Cal Poly arts season’s first week is starting off with a bang. Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood, known for their roles on the popular 1980’s comedy series “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” are stopping by Cal Poly’s Performing Arts Center (PAC) on Oct. 16 on their “Scared Scriptless” tour. Attendees can expect an evening full of improvisation, laughs and audience participation.
Mustang News reporter, Abigail O’Branovich, spoke with Brad Sherwood, one half of the dynamic duo, about the upcoming show.
What is it like to go on a tour and improvise with audience participation?
Colin and I have been doing our two-man show for about 20 years now and it doesn’t get old. Every time you walk out on stage, we have no idea what’s going to happen. We have a list of games that we’re going to do that night, but we have no idea whether we’re going to be plumbers, flying to Mars or vampire hunters. So you always walk on stage like it’s the very first time and that really makes it exciting. It’s like the opening night of a play and then the next night you have another opening night because the script changes.
Who do you hope the audience will be?
I think that maybe after this many years I don’t have a specific hope because then you’re setting yourself up to be disappointed. We just kind of go out there and, after the show starts, you’ve learned what that audience is and you kind of adapt.
Is this an audience that we’re going to have to be big and goofy? Or is this an audience that likes the smart-aleck references and pop culture stuff? You’re sort of taking their temperature the whole time. It’s always chaos because you don’t know what’s going to happen. Listen and respond, that’s it. Which is kind of how life is — you improvise your whole life. Our job is just to make those moments funny.
How has your show changed each night in terms of the demographic?
Our general admission theater shows tend to be all across the board. We probably have one of the widest demographics for our show because we have people that are in their 70s to 40s that have watched the show for years — and then they bring their kids or their grandkids.
What games do you have planned?
Usually, we’re constantly changing the show and we’re always trying new things. We also go through old show lists when it’s a place we played before. We’ve been to San Luis Obispo, I think two or three times in the past. So we’ll look at our old setlist because we know a lot of people have been to our show every time we come to town. We want to make sure we’re not doing the exact same running order. If a show is similar to the one we did last time we were at that theater then we’ll swap it up and change it. It’s very loosey-goosey.
“Whose Line Is It Anyway?” is a pretty big cast and you’re able to interchange the actors with each game that you play. How are you doing the games with only two people?
A lot of the games on “Whose Line” are a couple that use four cast members, but many of the games end up just being too cluttered, so you really only need two players. What we don’t have in this show is a moderator, so we introduce the games and give a lot of the power to the audience.
There’s one game where they’re finishing our sentences. They help us write the scene and Colin and I have to make it make sense, and of course, make it funny. With the sound effects scene, we rely a lot on the audience and want to use as many audience members as possible— unfortunately not as many during COVID[-19]. During non-COVID[-19] times, we would have 15 or more people coming up on stage with us. Now we have to make it so that we’re not up in each other’s faces. So we’re adapting for that until it’s super safe again.
You mentioned that typically you have 15 members of the audience up on stage participating. How have you adapted that to COVID-19 safety guidelines?
One of the games that we used to do was bring people up on stage to finish their sentences. Now we have a microphone that’s down in the theater and we have [audience members] lined up down in the audience area. We’ve spread the sound effects people a little farther out from us and they wear masks on stage. Also, I think we used to be moving bodies in every show, and we’re not doing that one right now, so we came up with other fun games to put in its place.
What would you like the readers to know about Saturday’s show?
I would say that if they really like “Whose Line,” they will love this show, because seeing improv live as it’s happening — you enjoy almost a different level. A lot of people felt that on the show the producers gave us clues as to what the scenes were going to be about before we did it or they stopped and reshot the ending of something.
It’s kind of like when you see someone in a magic show make an elephant disappear while you’re watching it on stage. It’s way more impressive than when you watch it on a TV show. It’s kind of that same immediacy of the magic. It’s kind of like we’re doing brain magic and you’re seeing it happen in real-time.
Cal Poly’s PAC is participating in Student Rush and all student tickets are $10 with proof of ID. For tickets, go to calpolyarts.org.
This interview had been edited for length and clarity.