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(Yes - it's true! Official Press release here! Premieres on the CW July 16th at 8pm! View the first glimpse on youtube.
Oh, by the way, Whose Line is coming back. More details later.— Colin Mochrie (@colinmochrie) March 1, 2013
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Colin in his own words
I was born Nov. 30 1957 in Kilmarnock, Scotland. My family moved to Montreal in 1964. We moved to Vancouver in '69. I went to theater school for 4 years, then luckily managed to get work. I got involved in improv through the Vancouver Theatresports League. I moved to Toronto after Expo 86 and got involved with The Second City. I married in 1989 (to Debra McGrath) and have a son (Luke). I was with Second City for 3 years (a famous North American comedy theatre).
Since the success of Whose Line is it Anyway I have been very busy. Between live tours with Brad Sherwood & of course running Canada when they need me - there doesn't seem to be enough time in a day. Of course, my most famous role was in the 3D space epic, Space Hunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. I capture Molly Ringwald and utter the immortal line "you can ask the Chemist". Molly still writes to me on Christmas. Sweet.
I was (and still am) very shy. We moved a lot when I was a child and I tended to be a bit of a loner. But it was basically normal. I fought with my younger brother, was protective of my younger sister and didn't get my parents. Professionally I was influenced by anyone who made people laugh. Everyone from Chaplin and Keaton to the Marx brothers, Jack Benny, Monty Python (especially John Cleese), Woody Allen and early Bob Hope movies. All of those people influenced me in some way. In many cases without me even knowing it.
Thanks to all the fans for the support and love and the cash is nice too.
Want a full listing of Colin's many appearances? View his filmography on IMDB!
Currently Colin does live improv shows with Brad Sherwood. Check out the tour website for dates & further information.
One of Colin's passions is cooking. View his recipes - some exclusive to this site!
Colin is a very active member of facebook, posting videos & tidbits that catch his fancy. Join him on Facebook.
Colin and Brad also have their own facebook fan page for the Evening with Colin and Brad Tour where they are even doing a 'Ask Colin & Brad feature' regularly! Find them on Facebook as well!
Colin is also on twitter! You can follow him on this website at the right of the page, or follow all the action at http://www.twitter.com/colinmochrie
Colin and Brad are accepting fan submissions of photomanipulations of themselves! Go to the gallery on The Colin and Brad website for more information.
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Written by Colin
A selection of the articles that Colin has written over the years - from interviewing himself, to sharing his passion for Canadian tv.
Written About Colin
We've had the fans help us select some articles about Colin that deserve to be featured on this site - articles that stand out & really give insight into Colin and what he does.
Have a suggestion for another article we should feature on this site? Click here and send it in!
Colin through the years: Click here for the photo gallery
Photo galleries from the Colin and Brad show, including official shots, a 'photoshopped' fan gallery, and fun behind the scenes photos, are available on the Evening with Colin and Brad website
- Colin & Brad's Recipe for Instant Laughter
- Sausage Farfalle
- Spaghetti Squash & Meatballs
- Chili-Rubbed Chicken
- Linguini with Chicken & Leeks
- Crusty Chicken Breasts
- Sweet Potato Wedges
- Roast Turkey
- Mushroom & Chestnut Stuffing
- Rice Salad
- Gift-Wrapped Chocolate Cake
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 lb farfalle (bow-tie pasta)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
1. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and saute until no longer pink, breaking up with back of fork, about 5 minutes. Add onion and garlic; saute until onion is tender and sausage is browned, about 3 minutes longer. Add tomatoes and cream. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sausage mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Return pasta to the pot. Add sausage mixture and toss over medium-low heat until sauce coats pasta, adding reserved cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if mixture is dry.
3. Transfer pasta to serving dish. Sprinkle with basil. Serve cheese as a side garnish. And serve!
Spaghetti Squash & Meatballs
* 2 x 3-pound spaghetti squashes
* 3 tbsp butter
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* Salt and pepper
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Reggiano-Parmigiano
* 1 lb. ground beef
* 1 tbsp Worcester sauce
* 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
* 1 x egg, beaten
* 1 x small onion, minced
* 1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped finely
* 1 sprig rosemary, stems removed, chopped finely
* Salt and pepper
* 1 oz feta cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
* 1 tbsp canola oil
Instant Tomato Sauce
* 6 x large tomatoes
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 x shallots, minced
* 1/4 – 1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
* 1 x palmful basil leaves, chopped finely
* Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400°F
2. Half and seed squashes. In a large baking dish, add 1/4-inch water and place squash, cut side down in dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes, or until squash is tender when forked.
3. When squash is cooked, use a fork to scoop flesh away from the skin and separate the strands.
4. In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add butter, oil and garlic. Add garlic, stir for 1 minute, then add squash and sauté for 3 minutes, tossing occasionally.
1. In a medium bowl, combine meat, Worcester, Dijon, egg, parsley and rosemary. Do not overwork.
2. Take the equivalent of a golf ball-size amount of meat mixture. Use your thumb to form a large dimple in the center of the ball. Set a piece of feta in the dimple and form the meatball around the cheese so that it is sealed in the center.
3. In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add oil. Add meatballs and cook for approximately 12 minutes, turning occasionally until entire exterior is browned and meatball is cooked throughout.
Instant Tomato Sauce
1. Slice the top 1/4-inch each tomato.
2. In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add oil, garlic, shallots and chili flakes. Cook for 2 minutes. Using the largest side of a grater, grate tomatoes from the cut side directly into the pan. Discard the last bit of skin that remains. Saute for about 3 minutes, then add basil, salt and pepper. Sauté for 1 more minute.
3. To serve, plate spaghetti, top with sauce and 3 meatballs. Sprinkle with Reggiano-Parmigiano.
Chili-Rubbed Chicken (with Roasted Garlic Sauce)
4 tbsp/60 mL melted butter
4 tbsp/60 mL flour
4 tsp/20 mL chili powder
4 boneless chicken breasts
12 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3/4 cup/175 mL chicken broth
3/4 cup/175 mL dry white wine
1/2 tsp/2 mL dried sage
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). Combine 2 tbsp (25 mL) melted butter, 2 tbsp (25 mL) flour and 3 tsp (15 mL) chili powder in a small bowl. Rub mixture on chicken, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place chicken in a small roasting pan; scatter garlic around chicken. Roast chicken for 30 minutes. Transfer garlic to plate. Return chicken to oven and roast another 10 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, peel garlic and mash. Stir remaining 2 tbsp (25 mL) butter and 2 tbsp (25 mL) flour in heavy saucepan over medium heat for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in broth and wine. Add sage, mashed garlic and remaining 1 tsp (5 mL) of chili powder. Bring gravy to boil, whisking occasionally, for about 8 minutes. Continuing to stir, reduce heat and simmer for another 3 to 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer chicken to platter and serve with gravy.
(Originally printed in TV Guide Live: Celebrity Chef)
Linguini with Chicken & Leeks
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons butter
3 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced or 1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, not drained, chopped
1 pound linguini, freshly cooked
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add to skillet and saute until just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Cool slightly. Thinly slice chicken crosswise and set aside.
Melt butter and remaining olive oil in same skillet over medium-low heat. Add leeks and garlic and saute until leeks are very tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and chicken. Cook until mixture is just heated through, about 2 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Combine chicken mixture, linguini and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese in large bowl; toss well. Sprinkle with basil. Serve.
(Originally published on favefoods.com)
Crusty Chicken Breasts with Chopped Salad
CRUSTY CHICKEN BREASTS:
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs (175 ml)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (50 ml)
1 tsp. grated lemon rind (5 ml)
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb/ 500g)
Pinch each salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil (25ml)
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil (25ml) or 1/2 tsp (2ml) dried
2 tbsp olive oil (25ml)
1 tbsp each balsamic vinegar and lemon juice (15 ml)
Pinch each salt and pepper
6 cups arugula, trimmed (1.5 L)
4 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup chopped red onion (50 ml)
In a shallow dish, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and lemon rind.
Pour egg into a second shallow dish.
Sprinkle chicken salt and pepper. Dip each breast into egg, turing to coat; dip into crumb mixture, turning and pressing to coat evenly. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; cook chicken for about 5 minutes per side or until browned and no longer pink inside.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together basil, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add arugula, tomatoes and onion; toss to coat. Divide salad among plates; top each with chicken.
Sweet Potato Wedges
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp/15 mL chili powder
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into eighths lengthwise
3/4 cup/175 mL breadcrumbs
3/4 cup/174 mL Parmesan cheese
1 tsp/5 mL each of dried basil and oregano
Mix together egg, garlic and water in a bowl. Add potatoes and toss to coat. In shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, basil and oregano. Roll potato wedges in crumb mixture to coat well. Bake on greased baking sheet in 425 F (220 C) oven for 15 minutes. Turn wedges and bake for 12 to 15 minutes more, or until tender.
Serves 4 to 6.
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon ground pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 20- to 21-pound turkey, neck and giblets reserved
Fresh herb sprigs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted
4 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons butter
12 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, sliced
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
4 cups low-salt chicken broth
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
Mix first 5 ingredients in small bowl. Pat down turkey with paper towels. Place on rack set in large roasting pan, then brush with oil. Rub herb mix all over turkey. Place turkey neck and giblets in roasting pan. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before roasting.)
Position rack in lowest third of oven and preheat to 425°F. Drizzle melted butter all over turkey. Pour 2 cups broth into pan. Roast turkey 45 minutes. Remove turkey from oven and cover breast with foil. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Return turkey to oven; roast turkey 1 hour. Remove foil from turkey; pour remaining 2 cups broth into pan. Roast for about 1 hour and 40 minutes, basting occasionally with pan juices until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180°F. or until juices run clear when thickest part of thigh is pierced with skewer. Remove turkey from pan; tent with foil. Let stand 30 minutes. Reserve liquid in pan for gravy.
Mix flour and wine in small bowl until smooth paste forms. Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and rosemary and sauté until mushrooms begin to soften, about 3 minutes. (Can be made 3 hours ahead. Cover flour paste tightly. Let paste and mushrooms stand at room temperature.)
Discard turkey neck and giblets from pan juices in roasting pan. Transfer pan juices to large glass measuring cup. Spoon off fat. Add enough chicken broth to measure 5 cups; add to saucepan with mushrooms. Add flour paste and whisk until smooth. Bring mixture to boil, stirring frequently. Boil until thickened to light gravy, about 10 minutes. Mix in cream, thyme and tarragon. Season with salt and pepper. Serve turkey with gravy.
Mushroom & Chestnut Stuffing
16 cups of old-fashioned white bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, (about 1 1/2 to 2 loaves)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3 large onions, chopped
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
5 celery stalks, chopped
1 1/2 pounds fresh chestnuts, roasted, shelled, chopped (about 3 cups) or 3 cups steamed chestnuts in jar, very coarsely chopped (about 15 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
Preheat oven to 400°F. Divide bread between 2 large baking sheets. Bake until golden, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.
Melt butter in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add onions and cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add mushrooms; stir until mushrooms begin to soften and release juices, about 5 minutes. Add celery and stir 2 minutes. Mix contents of skillet into bread cubes. Mix in chestnuts, thyme, rosemary and nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 15x10x2-inch baking dish. Mix 1 1/2 cups broth into stuffing. Transfer to prepared dish. Cover with buttered foil. Bake until heated through, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
4 cups cooked brown short-grain rice
1/2 cup black raisins
1/2 yellow apple, diced into 1/2" cubes
3 T sliced almonds
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. salt
Ground pepper to taste
In a mixing bowl, combine rice, raisins, apples, and almonds. In a measuring cup, combine oil, lemon, garlic, curry, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Pour over rice and toss to coat. Chill.
