Leaside improv comedian Colin Mochrie makes getting on stage without a script look easy.
“It’s the best job for lazy people,” he said over the phone from Red Bank, New Jersey, where he’s currently touring. “You show up, the audience gives you all your ideas and you just goof around.”
The Canadian funnyman, best known for his roles inWhose Line Is It Anyway? and This Hour Has 22 Minutes has been touring North America for the past eight years with friend and fellow Whose Lineveteran Brad Sherwood. The pair entertain about 80,000 audience members annually.
While he insists it’s true, it’s hard to imagine Mochrie as lazy. In addition to his touring, he juggles cameos, commercials (including those for Buckley’s Cough Syrup, New York Fries and as the “snack fairy” for Nabisco), voiceovers and working on a book.
His media appearances were so prolific at one point that it prompted Canadian television show Corner Gas to poke fun at Mochrie by having him appear shortly after a character says he has a cameo in nearly everything.
“People think I’m busy all the time, but I’m really not,” said Mochrie.
When he’s not filming pilots in Los Angeles or touring around the continent, he finds time to shop at his favourite meat and fish markets in Leaside. However, he added that he also enjoys the accessibility to larger chains.
“I’m always at the little mall there that has the Best Buy, Winner’s and Sobey’s,” he said.
“That’s where I spend a lot of time … I do all of the cooking, so I’m constantly buying food.”
The award-winning comedian has lived with his family in Leaside for about 15 years. His wife, actor and comedian Debra McGrath, takes some of the pressure off him always having to live up to his comedic persona.
“My wife is the funniest one in the family, so I can just sit back and every once in a while throw something in,” he remarks.
That’s a relief when it comes time to sit around the dinner table, as Mochrie explains he’s a laid-back, even shy person when he’s not on stage.
“It’s a little weird when I meet quote unquote normal people, because they sort of expect the whacky guy they saw on Whose Line,” he said. “I’m not that guy … I don’t tell jokes, I’m fairly quiet, so I think I always disappoint people when they meet me.”
That happens fairly often, considering Mochrie is one of Leaside’s most recognizable faces. (He’s even on its Wikipedia page, much to his surprise.)
“Some people do recognize me, which is always good for the ego, but there’s never any weirdness,” he said. “Actually every once in a while there’s cars that slow down in front of the house, which is weird.”
But he doesn’t seem to mind, adding that he knows his neighbours quite well.
“They’re pretty used to me now. I guess they read about me on Wikipedia,” he says with a laugh.
Born in Scotland and having lived in Vancouver, Montreal and Los Angeles, Mochrie said he and his wife settled on Leaside because of the family feel, with kids playing hockey on the streets and plentiful parks for dog walks and cycling.
“It’s home,” Mochrie said. “It’s where all our friends are, we know the city, and we’re sort of known there so you can get work … it’s like our own little haven.”
Mochrie hasn’t had much trouble finding work. In addition to touring, he recently rejoined with Whose Line colleague Wayne Brady for an improv comedy program called Trust Us With Your Life. It is expected to debut on ABC this summer.
Penguin Canada has also acquired the publishing writes for his debut book, titled Not Quite The Classics. The project involves Mochrie taking the first and last line from literary classics and rewriting the body with his own trademark humour.
Although performing on stage with no material is easy for Mochrie, writing it is more challenging.
“I despise writing … It’s sort of a disciplined art and I’m not that disciplined,” he said. “I’ll try and find anything to do other than actually sit down and write.”
Despite his aversion to writing, it seems he’s good at it. He won a Writer’s Guild of Canada award for his work onThis Hour Has 22 Minutes.
“That just made it worse because now people expect things,” he quips.
It’s yet to be seen whether his upcoming book will be as successful, but it’s fair to say that Mochrie’s distaste for writing can be traced back to why he chose improvisation as a career choice.
“It’s the actual typing I think,” he said. “I’m just too lazy.”
Having said that, it’s probably a good thing he made the choice he did. Initially, he wanted to be a marine biologist.
“I think it worked out for everyone that that didn’t happen.”