‘Whose Line’ vets come to BR stage

Good news for fans of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

The show will be back in July. It’ll have a different host, and it will be in the CW network’s lineup instead of ABC television’s, but the show’s veteran cast will be the same.

Now, for those who don’t want to wait, here’s more exciting news: Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood will bring their traveling improv comedy show, “Colin and Brad: Two Man Group” to the LSU Union Theater stage on Wednesday.

Mochrie and Sherwood are members of the “Whose Line” veteran cast. They’ve also been on the road with their live show for almost a decade.

“We usually take it on the road on weekends so we can spend time with our families during the week,” Mochrie said.

He speaks from his home in Toronto, where he lives with his wife and son. His trip to Baton Rouge not only will be his first to the Capital City but to Louisiana.

“And I’m looking forward to it,” Mochrie said. “We’ve taken this show all over the world, but Louisiana is one of the few places we haven’t visited. I don’t know a lot about the state, but I’m looking forward to learning about it.”

“Whose Line” fans surely are looking forward to this show. And those who may not be familiar with the show will get a taste of what its brand of comedy has to offer.

Because Mochrie and Sherwood incorporate a lot of what makes “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” fun and funny into their own program.

The “Two Man Group” isn’t exactly a pre-planned show. Oh, there’s a segment featuring only Mochrie and Sherwood, but then there’s the segment where they bring eight or so volunteer audience members on stage to join the show.

All skits are improvised, meaning everyone is working from their instincts and imaginations.

That’s Mochrie’s specialty, something he’s been doing since high school. Funny though, his teenage aspiration was to become a marine biologist.

“I don’t regret not going into marine biology,” Mochrie said, laughing. “I wanted to be a marine biologist because I liked dolphins. But I think you should probably have a better reason than liking dolphins to go into something like marine biology.”

Instead, a friend persuaded Mochrie to try out for the play, “The Death and Life of Sneaky Fitch.” This was a turning point in Mochrie’s career path, because he was cast as the story’s butler

And the character won him his first round of audience laughter.

Which was appealing, so much that after graduation, Mochrie enrolled in the Studio 58 theater school in Vancouver, where he received his first training in improvisational comedy.

He’s since worked with the Vancouver TheaterSports improvisational comedy theater, the Second City in Toronto and in 1989, he landed a spot on the original British version of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

Ryan Stiles, a fellow cast member on the American version of the program, also was on the show.

“We’ve known each other since we were kids,” Mochrie said. “And we trust each other. It’s important to have people on stage that you trust when you’re doing improv. You know their strengths and where they can take you, and they know where you can take them.”

And one place Mochrie doesn’t like to be taken is down a musical path.

Fans of the American version of “Whose Line” already know this about Mochrie. His musical ability isn’t strong, and when called upon to sing, he usually spoke the songs’ lines.

The American version of “Whose Line” ran from 1998 to 2006 on ABC. Drew Carey was the host, and Mochrie was joined by regular cast members Stiles and Wayne Brady. Sherwood was a veteran of the British show and often appeared on the American version.

“The show was cheap to produce,” Mochrie said. “ABC put us in a slot that went up against ‘Friends’ and ‘Survivor,’ so we always took a beating in the ratings, but ABC still made money off of us, because the show was so cheap.”

The show also developed a following.

“There are people who were just born when the show started airing, and they’re just now seeing the show in reruns,” Mochrie said. “It’s amazing what a following the reruns have in syndication. It’s one of those shows that the whole family could watch, even when it got a little risque, because that kind of humor was always above the heads of the younger ones in the family.”

Add to that the fact that the risque gags never lasted too long for anyone to think about them, because cast members were always on to the next skit.

The show consisted of four performers who created characters, scenes and songs on the spot in the style of short-form improvisation games. Topics were based on either audience suggestions or predetermined prompts from Carey.

Carey set up the game and situation, and the performers improvised the scene.

The “Two Man Group” will follow a similar format.

“We have fun with the audience members,” Mochrie said. “And they usually have fun with us when they come up on stage.”

But there’s been one recent creative task that hasn’t been so fun for Mochrie.

He has authored the book, “Not Quite the Classics,” which will be released in October. His agent landed him the book deal, and he approached it in a way that’s similar to his comedy style.

“I wrote a collection of short stories,” Mochrie said. “All of them start with the first line from a classic novel, and they end with the last line from the novel.”

The stories in between are Mochrie’s.

“But I hated it,” he said. “I had a deadline, and it was something I had to do. Writing is hard work, and I’m lazy. It’s also something you have to do by yourself, and I enjoy working with other people.”

So, Mochrie will stick to the stage.

And Wednesday, that stage will be in Baton Rouge.