Serves 8 as a side dish.
Gift-Wrapped Chocolate Cake
1 Chocolate cake recipe of your choice
1 Frosting recipe of your choice
6 oz (175 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 cup (50 mL) Light corn syrup
Use a 9 x 13 inch cake pan for baking cake.
First prepare the chocolate paste for making the chocolate "ribbons." Melt 6 oz (175 g) of semi-sweet chocolate and 1/4 cup (50 mL) of light corn syrup in a double boiler and stir till smooth. Transfer to small bowl and cover with plastic wrap with the wrap directly on the surface of the mixture. Let stand until paste is shiny and pliable (usually between 2-6 hours).
Prepare cake batter according to instructions. Put in greased cake pan and bake according to instructions. Make frosting.
To assemble cake cut into three 4 1/3 x 9 inch rectangles.
Place one third on a serving platter and spread frosting on top. Top with second third and spread frosting. Repeat with third layer and frost top and sides. Refrigerate until the frosting is firm, about 1 hour.
Take chocolate paste and form into flattened ball. Place on large sheet of wax paper, cover with other piece of wax paper and roll it out to a rectangle less than 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut chocolate into ribbons. Arrange on cake lengthwise and crosswise letting the ends hang down the sides simulating a gift-wrapped present. Trim the ends. Make a bow with remaining strips and place on center of cake.
(Originally demonstrated/cooked by Colin on BalanceTV)
Colin & Brad's Recipe for Instant Laughter
6 cups listening to other actors
6 cups quick reaction time
3 cups passion for variety and new situations
1 cup lack of preparation
2 cups wit
11/2 Tbs. trust in yourself
2 Tbs. trust in the other guy
1 handful of unpredictability
3 cups self-confidence
1 set loose clothes
2 cups sense of play
1 shtick (1/2 cup) pure fun
1/2 cup attempts to break each other up on stage
1 faked death, the more horrible the better
Sprinkling of swear words, to elicit easy laughs
2 cups ability to put aside any residual shyness or inhibitions
1 cup canniness for choosing right audience volunteers
6 cups good energy (laughter, not new age philosophy) from audience
2 cups fearlessness when it comes to looking like a complete idiot
Once the game has been established and audience members have called out situations, begin to mix the improv. It can be stirred, shaken, whipped, beaten or, preferably, all of the above, as improv comedy is often highly physical. You may want to use a whisk, but be careful of what implements you choose, taking special care to avoid foam-rubber pieces like the ones used on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"
(Originally pubished in the Cape Cod Times)
- Canadian Content is getting Lost Online
- Feeling at a Loss, but not for words
- Gladiators and coconut cream pies
- Getting Along Famously
- Lower Case Celebrity
- Me, Myself & I
Canadian Content is getting lost online
Colin Mochrie, Ottawa Citizen, February 17 2009
I'm generally seen as a TV guy or an improv comic. However, I can tell you, I have a huge stake in the future of new media broadcasting because roughly 70 per cent of what people are doing on the Internet is watching programming content. And that number grows with each day.
If you look up Colin Mochrie or Whose Line is it Anyway? or This Hour Has 22 Minutes on YouTube you'll find entire episodes and numerous clips of me and my colleagues. Over at ctv.ca, full seasons of Corner Gas can be viewed. Increasingly, you can even find footage of my stand-up performances with fans posting online what they've recorded on their cameras or cellphones.
And this is now the norm. People are watching original programs online or on their iPods. You see, just like television, new media is simply another platform for viewing and distributing programming content.
Unlike television, when you are broadcasting through new media, the space for content is practically endless. However, being endless, content can easily get lost. So how do we make sure Canadians can find our own content? How do we make sure Canadian content is featured and given "shelf space"?
Starting this week, our ability to watch Canadian programming when and where we want will be determined.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is undertaking a wide-ranging review of broadcasting in new media to determine whether it should be subject to regulation. Along with other ACTRA performers, I'll be there to urge the CRTC to provide a place for Canadian production online.
The CRTC must take measures now to ensure a place for Canadian programming online. If it doesn't create online space for Canadian programming today and provide a way to fund content, our culture and our industry will drown in a sea of foreign content.
ACTRA, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, believes that the CRTC made a big mistake when it took a hands-off approach and exempted new media from regulation in 1999; and later extended the exemption to cover programs delivered to wireless devices.
Since 1999, times have changed.
Ten years ago, most Canadians used the Internet for listening to music and reading text. Today, it's a whole different story. Most of what we do on the Internet falls under the definition of "broadcasting" and that percentage grows daily as we turn to our laptops, iPods and mobile phones to watch our favourite programs.
Just like television and the radio, new media is simply another platform for Canadians to view programming.
Sure, it presents some new and unique challenges. But the development of new media can be compared to the emergence of television from radio broadcasting. All that happened then was that we added visuals to the sounds being broadcast. Back then, just like now, television did not make radio obsolete -- it just expanded the number and types of platforms for program content distribution.
The bottom-line is, whether you are watching an episode of Corner Gas on your TV or ctv.ca, you are enjoying a "broadcast" and the CRTC is obligated under the Broadcasting Act to regulate it.
Here's how we can ensure that Canadians will be able to see and share Canadian stories:
First, those who are streaming live programs from Canada, through the Internet or to mobile receiving devices, must be licensed and subject to rules equivalent to conventional TV broadcasters.
Second, those who are using new media to make programs available from Canada for viewing at a time and place chosen by the viewer must be licensed and subject to regulations equivalent to other "on-demand" programming undertakings.
Third, if the CRTC is going to create space for Canadian stories in new media, there must be stories to fill that space.
To that end, a levy should be imposed on Internet and wireless service providers to fund new media production, modelled on the levy on cable companies.
New media broadcasting is the future. We need to set out what the rules are going to be now so everyone knows what the terrain looks like and appropriate business models can develop.
This is a battle for the future.
What we want is a place for Canadian storytellers and our stories. We want to share our talents with Canadians and with global audiences. We need to get it right now. Tomorrow is too late.
Feeling at a loss, but not for words
Colin Mochrie, The Toronto Star, April 9 2006
One of the perks of working as an improviser is that one doesn't actually have to do any work. You arrive at the theatre a half-hour before the show, have a coffee, go on stage, get the audience to give you suggestions, mug and shout, then bam! You're done. It's a great gig for a lazy person, and I am very lazy. So the thought of actually having to sit down and write 600 words (we're now at word 84!) filled me with dread. But what the hell ... at least I can do it sitting down.
This Sunday at the Winter Garden Theatre, the Sketchersons — one of the funniest sketch groups in the country — are celebrating their 100th Sunday Night Live! show. Special guests include The Royal Canadian Air Farce's Don Ferguson, Lucy Decoutere of Trailer Park Boys, Toronto Argonaut John Avery and many others, one of whom is yours truly. So I was approached to write a short article publicizing the event.
When Sketcherson Gary Rideout asked me to be a part of the evening I was hesitant at first. This is an extremely busy touring time for me and in fact I fly in from Green Bay this afternoon for the performance. However two things changed my mind. First off, I love The Sketchersons. I had the pleasure of doing a show with them earlier this year and had a great time. Yes, I am jealous that they are all young enough that they could be my children. (One of them is actually my child, but I just realized it may be bad form for them to learn that fact from reading this article. So ... just forget I said anything.)
My second reason for doing the show was more personal. The proceeds go towards helping the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Both my father and my mother-in-law were stroke survivors. My dad was fortunate to receive excellent care right away and suffered no permanent aftereffects, save a tendency to be more emotional and sentimental. Which, as aftereffects go, is very nominal.
Unfortunately, my mother-in-law's stroke was not diagnosed right away and she lost some use in her left side and now has to get around in a wheelchair. Other than that, though, she is healthy and comments on how she has been luckier than others she has met at her stroke group.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation is a leading funder of heart and stroke research in Canada. That research leads to earlier diagnoses, leading-edge treatments and prevention strategies. So you can see why this particular cause would be important to me.
Two weeks ago, my father passed away due to causes not related to his stroke. I am thankful that in the last years of his life he could spend time with his adored grandchildren, that he was able to garden, travel and have quality time with my mom whom he loved dearly ... all in reasonably good health. This was due in no small part to the efforts of his doctors and the stroke experts that Dad consulted regularly. Every heart and stroke victim deserves no less. Funding for the Foundation could help maintain a higher quality of life for a great many people.
So I would just like to remind you that tonight at 7 at the Winter Garden Theatre you can enjoy the comedy of the Sketchersons and support a great cause at the same time.
Well, that's all I'm going to write. I need a nap. Oh, and if you're counting, we are now at word 596. Yours truly,
Gladiators and Coconut Cream Pies
Colin Mochrie, The Hockey News, October 2005
I have been disgruntled with hockey of late. In fact, I have a hard time recalling the last time I was gruntled. I feared for the future of the greatest game on earth.
With the constant hooking, obstruction, New Jersey Devils, etc., the game has become as slow as Paris Hilton doing a TV Guide crossword. As a man who constantly tries to sell the game to non-fans (a NASCAR enthusiast friend told me he thought hockey is boring – this from a guy who watches cars drive in circles for hours!) I have found it hard to muster up any kind of following, especially in the past year.
But now the lockout is over and rule changes have been implemented, I’m feeling quite optimistic hockey will rise again. I even have historical precedence for thinking so.
I refer, of course, to the gladiator strike of 38 B.C. During the height of the Roman Games, the gladiators went on strike asking for more money, fewer beheadings and shorter post-battle interviews. Immediately, the fans were against the warriors. Mainly because Caligula, who was in charge, was nuts and was ruthless in dealing with insurrections (and he wasn’t even a New York lawyer).
The strike was settled quickly and in an effort to bring back patrons, rule changes were implemented. There was a salary cap of four drachmas a year (which, allowing for inflation, is the same as the average Bruin player’s paycheck). In previous years, some lions were dyed red in an attempt to make them look more ferocious. Unfortunately, the dye would make the jungle cats groggy and lethargic, slowing up the eventual carnage. After the strike, they got rid of the red lions to speed up the Games.
With rules like these and some equipment changes (gladiators were allowed to curve their spears for extra throwing speed), the Games surpassed their former glory. Well, until the Roman Empire fell, then the Games stopped and gladiators went to Sweden to find work.
The parallels to the recent NHL situation are amazing, so why not take a page from the Romans’ playbook and go for it? For example:
1) Tie games have been abolished. Shootouts are exciting, yes, but how about this? The overtime starts with 4-on-4, but one of the four has to be the team’s GM. The excitement of overtime hockey is now compounded by the fact a player could now be creamed by a teammate he screwed in contract negotiations. Now that’s overtime tension!
2) Each team should be forced to put two monkeys in the lineup. I don’t know the reason why, but any venture that includes monkeys dressed as humans ends up being wildly successful.
3) Fining players for diving, or suspending them for starting a fight in the last five minutes of a game is all well and good, but really, is that a deterrent? The “fine” is usually a pittance to those players and a suspension is nothing more than a little holiday. I say we get ruthless. What will stop these wayward rascals? Homework! Have repeat offenders write a 5,000-word essay on what they did and why it was wrong. Then the essay is to be read aloud during the intermission. I guarantee these incidents will stop.
4) For chronic hookers and obstructionists, a more horrific fate. Since they slow the game down to a crawl, I believe in an eye for an eye. Instead of a two-minute penalty, make the minutes crawl by for them by forcing them to perform as the team mascot for the remainder of the game.
