Colin Comes Home: An Interview with Colin Mochrie

In anticipation of his shows this Thursday through Saturday, SAD Contributor and cool writer Cole Nowicki chatted with famed improviser and Vancouver performer, Colin Mochrie!


A double-decker tour bus slowly makes its way down Madison Avenue in New
York City. Standing and waving in the sunshine on its roofless second story, next
to Mr. Clean and a rather svelte Mr. Peanut, is the Nabisco Snack Fairy. The
crowd gathered on the sidewalk for Advertising Week’s Icon Parade—a parade
celebrating brands and the mascots who front them—call out to the characters.

“What up, Mr. Clean?”

“You’re the classiest nut around, Peanut!”

“Hi, Colin!”

The Snack Fairy—or, Canadian improv comedy legend, Colin Mochrie—gets
kind personal greetings in lieu of general, mostly mocking shout-outs—which
makes sense. The Snack Fairy’s costume is just a navy polo tucked into beige
slacks—pretty much Colin’s day-to-day, except for the bright pink tutu over top of
them. And most people probably recognize Mochrie from his beloved role in the
seminal improv comedy television show, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, where he
has been a staple performer for nearly two decades. His work in commercials,
like the popular Nabisco series, took off in the early-to-mid aughts and lead to him
becoming a near fixture in the realm. When I ask if he has a favourite commercial
project of the bunch, he sighs.

“It’s probably the Snack Fairy—it paid for the extension on my house.”

That’s when he tells me about the strangeness of the Icon Parade all those
years ago and how each of the mascots had a designated handler, his from
Nabisco instructing him to keep away from the Keebler Elves at all costs to avoid
any awkward photo ops with the competition.

“They were the enemy.” He recalls.

Seemingly to address his sigh from earlier, Colin tells me how he really does
appreciate the various commercial gigs under his belt. They allowed him to travel
all over the world. And you know, paid him money. In our brief conversation that’s
one of the big things that stands out: his genuine appreciation. For where he is,
for where he was.

Colin got his start in improv at Vancouver TheatreSports League (VTSL). He
was one of the first troupe members in 1980 and helped get it off of the ground,
even pulling people off of the streets, McDonald’s Big Macs in hand, and into
their first run of shows. He credits VTSL for teaching him everything he knows
about improve, and they feel pretty strongly about him, too. The Colin Mochrie
Scholarship Fund recently started in his name.

“It’s lovely. Always nice to have something named after you, unless it’s a
disease,” he says, when asked about it.

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This weekend will see Colin return to his old stomping grounds, playing five
shows spread over three-days and two different venues in Vancouver. He’ll also
be performing with new members of his original troupe, the VTSL Players, a prospect
he’s excited about. He finds performing with improv’s new generation inspiring,
mentioning an Atlanta based group, Dad’s Garage, that he loves.

And after this run in Vancouver? He’ll continue touring and playing shows.
Some with his wife and improv player, Debra McGrath, some with his comedy
partner of nearly sixteen-years, Brad Sherwood, and an intriguing show that
includes a hypnotist and Colin doing improv with hypnotized audience members.

“That one’s scary.” He says, ominously.

Objectively, that’s a full schedule. How after so many years in the game can
one stay so motivated? Five performances in three-days? Multiple touring
shows?

“I still love it, which makes it easier. And I can’t relax just because my name’s
in the title, you know? I’m not here to showboat, I’m here to contribute and have
fun.”

And I believe that. From the nascent years of TheatreSports, to Whose Line,
to an uncomfortable bus ride with Mr. Clean––the evidence is there: Colin’s
always been a genuine team player.

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Colin's upcoming shows are Thursday, May 24 at 7:30pm at The Improv Centre; Friday, May 25 at 7:30pm AND 9:45pm at The Vogue Theatre; and Saturday, May 26 at 7:30pm & 9:30pm at The Improv Centre.