Although the improv show “Whose Line is it Anyway” is moderated with a host, Ohio State students will be given a chance to “call the shots” for the comedians this week.
Two stars from “Whose Line,” which ran on ABC from 1998 to 2006 before returning with new episodes in July, are scheduled to make a campus appearance for the Ohio Union Activities Board-sponsored event “Colin Mochrie & Brad Sherwood: Two Man Group” Monday.
The show is set to start at 8 p.m. in the Archie M. Griffin Grand Ballroom, and Sherwood said it will be similar to the improv show that made them famous, but with the audience running it.
“It’s kind of similar to a live version of ‘Whose Line,’ but we don’t have someone hosting it for us and we use the audience through the entire show — they’re up on stage with us really kind of calling the shots,” said Chicago-native Sherwood. “It’s kind of like we hand the keys to the car to the audience and they drive us where they wanna go — it’s all interactive.”
The two have been touring together since 2002, and Sherwood said they’re extremely close.
“We get along amazingly well. We have a lot in common — we’re both left-handed Sagittarians and we have a lot of very common interests, like when we were kids we both wanted to be an oceanographer,” he said. “So we’re very similar — I think I talk more than he does in regular life. I’m the loud guy who does a lot of telling people what to do and he just kind of goes along quietly and says, ‘Sounds good to me.’”
Those who are familiar with “Whose Line” might notice minor differences between the show and Mochrie and Sherwood’s “Two Man Group” show.
“I’d say probably most of the games (we play) will be familiar to the fans of ‘Whose Line.’ Then, because there’s only two of us, we’ve sort of had to adapt to some games and the audience sort of takes the place of (host) Drew (Carey) or another improvisor, so it’s actually more interactive than the show is,” Mochrie said. “And the beauty of it, because it’s not television, we can actually keep the scenes going for as long as we want, so it’s sort of an extended version of ‘Whose Line.’”
Sherwood said the improv comedians are frequently asked whether the material in their live show is truly made up off the top of their heads, but the live show being audience-dependent makes it difficult to know anything ahead of time.
“We just ask the audience for something — all we do is write a little list of games that we’re going to play that night, like a piece of paper with 10 words on it, and everything else is completely made up based on audience suggestions,” he said. “The audience is onstage with us sometimes giving us specific pieces of information, there’s no way we could plan ahead for that kind of stuff.”
Despite the doubts viewers may have, Mochrie, a Scotland-born, Canadian actor, said it must mean they’re doing something right.
“Constantly people are saying to us, ‘Oh that stuff was written,’ and, in one way, it’s a compliment, which means we’re doing it well enough that people think it could be written,” he said.
Sherwood agreed, adding that the two got the same criticism when on ‘Whose Line.”
“We still get asked all the time whether we made it up on the show and we didn’t know what the suggestions were gonna be until Drew (Carrey) read them off the card or he got a suggestion from the audience and we literally just started,” he said. “We didn’t stop and huddle and come up with a bunch of ideas. They said ‘OK go,’ and we would just wing it.”
Throughout their time on “Whose Line,” one memory in particular stuck with Mochrie.
“I can say without a shadow of a doubt, there’s only one scene that I really remember from ‘Whose Line’ and that’s the one with Richard Simmons,” Mochrie said. “When you see the scene, they actually had to cut down the laugh because it just was going on too long and I remember just standing there with Richard Simmons’ head kind of bouncing at my crotch thinking, ‘My God please stop laughing so much, going on with this is getting uncomfortable.’”
The scene with Simmons, an American fitness personality, from Season 5 Episode 17, consisted of Mochrie using Simmons as a prop during a game, and Sherwood agrees that it is the most memorable moment on the show.
“Richard Simmons is their object and he’s using Richard Simmons as a jet ski and every time I watch that, I laugh ‘til I cry, so I always recommend that for someone who hasn’t seen it, you just gotta watch it,” Sherwood said.
OUAB President MacGregor Obergfell said members of OUAB recognized the popularity of the show, and that was the main reason for bringing the duo to campus.
“‘Whose Line’ was a staple of many Ohio State students’ childhoods, and there was a lot of excitement surrounding the show’s revival,” he said in an email. “OUAB saw this as a great opportunity to capitalize on a unique event featuring some of the comedy greats of our lifetime.”
Some students said they were looking forward to the Monday event.
“‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ is a really funny show for those people who see it,” said Anthony Pietrantozzi, a first-year in computer science and engineering.
Jay Holland, a first-year in engineering, said he is looking forward to attending the event, because he likes “listening to funny people.”
Mochrie warns audience members to come prepared for interaction when attending their show.
“Everything is made up, and the audience works just as hard as we do,” he said. “The audience supplies all the suggestions for the show, so there’s nothing without the audience — they should actually be ready to come to work as hard as we do.”
Tickets for “Colin Mochrie & Brad Sherwood: Two Man Group” are sold out, but were free to students with a valid BuckID.