Have them out among the crowd starting the wave, throwing out promotional t-shirts, etc. As someone who has supplemented their income by dressing as a rooster and handing out flyers for a fast-food chicken place, I can assure you that time passes slowly, giving you ample opportunity to ponder “What have I done to deserve this?”
5) The shrinking of goalie equipment is a good idea, but once again it doesn’t go far enough. When I was a kid, those of us who couldn’t afford shin guards would lace up an Eaton’s catalogs. Make NHL goalies do the same, but with Victoria Secret catalogs. Smaller pads will help the game. Plus, it adds a little sex appeal.
These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. Others include flaming crossbars; hitting the losing coach in the face with a coconut cream pie; and, a conditional bye into the Stanley Cup final for the Boston Bruins (what can I tell you, I’m a fan). Of course, I don’t expect all these rules to be passed immediately. But then again I didn’t expect Tampa Bay to win the Stanley Cup so soon, either.
Getting Along Famously
Debra McGrath and Colin Mochrie, Actra Performers Magazine, Winter 2005
Since finishing our pilot Getting Along Famously, which aired on January 10 on CBC, people have asked us "How do you put together a show that you can be proud of?" Uh...we don't really know. We tried to ask the same thing of Brent Butt following the success of Corner Gas but he wouldn't retrn our phone calls.
Here are twelve steps that we followed:
1) Marry someone you love deeply and hope they're talented.Okay, this one sounds easy but it's actually the hardest step to accomplish.
2) Do an improvised movie together and bond with the director.Deborah Day (henceforth known as Deb D.) hired us, Debra McGrath (now Deb M.) and Colin Mochrie, to be in Expecting, an improvised movie. Hiring a couple for a project can be a dangerous proposition. Remember Gigli? Working with a spouse 12 hours a day with the added stress of having to make up the dialogue could easily have been a living hell. It was just the opposite.Colin: I admit I was a little nervous. What if we had no chemistry together? We were playing ex-lovers who might still have feelings for each other. What if what we had in our real life didn't transfer? Luckily it worked out. In fact the two Debs and I had such a good working experience that we decided to collaborate on something else.
3) Form a company and make certain that at least one of you has drive. Every once and a while, we would see breakdowns for movies being cast in Toronto. On the script would be the words: "All ethnicities welcome" and just before that "No Canadian Accents!" Canadian Accents would be the name of our company. Now all we needed was a project. We brainstormed over morning coffee and teas and canoodled over evening wine. Finally we came up with a concept that all three of us felt good about. Then Deb D. made us go to Banff to do a pitch session at the conference. In case you haven't picked up on it, she's the one with drive.I don't mind telling you that we cursed her from here to next Tuesday over Banff. I'd love to tell you that when we got there it was wonderful and we forgave her instantly. It wasn't. We didn't. The good news was we got lots of interest in our team and our idea. The bad news was we now hated the idea.
4) Always go with your second idea!The main problem with our original concept was that by the time we got to Banff, it just didn't inspire us.Colin: As soon as we were confirmed to pitch Bab's Way, our original idea, Deb M. came up with a show about the most famous Canadians in the world who host a CBC variety series in 1964. I immediately fell in love with it and knew that that was the show I'd want to pitch.Colin and I love that era. I thought; wouldn't it be fun if we were a showbiz, married couple! A Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor dynamic with musical talent. We could do a behind the scenes like Larry Sanders and have full out variety numbers in the show within a show. We picked 1964 because it was the time where "ring a ding ding" met "Yeah Yeah Yeah!"But Bab's Way was green-lit as our pitch and we weren't allowed to change. So pitch it we did and, although there was interest, we had already become too excited about the possibilities of Getting Along Famously. We went to CBC to pitch our new and improved idea to George Anthony, who very sweetly said "Thanks for not pitching this one at Banff."
5) Have a man named George Anthony on your side.We told George the concept in a couple of sentences and he almost immediately gave us a green light that very day to go into development. He also felt that to get the style across, an hour pilot would serve the project better. While we waited for official approvals, we rented a grown-up office and painted it and everything. Eighteen trips to IKEA, 40 computer glitches and several signed CBC documents later, we were ready to write. This is where it got hard.
6) Have someone join the team that will do all the stuff that gives you hives.Before we got into negotiations we had to have a lawyer and all round businessperson. Enter Kathy Avrich-Johnson. God bless her. She did all things that we couldn't and, quite frankly, didn't want to do: negotiations, contracts and the like.The team was now in place. Now it was time to get a pilot together.
7) Friends are for your own personal use.Colin: At this point, for some reason that escapes me now, I volunteered to write the pilot. Looking back I can only think it was the insane reasoning of someone who doesn't know better, or the insane reasoning of someone who actually is insane. I despised every miinute of it. Coming from an improv background where you just said whatever popped into your head and making sense was not mandatory, having to create something that had structure and had to make sense was hell. Alex Galatis had joined us as story editor and his tips on structure helped immeasureably. My other saving grace was when I envisioned our dream cast, I started to get a grip on the characters.For the role of Lyle Delp, Ruby's assistant, we wanted Bob Martin, who had been with the sketch group Skippy's Rangers. He is a friend and a much sought after actor-writer. The only problem with getting Bob was that he is a much sought after actor-writer. In addition to co-writing Slings and Arrows for TMN, working on Puppets who Kill and other projects too numberous to mention it seemed likely that he would not be able to do it. Doing any kind of project requires a bit of luck, and for Getting Along Famously fortune smiled upon us. Not only was he able to do the pilot but he helped shape it during a two-hour meeting he had with Deb D. and Colin.Colin: The writing actually became easier, especially now that we had our dream cast. Besides Bob, we had Patrick McKenaa, one of our best friends and a comedy genius, to play Littleman; Ed Sahely with whom I had been in Second City, was Ed, the director of the show within the show; Cheryl MacInnis, Deb M.'s best friend since Ryerson College days was cast as Phyllis "the hair woman' and as her sister: Barbara Radecki, with whom we did Expecting. The cast filled out nicely with the addition of Robin Duke as the head writer of It's Ruby and Kip (the show within the show).The smartest thing we did, (when I say "we" I mean the other members of Canadian Accents), was making the decision to have a read-through with the cast at each new draft. I was having trouble with the character of Littleman and it was really bothering me. Here we had one of the most talented comic performers in the country, a close personal friend; and I had written a part for him that was just ... not ... funny! Until the red through. I still don't know what he did exactly, but in that room at the CBC as we all stumbled through the script Patrick made gold out of crap (gold out of crap ... this is why I'm not comfortable writing). In fact, everyone went above and beyond the call of duty and even characters that I thought were fully developed went in directions I hadn't foreseen. It was incredible to watch these people, our friends, make those words come alive.
8) There is no problem that can't be solved after initial panic.Almost immediately problems arose. We didn't get the funding we counted on, the popularity of our cast was causing scheduling problems and our offices weren't close to any Starbucks. Of course, all was solved in the end (even the Starbucks). The CBC really came to the rescue by upping their contribution to the pilot and giving us a studio to shoot in and a crew to work with. Debbie Bernstein at CBC was instrumental in this part of the story. She understood the show from the very first reading and stayed with us. She was nothing but supportive and really brought us to our pilot funding scenario. Which brings us to rule number 9.
9) Make sure your crew is equal to the brilliance of your cast.We lucked out in every department on the crew side. From our D.O.P, the amazing Gerald Packer, to our hair and makeup department Sue Upton and Lucy Walsh, we had a crew that was not only working on a very tight budget, but a crew that was giving 110%. Our wardobe mistress Kim Gibson went to the wall for us, searching for clothes that fit our characters to a tee; literally and figuratively. Through her, we utilized the extensive wardrobe at the CBC. Kim was bringing in her family's jewels for me to wear and in fact many of the crew in set decoration and props raided family treasures to adorn our set.My favourite day was when we shot the big production numbers. The whole studio was transformed into a 1964 variety show and the crew had a best-dressed 60's contest.All of the crew were very supportive of the project and were easy laughers, something that is invaluable to all neurotic actors, directors, producers and writers.
10) Let the cast do what they do.The beauty of hiring friends who are talented is that you trust them to fix whatever problems may be in the script. Add to that Deb D., a director who gives you the freedom to try out even the most bizarre ideas. Although in complete control, Deb D. gave the set a collaboratie feel. Everyone had input into his or her characters and scenes and, without fail, everyone improved what was on paper. Then there were the dance numbers.We had the beautiful, talented Donna Feore as our choreographer who nailed the style and made the production days the most fun I have ever had on a set. Every time she would come up with a step idea, she and the dancers would laugh and then do it to perfection . As cheesy as the steps were in that era, they had to be performed well. This was to be an homage to the era rather than a parody. Donna also knew that my character Ruby had to act like a star of that time: let the dancers sweat, the star just glows.Colin: The only problem working with these people is that they all set the bar so high I felt enormous pressure not to suck. Having worked with Patrick at Second City for years I was ecstatic to see that we fell happily into our old rhythms and our scenes together were some of my favourites. He has a moment in the show that seems to effortless that the technical difficulty is completely obscured. In our scene we are walking down a hallway discussed a major plot point. The status of our character changes back and forth. I get the upper hand, then he does and so on. Background performers (once again all of them perfect) are going in and out of the shot as I set up Patrick's joke, he is handed a form to sign. Somehow, and I'm not really sure how he did it, in the span of three seconds, he savors getting the upper hand, signs the form, waits until the background performer passes us and delivers the punch without any time being wasted - I hate him.
11) (there is no rule eleven but twelve steps sounds better.)
12) Hope for the best and mention the air date as often as possible.We are all very proud of what we ended up with. The shoot went off with minimum fuss. It was the most fun we've ever had on a production and it has led to other projects for Canadian Accents; a feature film with Patrick and Colin and a series with Chas Lawther. We hope you watched and enjoying Getting Along Famously. It aired on the CBC, January 10
Lower Case Celebrity
Colin Mochrie, Razor Magazine, October 16, 2003
Here’s a quick pop quiz. What is the absolutely most incredible experience a person can go through in their life?
a) Falling in love with the perfect person and having a long, happy, fulfilling relationship.
b) Witnessing the birth of your child and nurturing said child into a functioning responsible adult.
c) Winning the lottery and experiencing a financial freedom that impacts all other areas of your life
d) Becoming a minor celebrity.
Of course, the answer is, without a doubt, D. Falling in love is great, but maintaining the relationship involves a lot of work. Children . . . once again . . . great, but they’ll always forget you and break your heart. And no matter how much money you have, it always disappears like a friend during a drug raid. Minor celebrity hood, on the other hand, is a joy, forever. Celebrities live 45 percent longer than regular people; minor celebrities live 14 percent longer that. Minor celebrities receive over $25,000 worth of free merchandise (meals, clothing, etc) a year. Minor celebrities marriages last 12 percent longer. Minor celebrities are 35 percent less likely to die from cancer and minor celebrities have a 93 percent chance of appearing on some game show.
Sure, I made up all these statistics, but I think you get the point. Minor celebrityhood (celebrityism?) is a pretty good gig. Take me for example: Even in the fanciest restaurants I get free meals; I get upgraded to first class; and I’m always first choice for the celebrity fueled reality shows that would kill the career of an actual star. Why have I been singled out for preferential treatment? Have I made a medical break though that will reduce the suffering of the sick? Have I come up with an economic theory that will narrow the distance between the very rich and the very poor? Have I improved the quality of life on this planet in any way? Come on, get real, I get singled out because I am on television. I get free stuff that I don’t actually need because I am on television. Hell, I even get to write article for big glossy magazines, not because I’m known for my biting satirical essays or because I am a witty raconteur, but for the simple reason I am on television. And I’m not even on a very successful show.
