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Whose Line is it? It's Colin Mochrie's!
Improv legend Colin Mochrie talks to us as Whose Line is it Anyway? celebrates its 30th anniversary in London
Whose Line is it Anyway? is on stage at the Royal Albert Hall Saturday 15 December and Sunday 16 December.
Buy Tickets for Whose Line is it Anyway? at the Royal Albert Hall
Thank you so much for talking to us Colin! We usually interview North Americans coming to the UK so our usual starter question is 'Where are you from in the States' - you were actually born in Scotland, but immigrated early in your life to Canada - so I wonder if a better question is where do you identify yourself as being from? Do you still retain connections with Scotland?
I was born Kilmarnock and now live in Toronto. I think I have a perfect blend of both places. I get my politeness from Canada and my morbid sense of humour from Scotland. I try to get to Scotland whenever I can because it is such a beautiful country with fabulous people. I still have lots of family there and when I get the chance, I visit. And there’s whisky.
You're gearing up for a big Whose Line is it Anyway? celebration in London this December, it's 30 years since the show debuted in the UK in 1988. Before we discuss the show, how did you first become interested in Improvisational comedy?
I first saw a demonstration of improv when I was in Theatre school. I was immediately taken with it and wanted to try my hand at it. It is the perfect art form for lazy people. You get the audience to come to a show you don’t have yet, make them give all the information you need for a scene. Then you improvise. It’s a good gig. It’s like being the president, except that the crap we make up usually has a point.
Your first appearance on the show was Season 3, but you'd auditioned for the show before that. How did you become aware of Whose Line, why did the project interest you, and how did you feel when you finally got your shot as a regular?
I wasn't aware of Whose Line until my audition. It wasn’t on North American television at that point so, to me, it was just some job that I had a chance to get. I never thought it would end up being my career. I will always be grateful to Whose Line for giving us a chance to make a great living at an occupation that didn’t exist when I was growing up.
For those of us who are glued to repeats of the early seasons of Whose Line, even though it's a UK show, the involvement of you, Ryan Stiles, and others like Greg Proops and Mike McShane showed that Improv worked really well with North American comedians. Is there any reason behind that?
I think the only reason was that improv was still a fairly new art form in the UK. Ryan and I, like Greg [Proops] and Mike [McShane], had been improvising together for at least 10 years before we did Whose Line, so we were comfortable with the art form and with each other.
How did you arrange your life whilst being a regular on the UK version - did you become a frequent flier!?
The beauty of Whose Line is that it never takes long to film. When we did the British series, it was 4 week-ends. The US one was even shorter-2 week-ends and they could get 30 shows from that. Cheap and easy.
Do you have a favorite memory or moment from the UK series?
My favourite memories are all about the people. Getting to know Steve Frost, Mike, Greg, Tony [Slattery], Jim Sweeney, Steve Steen, Josie [Lawrence] was great. They are all still good friends and I treasure them mightily.
Do you have a favorite segment/challenge from the show?
Greatest Hits was always my favourite because I got to banter with Ryan then hand it over to the talented musical improvisers. I got to be a participant and a viewer.
How did the development to the US version of the show, hosted by Drew Carey, come about, and how did you feel to be involved?
Mark [Leveson] and Dan [Patterson] had always wanted to do an American version. The first production company they were set up with, wanted to have a VJ host and young good-looking improvisers, of which there are none.. Thankfully Dan stuck to his guns and said it works with the funny looking guys. At that point Ryan was working with Drew, who was a big fan of the show. Ryan got Drew Mark and Dan together and because Drew was the network's top star, he easily got the show on the air. At that point, the show had a presence on American television, having been on Comedy Central. I was excited to be part of it because I really felt it would do well for an American audience. It seemed to work out
Having spent a lot of time with North American and British comedians, do the cultures of both continents play to different strengths within Improv?
American audiences tend to give more pop culture suggestions, whereas UK audiences are all over the map. The British improvisers tend to break the fourth wall more than the US. and will do anything to get a laugh. I am totally on board with that.
How are you feeling ahead of the show at the Royal Albert Hall, London, and what can visitors to the show expect?
We're all excited to play the Royal Albert Hall. The show will be like a live version of Whose Line without the tall guy and the black guy, or as I like to call them the dead weight.
What one thing do you always like to do when in the UK?
What I love about London is that it's a great walking town. My wife and I usually get up early and then just spend the day walking around town shopping, museums, art galleries etc. So I get culture and fit at the same time.
What's next on the horizon for you?
Brad Sherwood and I have been touring for the last 16 years so that basically takes up most of my time. Every once in a while some television or movie work comes my way, which is fun because it’s a totally different muscle to work. As you can tell by my career, nothing has been planned out, so I've no idea what the future will bring.
And finally, what's the best thing about being Colin Mochrie?
The best thing about being Colin Mochrie is that I get to do something I love on a regular basis, get paid for it and have the opportunity to improvise around the world. I've been very fortunate, so once again thanks to Whose Line. Next best thing about being me is that I am not Ryan Stiles.
Whose Line is it Anyway celebrates its 30th anniversary with three special shows at the Royal Albert Hall this December. Stagings will be on Saturday December 15 at 9:30pm, and on Sunday December 16 at 6pm, with a Sunday Matinee at 2pm. You can buy tickets by going to the Royal Albert Hall website