We’ve talked up certain improvisers, but aside from that the special guests were always a total surprise. You never expect, within shows of each other, Sid Ceasar, Lassie and Richard Simmons. It’s all over the place.
DL: Are there any memories from doing that show that stand out from the rest?
CM: I don’t remember specific scenes—well, I remember the Richard Simmons scene only because it was the longest laugh that I think we ever got on the show. Actually, when you see the show they cut some of the audience reaction because it was kind of overboard. It was going way too long. But aside from that, aside from a general feeling of happiness about working with the guys, it was pretty quick and dirty. It was three weekends out of the year.
We’d go down there, we’d shoot Friday, Saturday, Sunday, then take a couple of weeks off, come back and do that again, so it was all kind of a blur. There are times I’ll be switching channels and see Whose Line is on, and I know that I did the scene because I’m watching me do it, but there’s no recollection of it whatsoever.
DL: By doing it all in one weekend, would you say that was better for the energy, instead of having it dragged out over a period of say a couple months?
CM: I think so. It kept us warmed up, doing it in short bunches like that. Usually when you’re doing a series you rehearse for the week and then you shoot on a Friday night, and then you start all over again. We managed to get three days of playing 22 games a day, so we were on a real buzz.
DL: In improv, have there been train wrecks or cringe worthy moments that you’ve witnessed or gone through that stand out in your memory?
CM: Absolutely, but the beauty with improv is it’s gone. Once you do it you’re onto the next thing because your mind is going 100 miles and hour just trying to keep things going. There are whole shows, and they’re usually corporate shows where we’re brought in to do the entertainment for an awards night or something. They usually tend to be horrible. It’s not in a theatre, it’s usually some banquet hall, there’s always issues with the mic, people really aren’t interested, and they just want to either get an award or get really drunk. So you just kind of go into survival mode and try to protect yourself by mentally blocking it out.
DL: Have there ever been any surreal groups of people you’ve had to perform for, like a corporate show for some kind of czar or something?
CM: Brad Sherwood and I have been touring for the last ten years, and we did five shows in India. We were brought over by this liquor company, and the owner was this billionaire who was at every show. He sat in the front row, and every once in a while a guy would come out with a tray with one glass of wine on it. He’d have a sip, put it back on the tray, and then the guy would go back and get a fresh wine. So that was pretty bizarre.
DL: To be involved in a web series like “Patience Please,” you must be sick in the head in all the right ways. Has your sense of humor ever gotten you into trouble, or at least put you in a tense or awkward situation?
CM: Usually my humor gets me out of trouble. It’s gotten me out of fights and weird situations. So far it’s worked on the good side of the force.
DL: In other interviews you’ve mentioned that you were interested in the sciences, marine biology, specifically. If you had your own nature show, something not unlike the programs of David Attenborough or Jeff Corwin, what places and animals would you most like to visit and see?
CM: My wife and I went to the Congo a couple years back. There’s this reserve where they have bonobos, and they have 99.7 percent of our DNA, and all they do is make love all day. I guess that’s the part of the DNA we’re missing. So they’re just these loving monkeys who enjoy each other and never fight. So I found that fascinating, that there are actual beings like that living on this planet.
DL: Now, where did your reverence for nature come from?
CM: I have no idea. My people are not nature people. It’s not like we ever went camping or anything. I enjoy the outdoors. When I wanted to be a marine biologist, under the sea always fascinated me. I just loved, and I still love, going under water and just having that peace. Even though it’s teaming with life, there’s a peace and quiet that you don’t get on the surface.
DL: What has been your greatest struggle working as an actor and comic?
CM: I guess getting hired. In this business, people love to put you in a certain category. So because we start off making our name in improv, which has been great, it also has some setbacks in that people think, “Well, they can’t do a script, or if they do a script they’ll just go completely off it and screw around with it,” which isn’t true. Everyone who was on Whose Line has acted before. Chip Esten is one of the leads in Nashville and is doing a great job; he’s amazing in it. So it’s always been frustrating that we never have a chance to be able to do other things. You know, here and there if they need a whacky neighbor or something we get the call. And certainly I have no burning desire to do Hamlet or super serious parts, but I would like to do stuff that’s different. That’s sort of the frustration, is getting casting people or directors to see you in a different light.
DL: I’d certainly enjoy watching you as a villain on a show like Dexter.
CM: I’m at the age now where friends are starting to get into positions of power and can hire me. A friend hired me to play this villain for this season of a Buffy kind of show, where I was the evil demon villain for the year. So I got to kill people with shovels and things I never get to do. It’s called Dark Rising.
DL: The original run of the American Whose Line was on ABC. Being that it’s Disney’s network, did you ever feel limited in certain things you could say publically, or do, or be involved with?
CM: I never thought that, and I never got that feeling from the network or from Disney. There’s some stuff we did on the show that I still can’t believe we did on a Disney-owned network. Having it worked out so it looked like Richard Simmons was fellating me, I don’t know how many networks you could actually get that on now. So we kind of lucked out with them. They sort of kept their distance, which on the one hand was great, but on the other hand they didn’t really know what the show was (I think that’s part of the reason they kept their distance).
DL: If you could shapeshift into any animal, what would you choose to be and why?
CM: Well, the bonobos have it pretty good, eating and having sex all the time. A dolphin. I’d like to—hmmm. Well, you see, I’m torn. I’m going between sky, land and ocean. I would love to be like a hawk or something and just have that freedom of flight. I think I’ll have to go with dolphin.
DL: Dolphin, yeah. They also like to have sex all the time I think, right?
CM: Well that’s the thing, and they look cool, they’re smart, they can swim really fast, and sometimes they get a television series.
DL: If you could choose your death, how would you go?
CM: It would be after a perfect day. So there would be three fantastic meals at three of my favorite restaurants, I’d be spending time with my wife and son, and some wild sex, and then dying at the height of my REM, around, I don’t know, 2:30 in the morning.
DL: After you die, what do you want to be remembered for, or what do you hope to leave behind?
CM: Ah, well, obviously a lot of broken hearts. I don’t know. I hope that people can take from my career that things happen when you least expect it, and you can do anything. When I was growing up this was not an occupation, and yet here I am making a living making up crap. So, the possibilities are endless. Just believe in yourself and go forward.
Colin Mochrie Portrait by Buddy Purucker