Through my incredible cunning and, I have to admit, some blind luck, I have become a celebrity. Not a Celebrity . . . a celebrity. A lower-case star. And as an added bonus I have figured out a way to make money from it; I am starting a course on how to become a celebrity. Everyone loves spotting celebrities on the street; even if it is someone you don’t like, you can always point them out with the kind of excitement reserved for PRICE IS RIGHT contestants. The only thing better than seeing one is being one and let’s face it, at this point in history, pretty much anyone can be a lower-case celebrity, or an L.C.C. Andy Warhol said everyone will get their 15 minutes of fame, which is a bit of exaggeration. In today’s attention-deficit world, you’re lucky with five minutes.
So, how do you become a L.C.C? Of course, you would have to attend my three-week course to get the full benefit of my wisdom, but I can give you a few hints. Of the many avenues open towards becoming a L.C.C. there are two you should avoid: killing a spouse and performing oral sex on the president. Yes, you get your name in the papers, but there’s always a bit of negative connotation to these methods. Of course, fellating the president, then following it up with a minor television show is much better, but let’s face it, these are not options that are readily available to the average person. At this point I must stress the difference between being a star and being a celebrity. To become a major star you need talent, looks a certain amount of intelligent and the elusive “it” factor.
To become a celebrity you don’t really need any skill at all. Talent is actually a hindrance. I mean, who would you be more excited to see walking down the street: Jeremy Irons or Zsa Zsa Gabor? In my humble opinion, Zsa Zsa Gabor is the number one celebrity of all time. More people could point her out than could Iraq on the atlas. Everyone knows that she has been married many times, that she is Hungarian and that she is the sister of Eva Gabor of GREEN ACRES fame. Apparently, she is also an actress. I am a hard core trivia buff who could tell you the full character names of everyone on GILLIGAN’S ISLAND and even I would be hard pressed to name a film from the Gabor oeuvre. Zsa Zsa’s talent was in knowing how to handle the press. When time would go by without her name in the papers, bang . . . she would get married or slap a cop. Sheer brilliance.
Luck, unfortunately, plays a part in being an L.C.C. Once again, let’s use me as an example. When WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY? debuted in the summer of 1998, it was a ratings hit. If ABC had played its cards right, who knows what could have happened? Luckily, they scheduled us against FRIENDS (the most popular sitcom in the last 10 years) and SURVIVOR (the first and most watched reality show.) Whew! The right time slot could really have screwed up my L.C.C. standing. Anyway, at my three-week course (which, by the way, is a very reasonable $800) you will learn the 45 simple steps required to become a celebrity, covering everyithing from how to dress, to what not to say when your country goes to war. I'd like to tell you more, but I’m expecting a call from the producers of CELEBRITY FAMILY FEUD. Life is great
Me, Myself & I (Colin Mochrie Talks to Himself)
Colin Mochrie, NUVO Magazine, Winter 2001
Okay, so I’m having lunch with Steve Martin, Woody Allen and Jim Carrey. Steve turns to me and says, “Colin, my genius friend, how did such a modest, retiring man as yourself become a Canadian icon and a major US celebrity?” Then Woody says, “Yes, as an avid fan of your work, I too would like to know how it all happened for you.” Then Jim pretends he is choking on his salad and we all laugh. We regain our composure and I am about to answer when Ann-Margret runs up, plants a big, wet kiss on my lips, and tells me she loves me. Suddenly my green beans begin to dance, stopping only long enough to tell me that although they think I’m amusing, I should do more characters and perhaps get a day job. Then I wake up.What does the dream mean? Who cares? I mean, the green bean thing is disturbing, but it is not important.
The important thing is that the dream has celebrities in it. Everyone wants to know about celebrities. Everyone wants to see celebrities. I know this from personal experience. As I walk down the street, I hear excited whispers: “Look, it’s what’s-his-name from ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway,” “Look, it’s the bald guy from ‘What’s My Line?” “Hey, it’s Peter Mansbridge.”Since “Whose Line” debuted on ABC in the summer of ’98, I have been unindated with tens upon tens of fan letters. I even had a stalker for a while, until she realized she had me confused with the golfer Colin Montgomerie. Last I heard of her, she was sending Nanaimo bars to Colin Powell.
Because of this overwhelming interest in me and my life, I thought I should write a book to satisfy the public’s keen curiosity. My life and I are very closely linked, although there was that one time we had a falling out and my life went to the Bahamas with somebody else. Anyway, that was a long time ago, and things are fine now. But I digress. Upon further consideration, I realized that writing a book takes a long time, not to mention a lot of work, if you actually do it yourself, so instead, I came up with the idea of a pamphlet. Which, when you think about it, is a much better idea. Pamphlets fit in any size pocket and often get left on buses, subways, dumpsters, where people can pick them up and peruse them at their leisure. Thus they reach a much larger audience than your average book.The following is an excerpt from my pamphlet, with answers to some frequently asked questions. Please remember that this pamphlet is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of the National Hockey League. I don’t know why.
Where and when were you born?
I was born November 30, 1957, in Kilmarnock, Scotland. I am told that my first reaction to the world was to urinate in a perfect arc into the doctor’s eye. I still get a little nervous during my annual check-ups. So does my doctor.
Do you remember when and where you got your first laugh?
Can you be more specific?
Let me paint a picture for you. The year is 1974. I am sixteen years old and standing in the wings of the auditorium of Killarney High School in Vancouver. We are performing the timeless classic The Death and Life of Sneaky Fitch. I am playing the part of Mervyn Vale, the undertaker, and my cue to enter is approaching. What am I doing here, I ask myself. I’m in my third year of taking science courses so I can fulfill my dreams of becoming a marine biologist. So why am I here, terrified, about to go on stage before friends and family? I am not an actor, never thought of becoming one. Damn Roland Rossman for daring me to audition for the school play! Damn Mr. Maunsell for casting me! Damn me for thinking I can do this! My cue comes. I take a deep breath and make my entrance. My first step rips the seat of my pants. Luckily, my coat is long enough to cover it, although the sudden breeze to my posterior unnerves me. But, the show must go on; I walk out on stage. Well, when I say “walk”, it was actually more of a strange limp, because I have tucked the seat of my trousers into my buttocks, and am clenching with all my gluteus maximus might. I do my first bit of business. The crowd laughs. A big laugh! A feeling I have never experienced before rushes through my body! My heart pounds, my nerve endings scream. I love it! Screw marine biology!
Was the guy who said on his deathbed “Dying is easy, comedy is hard” right?
Yes. Everyone dies, but not everyone has a good ten minutes on airplane food. It has always disturbed me that comedy never seems to get the respect it deserves. I suppose it is because there seems to be a surplus of funny people – the one who can tell a good joke, the one who gets laughs rolling at the kitchen party, the one at work always ready with a quip. Nothing against those people, because usually they are funny; but it is an entirely different thing to get laughs from friends and to get laughs from an audience which has paid money to be entertained. And don’t even talk to me about getting laughs from friends who have paid to be entertained. Humour is such a personal thing that to get an entire audience to laugh at the same thing is extremely difficult. Take a poll of twenty friends to see what they find funny and it ranges everywhere from “Frasier” to “Married With Children” or from a convoluted Shakespearean pun to someone being hit in a sensitive area by a baseball. This is a wide range of styles in which to find common ground, althought the sight of someone falling to the ground in pain after a smart whack to the genitals is universally a guaranteed chuckle getter.
Who or what makes you laugh?
John Cleese, early Bob Hope movies, Jack Benny, “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “All in the Family,” Woody Allen, Steve Martin, and the guy who told me my entire house could be renovated in three months.
Why do you look so much better in person?
The camera adds ten pounds, takes four inches off your height, and doesn’t always photograph hair. Which is why my fans are sometimes taken aback when encountering a 6’2” bronze god with an afro.
What is the definition of the word “lecanoscopy”?
Lecanoscopy is the act of hypnotizing yourself by staring into a sink filled with water. You would be amazed at how often I am asked that question. Thank goodness for the Canadian education system.
Do you have any tips for young people who want to get into this business?
I have five rules that have helped me. Use them or ignore them. I really don’t care. To tell the truth, I don’t need the competition.
Rule #1: Develop a Health Ego and a Thick Skin
Being in comedy is a study in extremes. There is no high like it when it works and no more excruciating low when it doesn’t. Having gone through both, I can confirm that the high is a lot better. Once I had to dress up as a giant chicken for a fast food franchise and be transported to a radio station in a VW Beetle so the DJs could make fun of my legs while I clucked pathetically. It was only afterwards that I wondered why I had to wear a chicken outfit for radio spots. Still, that was better than being attacked by a Doberman as I was handing out flyers. It was tough to stay in character.Rule #2: Do It Often and Anywhere You Can
This rule actually applies to two of my major interests, both of which garner big laughs and applause. You may want to write this next part down: the thing about comedy is you need an audience. Not only to find out if other people think you are as funny as you think, but also to help you hone your craft. The more you perform in front of a crowd, the more you learn about how to take control of the stage. I would recommend crowds of six and up. Significant others grow tired of comedy fairly quickly.
Rule #3: Stay With It For As Long As You Can
Sooner or later the other guys quit or die.
Rule #4: Lots of Luck is Important, but Be Ready When the Big Break Comes
The most hated of rules. People think hard work will get you anywhere. Heee heee heeee. Good one. It is possible, of course, to have hard work pay off. I have known many people who have advanced through hard work and perseverance. But one of the main ingredients in achieving a successful career in comedy is luck. I have been incredibly lucky, getting at least two breaks. My first performance on “Whose Line”…how can I put this? Oh, yes – it sucked. I met the other improvisers two hours before we shot the show. I totally psyched myself out. Before the show, producer Dan Patterson said “Colin, if the show goes well, you can do the Sunday show tomorrow.” After the debacle, he said, “So you leave on Monday, do you?” Then came my second big break. They were doing the show in New York and needed North Americans. My friend Ryan Stiles spoke on my behalf and got me on the show. As an added bonus, my scenes were with him – someone I had known, loved and worked with for more than twenty years. The rest is history. Or at least Social Studies.
Rule #5: Wear Sensible Shoes
Okay, I admit I’m padding here. Five rules seem more impressive than four. Still, sensible shoes can’t hurt. And anyway, you’re reading a pamphlet. Do you have the time for five actual rules? I thought not.
What is the best way to end an article on yourself – a humourous anecdote or an inspirational message?
I don’t know.
Making a Mochrie
Olivia Stern, Toronto Life, February 2005
As the nimble-bodied sidekick on the comedy hit Whose Line is it Anyway?, Colin Mochrie often stole the show with his virtuoso improv work. But offstage, the limelight is the last place he wants to be. Portrait of a chronically shy funny man.
Colin Mochrie got his first laugh - and discovered his calling - when he was just 16 years old. He was an A student, intensely timid, and his friend dared him to try out for the school play, a western called The Death and Life of Sneaky Fitch. Mochrie was cast as the undertaker. He loped onstage and delivered his one line, the audience howled, and he was the happiest he had ever been in his life. He felt powerful, invulnerable and free of the self-consciousness that had always plagued him.
