Colin Mochrie Exclusive Interview

Colin MocchrieColin Mochrie, known for his antics on the popular improv show, Whose Line is it Anyway has brought laughter to millions. Wacky on TV, and witty in real life, humor seems very much a part of Colin, whether it’s subtle sarcasm or blatantly silly. Colin talks here about everything, yes everything, from Green Screen, touring, the Nabisco Snack Fairy, and why his life is almost too normal.

THE STAR SCOOP:
The first thing I think of when I think of you is laughter, and some say laughter is one of the greatest gifts that you can give. Do you feel like you’re making a difference at all?

COLIN MOCHRIE:
There is this thing when you do comedy, that you start to take it for granted. There are so many jobs in the world that are important, doctors and teachers who work every day for the common good, you feel like almost a fraud sometimes, going out there and jumping around like a chicken.

Brad [Sherwood] and I get so many letters, or we meet people who say, I was going through a tough divorce or a family member was dying and just for those two hours, I forgot about it, and had a good time. We’re very proud that in our small way, we can make people a good time, if they get balled up with what’s going on in their world.

THE STAR SCOOP:
In other interviews you’ve said you’re pretty shy, and didn’t start off being the class clown at all. You don’t come across that way [as someone who is shy] when you’re doing improv. Do you feel like you’re acting, then?

COLIN MOCHRIE:
No. I guess it’s two totally different parts of my personality. Or I guess it’s the same personality, but one who’s much more comfortable on stage than he is in real life. When I’m on stage, I’m usually with people that I totally trust, and we’re having fun, and I know exactly what I’m doing.

There’s a confidence there that I don’t have in real life. I don’t know how the day’s going to turn out, I am nervous around people I haven’t met before. It’s like being a traveler in two different worlds. The stage world is the one where I have the most fun.

THE STAR SCOOP:
Everyone talks about the chemistry needed between movie stars and TV actors. What kind of chemistry do you need in comedy with other people?

COLIN MOCHRIE:
One of the reasons I never went into stand up was, I really need to work with people. I can’t go in front of an audience by myself and keep them entertained. The beauty with improv is I’m surrounded by, as I say, people that I trust, and you really need that sense of trust and fun, when you’re working with people, especially in comedy.

All you have is those people to get your laughs with. Comedy is dependent on the other person setting you up and then getting the punch line out. It really is more ensemble work than drama or anything else.

THE STAR SCOOP:
You’re obviously an incredibly talented Improvisational comedian. How do you find this to be useful to you in everyday life?

COLIN MOCHRIE:
You know what the sad thing is? It isn’t. I’d always think, if I stopped for a speeding ticket or caught in a lie, or something, I’d be able to talk my way out of it, because I’m fairly relaxed with improv. But there’s something about real life, where improv just doesn’t work. I mean, the art of improv, you’re supposed to go against everything that you do in real life in a way. The two basic rules are you have to listen to people, and you have to accept everything that comes your way, which we don’t really do in real life. I keep trying to find a way to use it in my real life, so that it will ease my life and make me a better person, but it just hasn’t happened yet.

THE STAR SCOOP:
This is kind of cliche, but, are there any types of improv you find challenging? You see people doing improv, and everything looks fairly easy, so you wonder, what do you guys have more trouble with, than we can tell?

COLIN MOCHRIE:
Everybody has, I guess, their games they don’t feel as confident with, and for me it’s anything to do with music. It’s frustrating because my dream was to be like a musical comedy star. If I could do anything, that’s what it would be. So it’s really frustrating that I’m not able to do like an improv song, or anything with music.

It frightens me, I guess, whereas with all the other games, they frighten me, but I know how to get out of trouble. It’s very rare in a song you can sort of, in the middle, go, “I mean…” It just doesn’t work.

THE STAR SCOOP:
Speaking of things that maybe you’re not so good at…every so often, you’ll see someone will kind of mess up doing improv, and it’s almost just as funny. Why do you think that is important to improv in general?

COLIN MOCHRIE:
I think a lot of fun in improv, is just seeing the actors get out of trouble. You’re getting suggestions you’ve never heard before from the audience, and part of the fun is seeing what the improvisers are going to do with that. So when things do go wrong, it’s just doubling the pleasure of, “oh, they’ve really gotten themselves into trouble, now how will they get out of it.

It’s actually a lot of fun for the improvisers, especially when your partner screws up, because it gives you so much material to work with, and just to sort of make fun of them in front of the audience. There’s just that danger that the improvisers are now in trouble as people, not just as improvisers.

