As part of the long-running improv comedy TV show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?" (now on the CW Network), Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood mastered the comedic alchemy of producing hilarity on the fly. Their spontaneous interactions with each other and their castmates have created some of the funniest moments ever broadcast on television.
In 2003, the duo took its show on the road and has been touring every year since. The pair will be stopping by the Rabobank Theater on March 29 as part of the current Scared Scriptless tour.
“I love being on stage,” Sherwood said via phone interview. “You get the immediate energy and the laughter of the audience. That’s one thing that we (Colin and I) both have in common.”
“We’ve been doing it for so long, we trust each other so we can really play full speed at the top of our game.”
Sherwood, who’s more familiar with Bakersfield as a travel stop than as a destination, is “looking forward to coming to Bakersfield for something other than beef jerky.”
Once he and Mochrie get here, they'll perform short-form comedy bits, or “games,” that will be familiar to fans of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?" The games will also stretch out longer than the show’s usual five-minute-or-so allotment and will have a lot more audience interaction.
“We’re going on this little comedy journey together,” Sherwood said. “I like to say that it’s like we hand the keys of the car to the audience and they say where we’re going to go and then we make it a fun road trip. Our whole show is about interfacing with them and really giving them more power that the audiences in the TV tapings have.”
“They put us through the paces, really. Sometimes they’re helping us finish our sentences, sometimes they’re doing our sound effects, sometimes they’re actually moving our bodies and we can’t move unless they move us. So, really, we hand so much power to them."
To those of you wanting to go but are averse to being the center of attention or going onstage, have no fear. The duo won’t pick or single out anyone who’s not willing to be a part of the show.
They also take thoughtfully premeditated steps to keeping the material — however and wherever it ends up — as family-friendly as possible. Even if it means guiding the audience away from some its more baser instincts.
“When we’re getting suggestions,” Sherwood said, “we steer away from suggestions that are innately going to take us in the wrong direction. Like, if we ask for an occupation, invariably somebody will say ‘gynecologist’ or ‘prostitute’ or ‘proctologist.’ We don’t take that. We take the first suggestion that isn’t something profane or leading us down salacious paths. We never resort to anything profane.”
That’s both prudent and wise. Improv comedy is a discipline fraught with the potential for disaster, not just thematically but in execution, which can also make the rewards so much sweeter. Mentally, Sherwood treats it all as a process more in line with the martial arts: practicing the form until response is as intuitive as a reflex. Performing is akin to working with all of the skill he’s trained up to that point.
“You have to embrace that,” Sherwood said. “It’s kind of the one art form where you aren’t rewarded from actual repetition. It goes counter to people’s comfort zone. It scares people to not know the outcome. People like predictability and safety in their own lives. This, as a performance form, is completely counter to that.”
“Once in a while, something may fall flat, but we (Colin and I) are really good at making it not fall flat and saving it if it’s at the precipice, That’s kind of what we’re about. Our whole career is predicated on taking something you have no idea what you’re going to do with and taking big mistakes and turning them into funny moments.”
And it’s that spirit of “anything goes,” as well as a healthy sense of mischief, that keeps the performers on their toes. Because in improv comedy the only answer to every response should be “yes, and ..." and instantly having to adapt to whatever potentially ludicrous place that answer takes you.
“And that’s the fun for us too,” Sherwood said. “It’s kind of like having a snowball fight on stage while you’re working together.”
"It’s the best job I’ve ever had and I’m really so fortunate to have been able to do it for so long,”
As to what else the audience can expect? Who knows? With no two shows being the same, and the comedians’ insistence on not repeating themselves, there’s no way of knowing for sure what will happen. But you will definitely laugh. A lot. And loudly.
According to Sherwood, “It’s kind of like ... you know the show ‘Chopped’ on the cooking, Food Network or whatever, where they give the chef a basket with six ingredients and they have to make something delicious? That’s kind of what we have to do. The audience is giving us all of these disparate things that don’t make sense together and we have to turn it into comedy deliciousness.”