He has never looked back. And to this day, Mochrie's twin selves are strikingly - almost bizarrely - at odds. Private Colin is shy and gentle, and when you talk to him, you get the distinct (and sometimes uncomfortable) impression that he'd rather magically poof himself out of your sight. Public Colin, however, has established an incredibly successful career as an improviser and leading member of Canada's witerati. He started out at Second City and starred on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, but he is best known for his work on Whose Line Is It Anyway? The improv show was a sleeper hit: it delivered absurdist hilarity in front of a live audience on command. Mochrie performed on the original British version for eight years, until it migrated to the United States and turned him into a star. (He worked on ABC's version of Whose Line? with Drew Carey before the show was cancelled last year.) Nimble of both mind and limb, Mochrie, with his clever gibberish and rubber-bodied antics, is irresistible. In an early episode of Whose Line?, the host asked Mochrie to gradually become younger: he started as a gnarled, arthritic geezer, morphing into a straight-backed man, a swaggering, horny teenager, a wobbly legged, diapered toddler and, finally, collapsing on the floor in fetal position. It was improv at its best.
Mochrie looks more like an insurance salesman than a comic virtuoso. He is pale and disarmingly tall (six foot two), with boyish features: a cherubic mouth and slightly droopy Eeyore eyes that shift between melancholy and mischief. Humour is born of the incongruous, and what's funny about Mochrie is the disconnect between his docile expression and bold, blade-sharp wit, between his guileless bearing and shameless physical hijinks. He approaches every sketch with reticence, like a school kid called to the blackboard to complete a math problem. Then, as if by divine intervention, he blurts out some outrageous zinger.
Mochrie is now starring - with his wife, actress Deb McGrath - in the most personal project of his life, an hour-long CBC series called Getting Along Famously (the pilot is airing early this month). It follows the public-private tightrope routine of a husband-wife team in a 1964 variety show. Unlike the many reality-indentured and provocatively unglamorous shows now on television (think Train 48), Getting Along is alive with flagrant theatrics: the set is washed in candied '60s colours, and the couple frequently break into song-and-dance routines. The show is fuelled by their live-wire repartee - a kitsched-up parody of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's celebrity-sodden affaire de coeur.
A couple playing a couple - laying bare their chemistry to the caprice of channel surfers - is obviously risky. Mochrie and McGrath essentially play parodies of themselves: she is the exuberant diva, he her laconic, adoring wingman. Their company, Canadian Accents, is helping to back the project, and in another personal and professional leap, they're co-writing the scripts. For Mochrie and McGrath, there's a lot riding on the venture.
It's 10 A.M. on a blustery, late-october morning, and Deb McGrath - who I've never met before - greets me with a warm hug at the front door of the house she and Mochrie share in Leaside. I'm meeting them for coffee and pains au chocolat. Their two dogs, Fanny and Frisker (both cairn terriers, like Toto), are barking, peppy and anxious for their morning jaunt with Donna, the couple's full-time assistant.
McGrath is a firecracker: petite, curvy, brimming with moxie and one-liners. She has the husky, sexpot voice of a Broadway headliner, and an infectious energy that seems to leap from her like sparklers on a birthday cake. She calls out for Colin, who wanders down the staircase, as quiet as a cat on broadloom. Mochrie is polite, if reluctant and nervous.
He's wearing jeans and a schleppy denim button-down emblazoned with an Animal Planet logo (he got the shirt as a freebie). In fact, most of his clothes are from the gigs he does: mornings find him in a Martin Short Show bathrobe, and other times he'll likely be sporting some U.S.college sweatshirt (he's big on the campus circuit). "If I could, I'd just walk around naked all the time," he says.
"He would," she says.
"I would," he confirms.
He is as uninterested in clothing as he is in other practicalities. It's as if the real world - where people engage in small talk and discuss boring things like money and real estate - were a place he visited only out of politeness. He didn't get his driver's license until the day he had to drive Deb and their newborn son, Luke, home from the hospital 14 years ago. Mochrie drove illegally to the test, passed, then picked up his family.
The house is spacious and modern, and garnished with plenty of quirk. The living-room rug is patterned with Scottie dogs, and the sugar cubes they serve with our coffee - each topped with an icing flower - look like a wedding gift from a Smurf. We sit around their kitchen island. Luke's latest Grade 9 math test is tacked on the wall behind us, and beyond sliding glass doors stretches an elegantly landscaped yard with swimming pool.
Mochrie conscientiously arranges a plate of pastries, pours us some giant mugs (his reads "Cranky to the last drop") of coffee and tells me that he is sweating profusely from his palms. "Colin sweats even for phone interviews," McGrath assures me. He is used to people expecting the wacky comedian, and he's armed for my disappointment, almost prematurely defensive. "When I meet people, they're always disappointed. Wouldn't you say?" he asks, turning to his wife. "Yes," she says, "I see people get disappointed, and I want to screeeeech at them." A neighbour once complained to the couple's assistant that Mochrie wasn't funny. Mochrie listens silently as McGrath talks, like a kid at a parent-teacher meeting.
They've been married for 16 years. She was the director of Second City's touring company in the '80s, and he auditioned in 1986. She was blown away by his prowess as an improvisor and hired him as a member of the group. "I fell in love with his talent," she says, adding that "he presented a challenge, too, because he didn't seem at all interested in me." She laughs hoarsely. McGrath was married at the time, and Mochrie didn't think he stood a chance. He had never been very confident with romance, the kind of guy who has trouble believing anyone would be interested in him. He was always the seducee, never the seducer. "There was a crushy thing, but she was married," he explains almost inaudibly, "and she was my boss."
The crushy thing - and the seductive-boss thing - is still in full swing. Mochrie and McGrath have an embarassment of chemistry, and their quick-flying comic banter makes me feel as though I'm a guest at their private sitcom. Mochrie still finds his wife enchanting in every way: he's dazzled by her "nifty little sayings," her ease with people, her warmth. "What I do professionally, Deb does personally," he says. "She's outgoing, full of stories, jokes, wisecracks."
"He has a million stories," she corrects him. "He can just never think of them."
"Deb is way more interesting than me," he persists. "I could listen to her stories a million times."
"And he does," she says. "I kill him and it's great. It's like Marilyn Monroe said in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Here she takes on a sweet, breathy tone: "Sometimes he finds it very difficult to resist me."
McGrath is the celebrity of the house, Mochrie her bedazzled sidekick. "I always wanted to be the second banana," he says about his professional life - but obviously it applies to his romantic life as well. "I never wanted to be the star. I still don't." He has always imagined himself as the Don Knotts (in the Andy Griffith Show), the Ted Knight (in the Mary Tyler Moore show), and the Bob Newhart. Just as Newhart was known for his poker face, forever flummoxed by the malestrom of neurotics in his midst, Mochrie plays the straight man to his wife: he is her best audience, and she is his best connection to the world.
Mochrie's extreme shyness goes back to his childhood. The eldest of three, he was born in 1957 in Kilmarnock, Scotland, a town just outside of Glasgow. His father, Jim, first worked in an automobile sheet-metal factory, and his mother, Isabel, stayed at home. When Colin was seven, his dad got a job working in the maintenance department of Air Canada, and the family moved to Montreal. Five years later, when the city's English schools began receiving bomb threats and Isabel became nervous about her children's safety, the family moved again, first to Edmonton (only for a year - it was too cold), and eventually to Vancouver. Jim struggled with unemployment for nine months; discouraged, they sold everything, checked into a motel and prepared to move back to Scotland. But at the last minute, in a real-life improv move, Jim decided they wouldn't give up; two weeks later, he got a job as an apartment superintendent, and later at what was then CP Air.
As the eldest, Mochrie was the responsible one. His brother Graeme would get into trouble, and Colin would take the rap. "Graeme was always the one who got into mischief," Isabel Mochrie tells me in a singsongy Scottish brogue from her home in North Vancouver (she still lives there with her husband). He'd take the wheels off his trucks. But Colin was different: his toys were perfect, his books were perfect." To avoid walking through the morning schoolyard - with its chaos of judgmental stares and threatening giggles - he would show up at school an hour early every day, head to the library and read or catch up on homework. "He was quiet and had brains," his mother says. "He was the intellectual of the family. He was an old-fashioned little boy. His teachers spoke to him as if he was an adult."
He wrote his first play when he was 10, while visiting his grandparents in Scotland. For the role of the princess, he cast a little girl he had a crush on and gave himself the love interest part. He also cast his brother; who spoiled the play by delivering all of his lines in a row, too impatient to wait his turn, then walked offstage (the front lawn, in this case) in a huff.
After graduating from high school, Mochrie set out to carve a career in theatre and attended Langara College's Studio 58 (a theatre conservatory in Vancouver) for four years. Shortly after, he watched an improv demonstration at Vancouver's Theatresports League; he was captivated, joined the league and developed an addiction to improv's adrenalin. Actor Jay Brazeau (who was the lead in Hairspray) lived with Colin for a year during that period, acting with him at Theatresports. Even then, Mochrie was eager to share the spotlight. "He was never a grandstander," says Brazeau. "If his colleagues were in quicksand, he'd get in there and rescue them. He was always a true gamesman. But he'd always crawl out of shit smelling like a rose." In this regard, he is a quintessentially Canadian performer: polite in his art, uncomfortable with notice-me stardom.
His modest appetite for the limelight explains not only his attraction to improv but also his talent for it. Which is why he moved to Toronto in the mid-'80s, finding his way to Second City. When I ask Mochrie if he ever considered stand-up, he looks at me as though I'm suggesting a second career as a salt miner. The idea of performing solo is repulsive to him. Stand-up comedians are like the only children of the stage world: they can be greedy for the spotlight, and laughs don't ever need to be shared. Improv is a group sport: its wins - and belly flops - are divided, and so is the audience's focus. Some improvisers are manic, laugh-hogging showboaters, but Mochrie likes the supporting roles. Even if he is engaged in some outrageous body-bending pratfall, he is low-key and his style subtle. That's what struck McGrath about him at Second City. "He was never frantic about it. He wasn't there trying to get the laughs. There would be someone out there making a big show, and then your eye goes joooooop to the guy in the corner who is barely audible, just raising an eyebrow."
Even with Getting Along Famously in the works, Mochrie can't give up the thrill of the stage. He has been on a North American improv tour with fellow Whose Line? alum Brad Sherwood for the past two years; an average lineup might see him performing in Anchorage, Alaska, and Fort Worth, Texas, on the same weekend. Backstage, right before a show, Mochrie doesn't engage in any pre-performance get-in-the-zone action - no deep breathing, head rolling, hamstring stretching. He saunters on stage casually, like a working stiff rolling into the office. The audience of thousands claps, greedy for amusement, and Mochrie has no idea what will come out of his mouth for the next two hours. He might get a few butterflies, but that's as far as it goes. "Once I'm out there, it's the most relaxed I am in life," he explains. It's reality that gives him stage fright.
Just as Mochrie was adultlike as a child, he is now childlike as an adult. His friends talk about him protectively. Brazeau worried that Mochrie was just too sweet and fragile for his own good. "Putting Colin out in the world seemed like putting a mouse in the middle of a freeway," he says. "I was worried about him getting famous - I thought celebrity would squish him like a bug. I thought I'd spend my whole life buying him lunches. But I look at Colin now, and he's all grown up." Brazeau is quick to edit himself: "Actually, Colin never totally grew up. He's always kept the little kid inside."
