TV

Colin Mochrie: "It’s shocking you just can’t kill Whose Line is it Anyway?"

The Whose Line is it Anyway? star on improv being the worst art form, his Scottish roots and the comedy talents of George W Bush

You’re taking part in a British Whose Line is it Anyway? reunion. Are you excited?

I’m really looking forward to it. I haven’t seen a lot of those guys since the show went off air so it’s getting together with friends under the guise we’re working.

Will it be nostalgic, even though you’re still making Whose Line in America?

My life is filled with nostalgia. You get to a certain age and you look back on everything with fondness even if it didn’t work out that way.

Are your memories of the British one good or bad?

I’m not sure. It always seemed a surprise it would be on and every year them saying we could do some more. Until the one year they didn’t. I always loved that time of year because for a working actor in Canada, there wasn’t much going on. For six weeks it would be this little fantasy part of my year where people enjoyed the work I was doing and we were known everywhere, then I would go back to Canada and obscurity and start all over again.

I would ask what audiences should expect, but the point is nobody knows what will happen, including the performers…

Yeah. It’s the perfect show for lazy people. We just show up, somebody says do something and we do it. We just goof around with each other and somehow make this into an occupation.

Will it be easy to work with people you haven’t seen for years?

I think so. Everyone in improv has the same vocabulary. In a dream world, you should be able to work with any other improviser.

Do you enjoy watching other improv?

No. I hate it. First of all, there’s nothing worse than bad improv. It truly is the worst of the worst of art forms. So it’s either the worst thing I’ve seen or it’s really good and I just get depressed and think, why can’t I do that?

The US version of Whose Line is it Anyway? was canceled as well then restarted again a couple of years ago. Why does it have an enduring, if sporadic, popularity?

We just got renewed for our third series. It’s shocking to me that you just can’t kill this show, This was not a job when I was growing up, no one ever said hey when I get older, “I’m going to be an improviser”.

Surely it’s not a more realistic career prospect today?

A lot of improvisers come up because of Whose Line? and I have to say to them while they still have hope in their eyes, “You know we were really lucky…”. But the beast is always evolving. There’s always people coming up with new ways of doing improve and putting it in new situations so it keeps it fresh.

Who is the most talented comic you’ve worked with? Pick one!

Pick one? I’ll pick an American and a British. Ryan Stiles and I grew up together so he is someone who I’ve worked with forever. And from the British side, Jim Sweeney, again one of the best improvisers ever. Jim is a very special improviser, he could be the straight man, he could be the funny guy, he always has this integrity to his improv.

Ryan Stiles is a conspicuous absence from Edinburgh because he’s afraid of flying. Why is that?

He’s just a big pussy.

At one of your gigs, George W Bush was effectively your warm up act. How did that happen?

That was surreal. We were asked to be the entertainment at this press corps dinner and George Bush opened with 10 minutes of stand up and just killed. So we went on and did quite well and they invited us to the White House the next day. The President gave us a tour of his office. We were there for 20 minutes and I kept thinking there must be something you have to do… He was certainly not my favourite president but he was a good host. Again, it was surreal. I make up crap for a living and yet here I am in the White House.

Some would say that’s all he did too.

That’s true.

Would he have made a better comedian than President?

I think so. His timing was superb. I don’t know who wrote his jokes but he delivered them well and got some big big laughs – and it was at a point where he wasn’t at his most popular so you have to give him credit.

When you’ll be performing in Scotland, will it be easier because the audiences themselves will be so funny…

I’m very proud of my Scottish heritage because I think it’s a big part of how I look at the world. I love the Scots, I love their sense of humour, I love their storytelling ability and I certainly hope that because I’m a Scot they’ll laugh at me harder than anyone else.

You were born in Kilmarnock and lived in Scotland until you were six. What are your memories?

Actually I have no memories of Kilmarnock. I have more memories of Glasgow because my grandparents lived there and I used to visit them quite a bit. Mostly Glasgow and Grangemouth. It really does feel like home.

What do you remember about Grangemouth?

I just remember a smell that I’ve never smelled anywhere else, ever, but it’s there in my mind.

Maybe that’s down to the big industrial plant at Grangemouth.

That’s probably what it was.

colinmochrie.com

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