By JESSICA A. BOTELHO
“We like to say it’s like a live version of Whose Line without the tall guy, black guy, and rich guy,” said comedian Colin Mochrie, formerly of the Emmy-nominated improvisational show Whose Line is it Anyway?
Mochrie is explaining the side-splitting show he’s doing with Brad Sherwood, another Whose Line star, as the funny boys have teamed up for the “Colin & Brad: Two Man Group” tour. The comedians will be visiting the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center in New Bedford on Feb. 23. The fun begins at 8 p.m.
The dynamic duo have been doing shows as a pair for nine years, performing anywhere from 50 to 100 shows each year. With more than 20 years as comedians apiece, that’s a whole lot of laughs.
“It’s actually more interactive than the television show was,” Mochrie said. “Every scene starts with a suggestion from the audience and we have audience members on stage with us for about 80 percent of the show. It’s just a wacky free-for-all.”
“We basically hand the car keys to the audience and they drive us wherever they want us to go,” he said. “We have no idea what the people are going to do when we bring them on stage or what their suggestions will be. I have no idea what Colin’s going to say during the entire show and he has no idea what I’m going to say. Everything is going wrong and that’s what makes the show right.”
And that’s the way they like it. Mochrie recalls a time when an intoxicated woman in the crowd began walking down the isle and shouting at them to do a song about menopause.
“Brad immediately went into a rap song about menopause, so it worked out,” he said. “Those little hiccups make the show interesting.”
But picking topics for sketches, as well as participants from the crowd, can be tricky, said Mochrie. While they don’t want someone who is going to try to take over the scene and use it as their audition, they also don’t want someone to be nervous and too quiet.
“It’s always a crapshoot,” he said. “There are times you pick someone who’s drunk, which makes it difficult explaining the games to them, but I can’t think of any time we’ve been destroyed by audience members. We take very good care of the audience that comes up because they are there to help us. We try to make it as fun as we can. Usually the scenes where we can get ourselves into the most trouble are the ones we have the most fun.”
As noted, Mochrie and Sherwood agree that not having anything planned is the beauty of the show. Typically, they fly in the day of the show, get together for sound check and create a list of games they’re going to play. That’s pretty much it for preparation.
“But once we’re out there it somehow always works,” Mochrie said. “I’m not sure how, but it does. It keeps you on edge and makes you work a little harder. It’s the closest to death defying as I’ll get.”
Sherwood added, “It always plays out pretty darn well because we’re always in a state of, ‘Oh, my God. What’s going to happen?’ It’s always exciting.”
Mochrie and Sherwood first became acquainted in the early 1990s while appearing on the British version of Whose Line is it Anyway? They continued being co-workers and friends through the show’s eight-year run on ABC, a stint that earned the show an Emmy nomination.
“It was the best gig in the world,” Mochrie said. “Getting the chance to work with world-class improvisers, British and American, was just fun. This wasn’t a career when I was a kid and I’m still shocked that I get to do it and am getting paid for it. Whose Line made that possible.”
Sherwood, who earned a degree in acting from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, got the idea to do a two-man show with Mochrie shortly after Whose Line stopped filming in 2004. He had been performing as a two-man group with a friend before approaching Mochrie, also a professionally trained actor, as he graduated from Studio 58, a theatre training school located in Vancouver.
“We decided to give it a try,” Sherwood said. “We did a two week tour and it worked so well that we never stopped doing it.”
Their DVD, Two Man Group: Live and Dangerous Comedy, hit stores in 2011.
The same year, the “Whose Line?” cast was reunited in Vegas for Drew Carey’s Improv-a-Ganza, a series that aired for one season on the Game Show Network.
“It’s always nice to get together with everybody,” Morchrie said. “It’s really a good group. Everybody gets along so well.”
In addition to Whose Line, Mochrie and Sherwood have worked on other projects: Mochrie has been heavily involved in independent and small movies. He is an affiliate of The Movie Co-op, a Canadian venture to help produce great Canadian movies funded and run by the artists themselves.
Of course, he has appeared in commercials as the Nabisco Snack Fairy. He plans to release a book later this year.
For Sherwood, who in the last fifteen years has guest starred on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno more than 100 times, and made several appearances on VH-1’s I Love The 80’s’ & 90’s, and Talk Soup, recently served as a guest announcer on the Price is Right.
“I did it for a month and it was really cool because I grew up watching the show,” Sherwood said. “Saying, ‘come on down’ or ‘a new car,’ was just crazy. It was like being a part of TV history.”
When he’s not onstage, Sherwood is playing guitar. He said while he likes hard rock and country, he enjoys writing folk music in his spare time. He also likes to sample Mochrie’s food, as Mochrie loves to cook.
“My wife hasn’t cooked since 1990,” Mochrie said. “I find it really relaxing. I wake up and the first thing I think of is, ‘Ok. What are we having for dinner?’ I plan what I’m going out to buy. I’m always learning new stuff and experimenting with cooking.”
But for the most part, they just want to make people laugh.
“Come see the show,” Mochrie said. “It’s just goofy fun.”
Tickets, which range in price from $45.50 to $47.50, can be purchased at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center Box Office, located at 684 Purchase Street in New Bedford, Mass., by phone at 508-994-2900, or online at www.zeiteiron.org.