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INTERVIEW: Colin Mochrie on HYPROV: Improv Under Hypnosis (Ordway)

Comedian Colin Mochrie, of Whose Line Is It Anyway? fame, performs with hypnotist Asad Mecci at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday in Saint Paul, MN.

Canada’s Comedy Person of the Year. The Second City. The Vancouver TheatreSports League. Whose Line Is It Anyway? What do these have in common? Comedian and master-improviser Colin Mochrie.

Mochrie is a familiar face to fans of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, the beloved skit-comedy television show formerly hosted by Drew Carey. Mochrie is arguably its most ubiquitous face, having performed in the show’s original version on British TV. When a U.S. version appeared on the storyboards, the Canadian performer duly crossed back across the Atlantic, where he has defined on-the-job attendance by appearing in every single episode of the show’s two American incarnations. (You can still catch new episodes of the show on The CW.)

In-between television appearances, Colin Mochrie lives in Toronto and travels for a variety of comedy performances. Last summer, he stopped by the Ordway with fellow Whose Line-r Brad Greenwood. On Sunday, he returns to the Ordway with Master Hypnotist Asad Mecchi. Their new show? Hyprov, a title that tells you exactly what to expect in a comedy evening.

Mochrie spoke with Basil Considine about team-ups, Transatlantic television hops, and going for terrifying things (for comedy).

Hypnotism. Improvisation. What could go wrong (or right)?

In-between shooting Whose Line Is It Anyway? and your touring shows, how much time do you spend there?

I actually get to spend a lot of time at home [in Toronto]. Whose Line is two weekends in February, and the tours also are mostly weekends – so I get time to spend with my lovely wife Deb.

Are there any trends in your comedy touring schedule? More performances, fewer performances and more vacation, more performances in warm tropical locales during the winter…?

I don’t know if there is much of a trend other than going to cold places in the winter and warm places in the summer. There’re still a few bugs to be hashed out.

You’ve toured a lot with Brad Sherwood, even performing at the Ordway with him back in June, but your performance next Sunday at the Ordway has you teamed up with hypnotist Asad Mecci. How did this new collaboration begin? (Not with your going in for hypnotherapy, I presume.)

Asad was taking improv classes in Toronto and found that there were similarities in how improv and hypnotism worked. He thought it might be cool to combine them and contacted my agent. We had coffee and it sounded terrifying, so we went for it.

Asad Mecchi and Colin Mochrie perform Hyprov together.

When you travel for a duo show like Sunday’s performance, how large is the whole traveling team (roadies, assistants, producers, etc)?

No matter which tour, the group is made up of me, my partner, and a tour manager. Our entourage is sorely lacking. (I gotta get people.)

You were in the UK version of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, then became an original cast member of the U.S. version of the show, and returned for the current revival. Your journey to regular cast member in the UK show was rather like an on-and-off-again dating adventure – but how did you get involved with the U.S. show?

The producers had always wanted to do an American version of the show and Ryan hooked them up with Drew – they were on the same show together and Drew was a fan. On his involvement alone, the show went ahead and all the North American regulars were hired.

The U.S. show has this odd history of disappearing off the airwaves for six years before coming back. How did they approach you about (re)joining the revival? 

It was all fairly simple. They asked and I said yes. I wish that happened more in my career.

What was it like returning to the show after such a long break?

At our first taping, Ryan said it was like we just took a really long lunch break. We had all worked together in various incarnations since the Drew show, so there really wasn’t any kind of adjustment.

A lot of the touring performers that I interview have a routine to stay healthy on the road. Having, I believe, never missed a show in the U.S. version of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, you must be doing something right. What’s your secret?

All I have is a stubborn desire to work. No matter how tired, sore, or decrepit, once I’m on stage ol’ Dr. Theatre works his magic and I feel great. Also, I hydrate.

You’re coming to St. Paul, MN during the earlier part of snow season. Any touring travel disasters to share?

I have to say I have been very fortunate. In the 18 years with Brad, there have been near misses, but we only had to cancel one show. When we had a layover in Minneapolis. …I’m sure we’ll be fine.

Colin Mochrie presents HYPROV: Improv Under Hypnosis runs for one night only on October 27 at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, MN.

Basil Considine