THE STAR SCOOP:
So if you [mess up] do you feel like you have that to fall back on, that it’s okay if you’re not perfect every time?

COLIN MOCHRIE:
Yeah, one of the things you have to get used to right away with improv is, you really have a fifty-fifty chance that your scene is going to work. It either works or it doesn’t. It’s hard if you’re a perfectionist in real life, or a control freak, to get into the world of improv, because there’s nothing you can do.

You can’t plan for every emergency that comes along. You just have to really trust in yourself, and trust in the person you’re working with that it’s all going to work out. It’s sort of like a fool’s paradise where you think, “okay, if I don’t really think about it, and just go with the flow, it will all work out.” And strangely enough, it usually does.

THE STAR SCOOP:
You said you were kind of shy, you work with people you trust. So if you weren’t the class clown as a child, when did you discover that you had the ability to make people laugh, and that you’re funny?

COLIN MOCHRIE:
I was always quietly funny within my group of friends. I was dared by one of my friends in high school to try out for the school play, and I did. It was a comedy, and I got my first laugh, and that’s when. I didn’t know that I had the ability to make people laugh, but I just knew I loved that feeling. I’ll always remember that particular moment, because that was the moment where I thought, “okay, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, I want to get that laugh, I want to feel like this forever.”

THE STAR SCOOP:
As an interviewer, one can only plan so many questions, you can only do so much, in terms of planning and kind of going off of where the conversation goes. When there aren’t any questions, or there’s [a point] where you’re not sure what you’re going to say anymore, you kind of fall back on a certain set of questions that you have in your head to kind of fill in the gaps. How do you avoid falling back on little repeating techniques where you’re trying to be original, how do you avoid sort of falling back on the same little maneuver to get you out of trouble every time?

COLIN MOCHRIE:
Yeah, it’s tough. It’s that safety net of, well, I know if I do this, it can work out. When Brad and I are doing our live tour, we’re always trying to come up with different ways of getting suggestions from the audience and doing things so it gets farther and farther away from any of the safety nets we have for ourselves.

So we’ll do things, we’ll get the local yellow pages and flip through it, and the audience picks an occupation. And I’d say, nine times out of ten, it’s an occupation we’ve never done before. So as long as we keep finding ways of working it so we’re getting suggestions that we’ve never done before, it’s harder to fall back into old patterns.

THE STAR SCOOP:
One of the things people are always curious about is, we’ve seen that you do a lot of the green screen performances. It may be, obviously, you’ve [had] a lot of practice, and it may not be that hard to figure out what’s going on behind you. But, what kind of mental process do you go through when you’re up there, trying to be funny at the same time, trying to figure out what’s behind you, trying to listen to the people speaking to you, how does that all work out in your head to get you to that end result?

COLIN MOCHRIE:

Yeah. That game is always really tough for me. You have to be vague in a way at the beginning so that anything you can say will fit with whatever the image is behind you, and then you’re just hoping…I mean, the beauty is, Ryan was usually one of the guys who was giving clues, and we grew up together, so I’ve known him for almost thirty years. So we have a lot of the same reference levels.

There would be things that he would say that maybe the average audience member wouldn’t get, that I would know where he was going. I would say ninety percent of the time I did green screen, I would probably know within the first couple minutes, or at least have a good idea of what the images were behind me. Again, it comes back to that trust, that if they see you’re going off into the wrong area, your improv buddies will bring you back to where it’s all safe and right.

THE STAR SCOOP:
So, what are you working on these days? You’ve got the tour.

COLIN MOCHRIE:
Yeah, we’ve been doing that for about three years now, and as long as people still come, we’ll keep doing it. I just finished shooting a movie, a Canadian movie, in Montreal, and I did a pilot for Canadian Television, sort of an improv show. So, fairly busy early in the fall, and now it’s sort of settled down where it’s just the tour, which is great. I would say of all the things I do, the tour is definitely my favorite.

THE STAR SCOOP:
If you prefer the improv [as it seems] to acting, why then do you go out for movies, for the different roles, and not necessarily just sticking to improv?

COLIN MOCHRIE:
Part of it is just the different experience. I’m not as experienced in acting for movies, I’d say, so that gives me a chance to work with people who know what they’re doing, learn from them. One of the beautiful things about improv is you can’t know everything. You’re always learning different ways of handling different situations, and I’m always trying to learn new skills.