Mochrie wears a Batman watch and loves comic books, making regular weekend trips to the Silver Snail comics store for his fix. When being silly in public is your job, being free and open and confident - in other words, being a perpetual 10-year-old - is a prerequisite. Improv relies on the ability to abandon all self-consciousness. Absurdist nonsense is celebrated. So is suddenly breaking out into show tunes, pirouetting like a ballerina, or bouncing up and down and squealing like a deranged monkey. Mochrie puts it succinctly: "Improv is going against what you do in life." Especially if in life you're awkward and tentative and constantly engaged in self-censorship.
"Your improv personality is your superhero," he adds. "You can say anything, you can do anything, and there are never any repercussions." In stand-up, audiences heckle or wait for you to crash. Improv's parallel universe is bulletproof by comparison. Your colleagues are on your side, and so is the audience; they participate, get on stage, and want you to succeed. Improv is a world where you know everybody, where you feel totally safe with them. Even if you don't know what's going to happen, you know that there are people who will take care of you, and things will always end happily."
McGrath and I are sitting around the kitchen island as Mochrie calmly cooks up some scrambled eggs with mushrooms and peppers. A wall of Bon Appetit magazinse is stacked up behind him. He loves to cook - there's that risk element he is drawn to, and some potential for fanfare, too.
We're chatting about what's on the horizon: Mochrie's improv tour is booked till 2006, but apart from that, neither he nor McGrath can think much beyond the January air date of Getting Along Famously. They don't have any other big TV ambitions: this is their ultimate fantasy project. For McGrath, Getting Along represents an exciting sequel to a career she put on the back burner for a while. After Second City, she hosted a short-lived L.A.-based talk show (called My Talk Show) and starred in an improv-based feature film with Mochrie (Expecting) and a TV movie (Eloise at Christmastime). She has done lots of radio commercials, but for many years, she was largely focused on parenting, allowing her husband to pursue his passion.
Mochrie isn't very comfortable talking about the future, so instead we talk about the past. When he was a kid, he explains, before he found his calling as an actor, he wanted to be a marine biologist. "I was a big dolphin fan," he mumbles. "It's the quiet of under the ocean. It's peaceful and teeming with life. Yet you don't see the life on the surface." With that, he looks down a little bashfully, submerging into his own private, teeming world.back to top
Line Abrahamian, Reader's Digest, May 2003
Did you hear the one about the comedian who succeeded in Los Angeles --- after he decided to leave?
Sitting poolside with actor and comedian Colin Mochrie at his Toronto home, you forget you're talking to one of Canada's biggest celebrities. Actually, Mochrie himself forgets that sometimes.
"It's still odd to have people look at me when I go shopping," says the 45-year-old cast member of Whose Line Is It Anyway? --- television's wildly funny comedy-improvisation show. "I'm always thinking, Do I have food on my face? or Is my fly open?"
Born in Scotland and raised in Montreal and later in Vancouver, Mochrie aspired to be a marine biologist --- until a friend dared him to act in a play at Killarney Secondary School in Vancouver. "Once I got the laughs," he says, "that was the death of my science career."
After attending theatre school in Vancouver, Mochrie moved to Toronto and auditioned for the comedy troupe Second City. Reviewing his performance that day was his future wife, Deb McGrath. "She told me later it was between me and the cute guy," says Mochrie. "Luckily she hired me."
In 1989 they married and moved to Los Angeles, where McGrath was to star in a TV show. There, son Luke was born. "The only rules I made about being a father," says Mochrie, "were to tell Luke I loved him every day and admit if I was wrong --- which was quite often."
When McGrath's role was cancelled, the couple experienced their darkest hours, selling their CDs for diapers. They returned to Toronto destitute. However, shortly after, Mochrie landed a part in the British series of Whose Line Is It Anyway?
While the show moved to L.A. in 1998, Mochrie was at first deemed not hip enough for the American version. But his outrageous onstage antics --- "If I did those things outside the studio, I'd be killed" --- quickly earned him a reputation as the ultimate funnyman.
After his success on Whose Line?, Mochrie starred in the Global comedy series Blackfly and in 2001 joined the cast of CBC's This Hour Has 22 Minutes. He spoke with Reader's Digest about his comic influences, his fears --- and why he's so darn likeable.
RD: When did you get your first laugh? Mochrie: My friend dared me to try out for the school play, and I got the part of the undertaker in The Death and Life of Sneaky Fitch, a classic play that, I think, is only performed in high schools. On opening night I was so nervous, sweat was running off my palms. I walked onstage and the back of my pants ripped. I tucked it into my bum, did my bit and got a big laugh.
RD: Why was getting laughs so important to you? Mochrie: It feels like you've accomplished something. During rehearsals, I was getting laughs from those with whom I was doing the play, but you never trust your friends' laughter. When an audience who didn't have any stake in me also laughed, I felt gratified.
RD: Were you popular in high school? Mochrie: I was very shy. My very last year I got popular, because I was doing plays, I was on student council, and whenever somebody had to dress up as a reindeer or something, it would be me. I started meeting more people and building up my confidence --- though still I never had a date.
RD: By dressing up you disguised who you were? Mochrie: I'm sure that was a big part of it. When I started theatre school, I had this brown corduroy jacket that I never took off, and my acting teacher said, "That's your crutch." In my third or fourth year, I took the jacket off, and it became this big deal: "Colin took off his jacket, he's becoming a man." So I guess I've always hidden behind something. It's harder on Whose Line? because we're not playing characters, per se. We're ourselves, exaggerated.
RD: Does that make you nervous? Mochrie: Sure, 'cause you're vulnerable up there, giving a part of yourself. You're saying, "This is what I think is funny; I hope you think it's funny, too." Isn't the No. 1 phobia speaking in public? Having to speak funny in public is even worse.
RD: Why do you take that risk? Mochrie: Luke had a fear of water, so we put him in swimming classes. Three years later he still wouldn't put his head underwater. Then one day, on a cruise in Belize, Luke decided to face his fear. All of a sudden, he was underwater, snorkeling. As I was watching him have fun, I was reminded of why I like facing my fears: If you don't, you miss out on so much. If I never conquered my fear, I wouldn't have met Deb and had Luke, I wouldn't have this career.
RD: Did you have any other jobs before acting? Mochrie: Uncle Fred's Chicken was opening a new store in Gastown or something. I was dressed up as a very large chicken. I ended up outside the market, handing out flyers, going "Buck, buck, buck, buck." I was attacked by a Doberman, and a homeless person came up and gave me a dime and said, "You need this more than I do."
RD: Have you always thought you were funny? Mochrie: I thought I was amusing. Even at age ten I had written a script. I remember taking days just to get everything right. My brother was the king, and I was the prince who saves the princess. My brother was so bored that halfway through he said all his lines in a row and left. That was my first brush with actor ego. [Laughs]
RD: Who were the comic geniuses for you at the time? Mochrie: Dick van Dyke, Jackie Gleason, Jack Benny. Later I got into Monty Python and John Cleese. Laurel and Hardy were also a big influence, and Abbott and Costello. They made me laugh at things that were totally unexpected.
I remember this Laurel and Hardy movie where they're having a fight in a bar with someone, and it starts with shoving eggs down their pants and it ends up with Laurel ripping this guy's shirt open and lighting his chest hair on fire. I laughed for ten minutes when I saw that --- it seemed brilliant.
People like Jack Benny or Bob Hope or Ernie Kovacs or Sid Caesar, they were sort of the pioneers of comedy, they set up things we're still using today. And a lot of them were very good actors, too. Their timing was impeccable. What I loved was their use of silence, where you would let the audience come up with the joke or find a way to laugh. Now I find everything is so quick, it's like you're afraid to laugh sometimes in case you miss something.
RD: In your comedy you make comments that seem out of the blue, that have nothing to do with the scene, and that makes it funny. Mochrie: It's odd, because I have none of that in my real life. Now I'm straining for words, and onstage that never happens. I'm always very comfortable with the people I'm working with and never at a loss. In life, I'm always at a loss. It baffles me.
RD: What is it about the stage that makes you come out of your shell? Mochrie: I've been really fortunate in that the people I've worked with have always been really good friends. Ryan Stiles [another regular on Whose Line?] and I have known each other for 25 years, so getting on stage with him is the most relaxed thing in the world. I guess onstage you have a trust in what everybody else is going to do, you know what your function is.
On one occasion, Ryan had to act out a fawn being born, Before I went onstage, he said, "When you finish, stay in one spot, open your legs, I'm coming out your bum." It wasn't till I got out there I thought, What? But I did it, and it was very funny. You have to trust someone who says, "I'm coming out your bum." In real life, you don't have that trust. I don't feel comfortable around people. Not that I think they're out to get me, but just because I don't know what they're going to do, so that scares me and I retreat.
RD: Onstage, is it always co-operation, or competition? Mochrie: It's a strange mix. First and foremost, it's co-operation. Everybody is there to work together to get the scene going. There is competition, but not competition in a negative way. When you go out there, you want to be the funniest one, because you're only human, you want to be the one who says the line that everybody will be talking about for years afterwards. But you can't do it by yourself.
Part of where competition comes for me is in trying to break up the other people. The moments I feel the most joy are when I make Ryan break up. It's really hard to do --- these guys are professionals and they've seen and heard it all.
RD: Have you ever flopped onstage? Mochrie: One night Ryan, Brad Sherwood [an occasional guest on Whose Line?] and I were doing improv at the Laugh Factory in L.A. It was just the three of us; we are pretty good at improv and had worked together a lot. It sucked from the first minute. I think we were supposed to do 20 minutes. It got so bad that we just kept going, hoping to get a laugh, and I think we were up around 45 minutes. The entire audience was other improvisers who were waiting to go on. So there was a bit of hostility there. But that aside, we were pretty bad, and it seemed like we were up there for eight, nine days. The more silence that rolled in from the audience, the more determined we were to get a laugh and it just never happened. Whenever we get cocky, we always bring back the Laugh Factory.
RD: Will you do anything to make an audience laugh? Mochrie: I try to stay away from cruelty to people, like if there's someone in the news having a bad time. As I'm saying this, I realize I'm totally lying to you, because when Clinton was having his thing, I was there with the Clinton jokes. But there are times I would feel bad doing a joke at someone's expense. When Pee-Wee Herman was arrested, I couldn't do stuff like that. It just seemed too easy, and cruel.
RD: You love superheroes. If you were a superhero, what kind would you be? Mochrie: If I were a superhero, I'd want him to look exactly like me. Although I love comics and always will, it's always sort of bugged me that superheroes all had muscles and they're all the same shape, because I would think if you can lift things with your brain and stuff, how would your body get toned and rippled? I was always a big Superman fan, but not having been born on another planet, I couldn't go that route. Batman was another favourite, but he went through a rigorous training. And I'm fairly lazy.
My thing would be like Green Lantern, where a dying alien summons you, gives you this magic ring and you become a superhero, using only your willpower. You would look normal, maybe a nice suit, maybe a durable tracksuit, just so it's comfortable when you're fighting; it doesn't rip. But with the ring, you wouldn't have to actually get into the physical stuff.
RD: After your marriage, you moved to L.A. for Deb's TV series. What obstacles awaited you there? Mochrie: We moved there when Deb was seven months pregnant. On the day of her ultrasound, we got some horrible news about her show --- they didn't want her in it. As we watched the ultrasound, Luke started sucking his thumb. That put everything into perspective for us. And through our years in L.A., we kept that fresh in our minds: How important this boy was to us, and we to each other. The show didn't matter.
RD: How hard did things get? Mochrie: We sold our CDs to buy diapers. I'd ask Deb, "What about Joni Mitchell?" and she'd say, " Don't tell me, just take them." When my parents visited, I'd ask them for $40. That was the worst feeling --- at 37, borrowing money from my parents. I felt like a failure as an actor and a husband. We sold our furniture and returned to Canada.
