Colin Mochrie spoke with Solzy at the Movies in early December about the new camp comedy, Boys vs. Girls, releasing on Tuesday.
The Whose Line star picked up an award for Best Supporting Actor during the Florida Comedy Film Festival earlier this year. In Chicago, the film took home wins for both the Best Feature Film and the Audience Choice during this year’s Chicago Comedy Film Festival.
In addition to promoting his role as Roger in Boys vs. Girls, Mochrie also discusses his improv experiences and getting the chance to improvise with the great Sid Caesar.
First of all, happy belated birthday!
Colin Mochrie: Thank you so much!
You’re welcome! Boys vs Girls is releasing later this month on VOD. What was it about the script that attracted you to the film?
Colin Mochrie: It just seemed like a fun script. I love when somebody asks me to do something; I always get a little thrill. I looked at the script and I enjoyed it. I also knew some of the cast so that was also sort of an inducement. It was also short, fast and sweet with all the things I love about shooting a movie.
Did you do anything in particular to prep for the role of Roger, the camp director?
Colin Mochrie: No, it’s basically me with a little less panic. It was very easy. Mike was very open to playing and doing some improv or just having fun with it. I love playing kind of uptight characters that are sort of in over their head. It’s a lot of fun.
How honored were you to take home Best Supporting Actor at the Florida Comedy Film Festival this year?
Colin Mochrie: It sort of froze me. I mean, I do acting work. I just never think it’s going to be anything that’s going to be worthy of an award. It was a real honor. I’m proud of this movie and proud of the work we’ve all done. It was a lovely honor. I guess now just catch the Oscar!
Do you have any fond camp memories?
Colin Mochrie: No, I never went to camp. It was just something that was not in my family’s radar. I transferred it and would talk about it and I thought, Oh, that sounds like it would be fun. But no. My daughter went through like three or four camps and loved it. There’s an arts camp near Niagara that she started off and became a counselor for years. It does seem like it’s a special kind of community that unfortunately, I was never a part of.
Given that I’ve studied at The Second City Training Center here in Chicago, who was the most meaningful improv instructor in your career?
Colin Mochrie: I guess my first one was woman named Kate Weiss. When I first saw a demonstration of improv, that’s when I wanted to get into it. It was a lot of fun. It really inspired me to make up crap and somehow it turned into a career. It’s worked out beautifully.
What was the most meaningful improv advice that you received?
Colin Mochrie: I guess the most meaningful advice was don’t think. Most of my preparation when I’m doing improv shows is just to walk on stage with the confidence that the people I’m working with and knowing what they’re doing. I know what I’m doing and just actually play in the moment. Listen, advance the scene, and have fun.
In all the years of Whose Line Is It Anyway, there is one episode that stood out to me and it’s the one with Sid Caesar. Can you talk about serving as his translator during foreign language film scene in the Salute to American Television episode?
Colin Mochrie: Oh, yes. That was a dream for me. I was a big Sid Caesar fan. It was his 80th birthday. When he came on set, he looked kind of frail but man, when he was playing the scene, he was sharp as a tack. He was doing a famous sort of double talk with a dialect and I was translating for him. I said something that got a laugh. He turned to me and nodded. And I thought, you know what? I can just stop right now. I think it’s the best it’ll ever be. I just got a nod from one of my idols. It was beautiful.
I just watched that episode again last night.
Colin Mochrie: What I love about is it mostly holds up because none of the humor was topical. It was all basically goofy. I mean, of course, there were Clinton jokes and the Bush jokes. Most of it still holds up today and still is very funny. I’m very proud of the show.
As someone who is transgender and a student of comedy myself, I’d be remiss if I did not thank you for being outspoken when it comes to the transgender community.
Colin Mochrie: Thank you. It’s my honor and pleasure. When our daughter came out to us, it was amazing. I’ve never used the word journey so much in my life but it was an incredible journey. We’ve met incredible people and we’ve learned a lot about the community. It’s nice that we can do this. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that so many parents of trans kids don’t accept them at all. I just don’t understand that. As a parent, your child is kind of your life. You’re there to support, to love, and to make them the best they can be to make them feel the best they can. It’s been interesting and my wife, Deb, has been amazing through this.
How has the pandemic affected you in terms of work?
Colin Mochrie: I went from just before the borders closed—I was doing two different tours and I was shooting a movie in Utah. I went from that to all of a sudden being in the vulnerable portion of a pandemic.
I thought I would be a little more insane than what happened. It’s literally been the longest I’ve been home in 18 years. It’s nice that I could spend time with Deb. Also, Kinley had moved in just a couple of weeks before that. It was nice to spend some time with the family and reconnect. And then Brad Sherwood, who I’d been touring with for 18 years, came up with doing a virtual version of our show. We’re sort of in the midst of that. We’ve been doing that for a couple of months but going into January and going well. Hopefully, we’ll keep doing that. I mean, it’s not the same as live performance but it’s close. It’s giving us a creative outlet so it’s been great.
It’s definitely not the same with watching some of these big films from home that I really wish I was in a theater to see.
Colin Mochrie: Yeah. The sense of community when you’re watching—sometimes, of course, you’re pissed off when people talk all the way through it but there’s also something about an audience together and laughing together or tearing up together that you certainly don’t get at home. And that’s one of the things we do our shows virtually, we can interact with the audience. But during the show, we hear no laughter, which is really disconcerting when you’re doing a comedy show. We’re hoping things pick up for 2021 and we can actually see each other. That’d be nice.
It looks like the vaccine is right around the corner.
Colin Mochrie: That’s great news. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly we can get back to touring. I still don’t think it’s going to be for a while but better safe than sorry.
What would be the one piece of advice you would offer to someone looking to break into improv for a career?
Colin Mochrie: Don’t would be my first. I would say if you want to improvise for a living, do it because you love doing it—because you have to do it. I know I talked to a lot of younger people who say, How can we become famous like you doing improv? I give them the horrible answers. I was incredibly lucky. I was just in the right place at the right time when this one show came that showcased the one skill I have. If that’s why you’re doing improv, don’t. When I started, there was no Whose Line. People didn’t really know what improv was. I was doing it because I loved it and I enjoyed it. It’s also a great life skill to have. Do it but the beauty of it is you can do it anywhere. You can do it at a friend’s house. You can do it in a church basement. You don’t need a big theater. Do it as much as you can. Work with people who are better than you—they really inspire and make you keep up.