So doing things like television and movies, which is so totally different from improv…I mean, improv, you go out there, you do it, you’re done. With movies and television, there’s a rehearsal process, there’s months of shooting to get things right, it’s a totally different muscle to work on. I like challenges, so I guess that’s the main reason I do those things.

THE STAR SCOOP:
If you’re one of someone’s top funniest, makes you laugh, people, who is the one who is making you laugh?

COLIN MOCHRIE:
For me, it’s a really tough question, because I’m not a laugher. There are many people I’ll look at and go, “they’re really funny.” Sadly, the things I laugh at are really stupid things, like when people hurt themselves, or trip over something. It’s so sad. But growing up, I used to watch a lot of television. I was a big, Dick Van Dyke fan, and the Andy Griffith show. I loved the silent comedians, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd.

A lot of the old silent comedians, like Bob Hope and Jack Benny. People who would do television and movies and were sort of a jack of all trades. Currently, unfortunately, I don’t get out enough to actually see who’s out there. Once in a while, I’ll catch some stand up and think, “that’s really funny,” but I’m at the age now where I’m really bad with names, so it’s the guy who does the joke about the thing. For me, the Whose Line guys make me laugh, like Greg and Brad, and Ryan. I have funny friends.

THE STAR SCOOP:
Speaking of Ryan Stiles, you’ve said that he got you involved with Whose Line, the giant impact he’s had on your life, like you said, you’ve known him for thirty years. Where would you have been [without Ryan]?

COLIN MOCHRIE:
Oh my God, I shudder to think. I mean, through him, I really did get Whose Line, he sort of pushed producers to look at me, and try me out. Because of him I met my wife, so I ended up in a happy marriage with a great son. I’d be, I don’t know. I’d be sitting around some soup kitchen somewhere just mumbling into my soup, going, “where did it all go wrong?” One of the great things about my life, is I’ve been incredibly fortunate.

My one marketable skill was improv, and if Whose Line hadn’t come along, I have no idea what would have happened. I would have been one of the millions of actors out there. But because of Whose Line, it sort of gave me an in, and got me known. Improv was something that I loved doing, I never thought that it would be something I actually would be able to make a living at. So I thank God for Whose Line every day of my life.

THE STAR SCOOP:
So many people know Whose Line. So, when you meet fans, do you feel any pressure to have a certain persona when you’re off the stage?

COLIN MOCHRIE:
Yeah, I think there is a certain pressure. I always feel that people kind of disappointed after they’ve met me. I think it would be fairly tiring and irritating if the person you see on Whose Line was actually the person you saw twenty-four hours a day. Whenever I switch by Whose Line, and I see that person, there are times that I’m actually embarrassed by what he’s doing. The most I can do when I meet fans, is be charming. I can be quietly amusing, I can never be wacky.

THE STAR SCOOP:
[Just couldn't let Colin go without asking this one:] The Nabisco Fairy Job. How did that come about?

COLIN MOCHRIE:
It was very odd. My agent got a phone call from Nabisco, and I met with them, and they said, “we came up with this idea, this guy as a snack fairy, who gets people to eat snacks, and we thought of you right away.” I don’t even know what that means, really. I don’t know what they saw in me that screamed, snack fairy. We talked about it, and I was in the middle of renovating my house, so I thought, hey, okay. I could use the money, and I have to say, it was a lot of fun.

There were very nice people, and I managed to travel around, we shot some of the commercials in South Africa, and some in Argentina, so I managed to fly around, and I got involved in one of the most surreal experiences in my life when they had the advertising icons parade in New York. So it was all these advertising icons, like Mr. Peanut, and the Pillsbury Doughboy, Tony the Tiger, and Doublemint Twins. They get them all together and then have a little parade down New York. It was one of the oddest things I’ve ever been a part of. It was doubly strange, because everybody had like great costumes and just had a tutu. So I felt totally under dressed.

THE STAR SCOOP:
Is there anything that didn’t come up that you were wanting to speak about?

COLIN MOCHRIE:
One of my regrets, it’s not really a regret, I’m really happy with the way my life has turned out, and everything. I’m fairly almost distressingly normal. I don’t have inner demons. I love my wife, I love my kid, I love my job, and the people I work with. There are times I feel maybe I should develop a drug problem or beat up someone at an airport just to, I don’t know, just to see what that kind of part of life is about.

But then I look around my life, and think, no, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s just been such an adventure, I’ve had such a great time and once again, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be able to do what I do. So, if you meet me in the street, don’t expect wacky. You’ll just meet some guy who could be an accountant.

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