RD: How did life change back in Canada? Mochrie: Coming back was the best thing we did. We stayed with Deb's parents in Toronto for a year, until we built up enough money for our own place. We had peace of mind knowing we were home with our son, and his grandparents looked after him when needed.
RD: That's when you landed the British Whose Line? But when the show moved to L.A., you almost didn't make it? Mochrie: They wanted someone young and hip. During our first show, Deb was in the greenroom and heard some executives say: "You know what we need? Stars." They started naming everyone from George Clooney to Julia Roberts. Finally a higher-up said, "You know, what these guys are doing is really hard." They left us alone and now see that the show works with the funny, old-looking guys.
RD: What's your appeal? Mochrie: I have this hapless, non-threatening look, and people identify with me. I could be their cousin or someone who works in the office beside them. I'm the guy in the kitchen who'll tell you a joke and make you laugh.
Whose Line? strikes a chord with everyone. At a hockey game, this man came up to me and started crying. He explained that his father had died, but in his last days they watched the show together and it made them laugh. I was overwhelmed.
What I do is not rocket science. I kiss men, walk like a dinosaur and play a woman as often as I can. But it give people fun.
RD: Does it bother you when your co-stars make fun of your baldness? Mochrie: No, that's what I'm there for. I can always tell when they're going for a bald joke. They get this look in their eyes of "I can't think of anything witty so I'm going to make fun of Colin." Drew [Carey] always apologizes after the show. But it's no big deal. It's not like they're shocking me: "I'm...I'm what? Bald?"
RD: Do you work on your weaknesses through your comedy? Mochrie: There are parts of myself I try to work out onstage. I've got more at ease with people, where I'm actually talking to someone without turning red every sentence. After the things I've done on Whose Line?, it's getting really hard for me to be embarrassed, 'cause I've touched everybody in ways I don't even touch my wife.
Basically my major things onstage are to have fun, make people laugh and sometimes teach them a little about Canada. If I can teach them that we don't have winter 11 months out of 12, that we do have light on a regular basis, that we have Halloween and all the major holidays, that there is an actual Moose Jaw --- if I can do that, my work is done.
RD: People describe you as "unflappable." What does that mean? Mochrie: It's being able to take everything that comes your way and either making it a positive or somehow just ignoring it. I've seen people get really upset because their script had a Danish stain on it. Maybe it's the Canadian in me, but I just find that rude and petty.
RD: Are you happy with who you are? Mochrie: Yes, but I do have faults, like wanting to be liked by everyone. It's like searching for the legendary comedians' graveyard, where you'll find this one joke that everybody in the world will laugh at and love you for, but it's never going to happen. There's always going to be someone who hates you, and I find that hard to accept, because they don't know me. If they did, maybe they'd like me.
RD: For what do you think laughter is an antidote? Mochrie: All that ails you. For the time you're laughing, there's nothing wrong in the world. Everything is good.
Every once in a while, couples do this thing where somebody says something that may be mildly amusing, but then it snowballs into something. One time Deb and I were laughing and I was just killing myself, and Deb was in the bathroom, bent over, going, "Stop, stop, I can't breathe!" She had to go outside because it was so bad, it was really painful, and I walked out to see how she was doing. She looked up at me, then walked into the pool, fully clothed, which just sent me off even more. That memory will stay with me forever, 'cause it was just a straight walk and then the face with five different emotions as she hit the water. She came up laughing, and that was just a perfect moment.back to top
Still Making a Mochrie out of Life
Russell A. Trunk and Anne Carlini, Exclusive Magazine, 2003
Colin Andrew Mochrie was born on November 30th, 1957 in Kilmarnock, Scotland. As the son of an airline maintenance executive, his family tended to move around quite frequently. They first moved to Montreal in 1964, then to Vancouver in 1969. He considers himself a loner, shy but on a friends dare at age 16, he joined a High School play where he had the part of an undertaker. It was then when he got his first laugh by splitting his pants, that he knew that he'd found occupational calling.
Having turned to Theatersports, he attended an acting school for four years. He then teamed up Ryan Stiles to do improv and shortly after doing Expo '86, Colin moved to Toronto. There, he auditioned for The Second City where Ryan Stiles was working at the time. He was hired by Debra McGrath and in 1989, he and Debra got married. They later had a son, Luke, who was born in 1991. Colin worked in The Second City for three years.
These days, Colin is a regular on the American version of Who's Line Is It Anyway?,' the hit British series he's starred in for nine years. Add to that his regular appearances on the Comedy Network, cartoons, commercials and movies, Colin is the quickly becoming a household name and voice.
Chatting recently with the man himself, our conversation revolved around many topics of discussion such as Who's Line ', the Drew Carey Show and his brand new DVD release, Jane White Is Sick and Twisted.' But first, I wondered if he actually knew just how damn popular he really was?!
It's scary and I don't know what it says for the viewing public, he laughs. It is odd.
Q: Quotes: Colin Mochrie is dazzlingly talented' and is a standout star,' but who does Colin Mochrie think he is?!
CM: I'm just a guy making a living. Thankful that my one skill has worked it's way into a television show. When I started improv I never thought that this would be the way that I would make my living! It was always something that I just loved doing and the fact that Who's Line ' came along was very fortunate for me. God knows what I'd be doing if it wasn't around!
Q: Didn't you also wish to be a Marine Biologist?
CM: Yes, that is correct and it probably worked out best for everyone that it didn't happen, he laughs. My fascination for that first came from watching the TV show Flipper' and I became very attached to Dolphins and then I stated studying about various mammals of the sea and just got very interested in it.
Q: Whose Line Is It Anyway?' has been such a success for you, but isn't it true that you were first turned down for a role? What made you try again for it?
CM: Yes, I was. The first time they auditioned me I was at the Second City' in Toronto and they came to the show and the next morning before their flight, they auditioned the cast. It was about eight in the morning, which is prime time for comedy, he gently laughs. And nobody got it and I realized afterwards it was that as a cast we work together really well, but nobody stood out. Everybody was being very generous with each other, but the second time was in L.A. where I didn't know anyone. So it was pretty much, Hey, look at me!' And, so that's how I got the part!
Q: 13 years later and the show's still going and you're still on it! Isn't there a question of over-exposing a joke for too long?!
CM: Er, I guess not, he laughs. It's still going strong, but it actually amazes me that it got on in the first place! It still shocks me that it took so long for America to embrace it because they just didn't understand the concept. They just don't know what the show is and we have people they've never heard of and so the fact that it ever happened is more amazing. I think the reason that it's still so popular is that you can tell that the cast is still having a lot of fun with it.
Q: And you carried that fun, improv element over to the Drew Carey Show' also
CM: Yeah, when we did the live shows we still had the basic script though. The only things that would change was when they'd ring the bell and we'd have to come up with a new sentence. And we'd rehearse in different spots every time, so we could never really get comfortable!
Q: Being naturally shy, yet being able to wear the mask of a performer with great ease, how do you manage to make it look all so damn easy?!
CM: I think that part of it is that I'm working with people who are friends. Ryan (Stiles) and I know each other for over twenty-five years so when we're on stage together I feel really comfortable. In fact, the Who's Line ..' arena is probably where I've felt the most comfortable my entire life. Everybody really enjoys each other's company. We all find each other incredibly amusing and in a way, it's having a party where there's an audience watching and their filming hoping to get a show out of it! I like the fact that we succeed and fail on our own terms.
Q: Is it easier for you to perform live' in front of a studio audience or in front of a camera for a film?
CM: Definitely the live audience is a lot easier, and especially now with the success of Who's Line .' we get a lot more leeway than we did when we were starting out improv. Because they know who we are and they're ready to laugh, so even if we're a little off, by the end of the night we're usually fine because the audience is so welcoming. When you're doing a scripted thing, it's harder because you're trying to get the writers intent out. The Director also has a certain view of how you should do things and, of course, you do also. And so getting all those points of view together to make one performance that everyone's happy with, it's difficult.
Q: Being that Jane White ' was filmed over two years ago now, is it hard to come out and promote it after all this time?!
CM: It is kinda strange, yes. I've sort of kept tabs on where it's been playing at various festivals, but I've yet to see the movie, but I hear it's quite funny, he laughs. I'm hoping to catch it at some point!
Q: What was it like working on that with your Who's Line ' buddy, Brad Sherwood ?
CM: I think he got the call THAT day. Somebody had dropped out and so they gave him a quick call and like three hours later he was in make-up!
Q: Your role was a little out of the ordinary' for you this time around!
CM: Yeah, it was a little different from what I'd normally get cast in, in a big budget movie!
Q: So, what drew you to the role?
CM: Well, part of it was that it was so totally out there and different from anything that I would ever get cast for. It was certainly off-kilter, which appealed to me and I'm always looking for small parts to do because I want to get more relaxed in the media of film. So, I thought that this was perfect and a nice little part, and a bit of an acting exercise and it fit into my schedule all things which worked out lovely.
Q: How long did your part take to film?
CM: Two days, he gently laughs. This was not your big budget extravaganza. These guys were working on a shoestring budget, but it was just so much fun.
Q: What was the weirdest part of the character that you played?!
CM: Well, at some point you're sitting there staring at a woman's crotch and she has a cucumber taped to her leg. They didn't really cover this in acting school, he laughs. I mean, we've all had situations that we've had to explain our way out of; situations that haven't gone right for us, and so in that way we've all dealt with something like that!
Q: Was there an uncomfortable side to wearing all that kinky leather for your character?!
CM: You know, I'm not gonna be seen on the cover of Playgirl or anything! No, the wardrobe wasn't something that I felt super comfortable in, but as a character choice it made sense. But I have to say that everybody was very gentle with me, telling me I looked nice and things!
Q: Any behind-the-scenes secrets?
CM: Well, we were shooting in rather a dingy part of town near Hollywood and Vine in this old hotel which I think they were renting by the minute! So, that was probably the most uncomfortable part, just being in that area. During scenes, I was just standing outside the hotel and there was this bag lady who started harassing me and I was in my leathers! I kept telling her I didn't really have anywhere to put anything! That was a little odd.
Q: What kind of a school boy were you?
CM: I was a quiet, studious boy. An honor role student and then I got into theatre. I never really did anything naughty, although I may have skipped one class. I know, it's sad. This could easily be the dullest expose that you'll ever hear. But I did dress up like a reindeer once for school, but that's it. Nothing you could really sink your teeth into, he laughs. I was a good kid but one thing I would always manage to do was get other people in trouble by making them laugh during class.
Q: Any nicknames at school ?!
CM: I gotta tell you, I had some of the worst nicknames. I had To Kill A Mochrie Bird,' but one of the worst ones was Colly Wolly Doodle All The Day!' They didn't ever have a Rock' or a Spike', they were all songs!
Q: What's been your favorite movie or TV role to play to date?
CM: Actually, my favorite was one that never made it into the final product and was in Man On The Moon.' My part was Andy Kaufman has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and has gone to one of these New Age retreats and is being treated with crystals and they find out he's terminal. So, they ask him to leave, so he won't die there and give the place a bad rap and so my character is the one telling his manager that he has to leave. It was just a little scene, but I got to be directed by Milos Forman and it was a dramatic role for me. And I felt really good about it and I really liked what I did in it, which is very rare for me.
Q: Which British comedians influenced you growing up in both Scotland and Canada?
CM: Well, the Monty Python guys definitely. John Cleese was someone who definitely inspired me. I actually managed to steal some of his stuff, but I do it so badly nobody's realized that I've been stealing from him, he laughs. I was also a big Benny Hill fan, Morecambe and Wise, but it was very exciting for me to just watch British television because everyone looks normal! They're all sexy, because they have that normal look. And they're sexy because of their personalities so it was always a thrill for me to watch British television.
Q: Are you keeping tabs on the up and coming young comedians?
CM: Oh sure, but unfortunately they don't get a lot of exposure over here. Every once in a while there's a comedy festival in Kilkenny, Ireland, and that would be my one chance to see the young guys coming up. But, I'm always trying to see things from a different point of view from not only young comedians, but old comedians. I loved Jack Benny and watching old Bob Hope movies. But, when my son was born that was like another group. Watching him discover things for the first time gave me a new insight as everything is fresh to him. So, I can be easily inspired by anything, he gently laughs.
Q: Word has it that you're a Trivia Buff? What kind of Trivia?
CM: A lot of old movies, old television shows. You know, nothing that can really help me in life! I know all the names of the characters off Gilligan's Island their actual names! Things like that.
Q: And you're also a Comic Book collector? What kind of Comic Books?
CM: I haven't had as much time lately, but it's always been Superman and Batman definitely. And then I go to Spiderman, and I even pick up any of the edgy new comics also.
Q: And you love playing Computer games?
CM: I'm a hockey fan, so computer hockey games, but every once in a while I get into the role-playing games where you get to kill stuff!
Q: What's the weirdest gift' ever given to you by a fan?!
CM: It would be a cut-out of me with various cut-out clothes much like a little paper-doll of me!
Q: Do you still have it?!
CM: Er, yes. I don't play with it, but I still have it.
Q: Do you have any new upcoming projects you can tell us about?
CM: I'm supposed to be actually filming a movie that a friend of mine actually wrote. His name's Patrick McKenna and he plays Harold, the nephew on the Red Green Show' and we were at Second City together and are the best of friends. He wrote the script for the two of us and hopefully we'll be shooting in June. It's called Those Guys'.
Q: Finally, leave me with a statement of truth!
CM: Sometimes, Whose Line ' is the gayest show on television!, he laughs for the last time.back to top
Who is Colin Mochrie Anyway
Peggy Hill, Northern Stars Magazine, August 27 2000
In one of the more surreal moments of life I am sitting on the edge of the deck in my sister's Toronto backyard and Colin Mochrie is standing on the ground beside me wrapped in the Canadian flag with a red-and-white jester's hat on while improvising an "I Am Canadian" rant.
Mochrie, one of the stars of the popular Whose Line Is It Anyway? improv show on ABC, gamely spins out reasons why he is proud to be Canadian (see Rant below), remarking only later that with each movement of his head the little bells on the jester's hat tapped his forehead like a Chinese water torture.
We originally met at a Starbucks restaurant in the neighbourhood, where he also lives nearby, but the noise quickly made me suggest the tranquility of the backyard. Mochrie, grasping a jumbo coffee, amiably agrees and provides the ride over.
Nothing, after all, as small as a change of venue for an interview is likely to faze this man, who makes his living reacting instantly within improvised situations in front of audiences. But his quiet, polite personality in private can't possibly prepare viewers for some of Mochrie's antics on Whose Line. This married father of one who listens to Frank Sinatra tapes in the family van hardly seems like the same guy who pretends to have an erect penis that he uses as a pointer for a weather map.
"I thought I did it very well," he says, with a hint of self-mockery. "I thought I did it subtly and with taste. I mean as tastefully as you can get using your penis as a pointer for the weather map."
Even Mochrie recognizes his dual personality. "It's always a shock to see some of the stuff I do because it's so far removed from what I do on a day-to-day basis, just being a regular person." But he's most comfortable on stage, especially doing physical improv, like the penis shtick.
"I'm not a very verbal person, although I find it easier to improvise on stage than improvising in real life, like actually talking to people. I don't know why that is. ... Although I enjoy just being silly verbally too on the show."
MOCHRIE'S FAVOURITE WHOSE LINE GAMES
He says in the past season he liked scenes from a hat, in which the show's host, Drew Carey, picks out of a hat sentences written on pieces of paper from the audience and the four actors on stage improv one liners on the situation suggested.
An example: Things you won't hear in a boxing ring. Mochrie: "I'm a white Canadian. I've got a chance."
Another of his favourites is when the Whose Line studio audience writes out sentences on pieces of paper. He and fellow Canadian Ryan Stiles put the slips of paper in their pockets and then start a scene, such as from Gone With The Wind, now and then taking out the paper to use as absurd dialogue.
Mochrie is usually paired with Stiles, who he has known for more than 20 years, since growing up together in Vancouver. But he says he also likes working with the other actors to give him more of a sense of unpredictability. "It gets to a point where I'm working with Ryan and I'll say something and think, 'Wait a minute, have we done this before?' "
As brilliant as some of Mochrie's physical and verbal improv is, he's the weak link in the musical segments, which makes his stuff seem even funnier as viewers wait to see how badly he's going to do. Even he admits that his contributions to the hoedowns at the end of the show "suck all the time. It's the only time during the show when I feel total fear.
"The songs are something I will never be able to do. I never had that skill. (Co-star Wayne Brady) is the best at it I've ever seen. The first time I saw him do it I had chills up and down my spine."
Brady is sometimes asked to sing to an audience member on the spot using the person's job as the song's subject, and Carey suggests a style, such as doing it like Tina Turner or a country and western song. He also has to make up songs that Stiles and Mochrie have suggested with ridiculous titles and subjects.
THE LUNCH LADY SEGMENT
One of the funnier and more suggestive songs Brady did was with a retired lunch lady. Mochrie says he and Brady were having lunch in an L.A. restaurant just prior to shooting a segment. A woman in her 60s came up and said what a fan she was. They chatted and as the woman was leaving, she asked Brady whether he was a Christian. He said yes and "she said, 'I thought so, you seem very nice on the show.' I thought she hadn't seen all of the shows. "So we're doing the show and it gets to his song styles. Drew goes up to this pretty young lady and asked what she did for a living and she said she was an actress and we'd just done an actress, which means we have to get someone else. At that point I knew that he was going to pick her (the woman from the restaurant) ... and sure enough he goes right to her. ... She's a retired lunch lady. So she goes down and Drew goes, 'OK, now do a song in the style of a stripper.'
"I just started killing myself laughing and quickly started telling everyone else how she was a religious woman. ... God bless him, (Brady) went to work... toward the end of the song he started to lose steam and started to think about what he was doing and if you're really watching you can see him turning back, looking at us and we're not helping at all."
The lunch lady "put on a brave face, she was a bit embarrassed but she was a good sport about it. A very good sport, considering."
SOME VIEWERS REFUSE TO BELIEVE IT IS IMPROV
Brady is so good at the songs that when I first tuned in to the show I thought he had to have had some hint of what was coming prior to the taping. But Mochrie assures me that everything, songs included, are ad-libbed. He says a viewer wrote claiming that he saw the actors reading cue cards. "It's bizarre. There's a certain faction that will never believe that what we do is improv. They think we're cheating them somehow."
People seem to get angry with them, he says, looking for a trick. "This is our only skill. It's like nobody goes up to a brain surgeon and says, 'Did you really fix the brain?' You accept it because they went to school and learned how to be a brain surgeon. It's the same with us."
The show is taped over a series of weekends between July and December. They do three shows at a time and each one is three hours. "That would be 270 pages of dialogue we would have to learn." The skits that don't work aren't seen on the show. The success rate according to Mochrie is about 80 per cent and they don't shoot anything over again.
But there was one time when he was asked to do a scene over. "I had a suggestion that I was in love with Greg (Proops), so at the end of the scene I kissed him. So they stopped. ... It wasn't wildly sexual except it was two men kissing. So they stopped and said 'OK, we're going to stop here, can you improvise that over again.' And in the scene before that I'd killed three women and thrown them out of a window but there was no problem with that."
HOEDOWN BY STILES BLEEPED
The censorship in the show is a constant battle for the actors. "The producer came up one time and said, 'Good news, we managed to keep in the penis pointer but we lost two pussies,' " Mochrie recalls.
He says one of the worst cuts was in a hoedown segment by Stiles: "He went on about how he loved Christmas because Santa's out giving presents all around the world while . . . (Stiles) is at the North Pole porking Mrs. Claus. So they bleeped 'porking'. I don't agree with it but I can understand, but they also bleeped Mrs. Claus so the whole last line was one big bleep. That made it sound dirtier than it actually was."
Mochrie and Stiles were also in the original British version of Whose Line. One thing Mochrie liked about doing it, besides the free trip to London, was that it didn't impose censorship. "Sexual content, language, innuendo - they embrace it."
The British version, which ended when the American one went on the air two years ago, was being shown in 15-minute segments in Arab states such as Dubai. Mochrie has performed there with the British troupe, as well as in Mexico and in Edinburgh.
STARRING IN BLACKFLY IN THE FALL
His trip to Scotland was a bit of a homecoming for Mochrie, who was born in Kilmarnock, Scotland in 1957. He came to Canada when he was six and the family spent five years in Montreal. His father was an airplane mechanic, and gradually the family moved west. After Montreal was a year in Edmonton until they settled in Vancouver.
The Whose Line show in both incarnations has been a phenomenal worldwide success, giving Mochrie exposure that his early career with Second City's National Touring Company could never have equaled. The Colin Mochrie Corner Website was started by a 14-year-old school girl in Thailand. "I didn't realize we were shown in Thailand until she contacted me by e-mail."
Mochrie seems to be making a career out of being in North American versions of popular British shows. He will be on Global Television this year in a new 13-episode comedy series called Blackfly, the Canadian takeoff of Blackadder (starring Rowan Atkinson).
Blackfly, which filmed this summer in Halifax, takes place in the early days of British settlement. Mochrie plays the British officer sent with Blackfly (Ron James) on missions to keep an eye on him. His character is a bit of a "regimental, by-the-book guy." Does that mean he's finally going to be the straight man? "Well, straightish."
COLIN MOCHRIE'S "I AM CANADIAN" RANT
I am a Canadian.
We have 10 provinces. Fifty is way too much of anything.
We like to spell words with a 'u': colour, honour, honour again, because in Canada we believe in you, not I.
We like our beer to have alcohol content.
We like to have our sports filled with fighting but we like to be polite off the ice.
Sure, we get cold at times but we are kept warm by the beating of our hearts, the warm memories of the Beachcombers, of Razzle Dazzle, the Friendly Giant. We have friendly giants. America has Andre the Giant. Two totally different things.
We like sock puppets: Jerome, Rusty and Ed the Sock. We don't like marionettes. They're evil. Their heads are made of wood. Probably good Canadian wood, because they make marionettes last longer.
We have Mounties who like to dress up in red, bright jackets. That way the criminals have a better aim, something to shoot at.
We like to think of others, no matter who, no matter where. I love Canada. I love Canada, eh.back to top
Colin is a successful Canadian comedian who first got involved in improv comedy through Theatresports before moving to Toronto's famous comedy theatre, the Second City. From there he experienced great success in both the British and American versions of Whose Line is it Anyway, which has led to highly successful live tours with Brad Sherwood and with the 'Improv Allstars'.
At one point he was starring in five series on six North American networks, including Whose Line and This Hour Has 22 Minutes. He has appeared in a number of movies, including the improvised film 'Expecting' which he performed in with his wife, Debra McGrath, who also co-starred with him in the CBC series Getting Along Famously.
An Evening with Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood
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