By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
With millions of people being forced to stay home to help stop the spread of Covid-19, Zoom became the go-to video conferencing app for surviving the pandemic. Schools, churches, office meetings, etc. You may dread having to “Zoom” again, but this time it’s worth it. Comedians Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood of “Whose Line is it Anyway?” fame have a Zoom for you with their all-new live improv show, “Stream of Consciousness” at the ArtisTree Community Arts Center (virtually) on March 20 and 27. It’s only $35 and it’s fun for the whole family. Mochrie pointed out if you’re cheap, you can have as many friends over as possible. The show starts at 8 p.m. and you purchase tickets at artistreevt.org.
“We created this show because our live touring is the last thing that rebounds because it’s the most dangerous scenario, a group of people laughing in a small room,” Sherwood said. He’s been quarantining at home in Las Vegas with his wife.
Mochrie is in Toronto with his wife and daughter. The Zoom looks like they’re at the same place but that comes together with the help of their tech team in New York.
“We sort of cracked the code on Zoom and created a visually, fun, compelling show where we can be in different cities but look like we’re in the same place at the same time,” Sherwood said.
“The technology is amazing, although I don’t understand it at all,” Mochrie said.
The pair created the show last September. “It’s been an interesting little journey,” Mochrie said. He was leery at first because, “improv is such a you-have-to-be-there art form, but this has been amazing.”
“It’s been a super creative process for us,” Sherwood said. “Basically the technology we’ve created didn’t exist before we did this. It’s just people in separate windows talking to each other so it looks like the beginning of “The Brady Bunch.” We didn’t want that, we wanted to make it feel more like a TV show. There’s no other Zoom thing that even looks like this. We’re really proud of it.”
“I’m happy we’re able to make the technology our friend,” Mochrie said.
They are geniuses at improv, but no show can exist without audience participation. They’re not only used to people shouting out improv subjects but also used to a roomful of laughter and applause. There are some challenges via Zoom.
“We can’t even hear people laughing unless it’s the person we’re on screen with,” Sherwood said. They keep everyone’s mics muted or they would hear babies crying and dogs barking. “We’re basically flying on instinct. We can see people’s faces and see they’re laughing but we don’t hear the laughter as we would in a live show.”
“The cool part is we can interact with the audience and go into their living rooms, talk to them and have them in our scenes,” Mochrie said.
Sherwood grew up doing theatre in Santa Fe and first joined an improv group that did regular shows at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles. He then joined Theatre Sports and eventually landed with legendary Second City. “I performed live, for free, all over Los Angeles for 15 years. I always joke that I’ve done more free improv shows for live audiences than I’ve done paid shows. I don’t know how long it will be until I flip that,” he said.
Mochrie discovered improv while at Studio 58 theatre school in Vancouver. He also did improv with Theatre Sports and Second City, but in Canada. When he started doing improv he would have to go into McDonald’s next door to try and get people to go see their show. They would ask what it was about and he’d tell them, “We don’t know yet but you’ll yell things at it and we’ll make it up in front of you. Within a year, there was a line around the block. It caught on quickly. It was a fun thing to do on the weekends but I never thought it would be my career.”
Sherwood first met Mochrie before “Whose Line” on a show that Mochrie’s wife wrote and Sherwood was a cast member of. “Who’s Line” started shortly thereafter and they kind of went from there. They have been touring together for 18 years and have done over 1,000 shows together.
This is live action. “Every night is opening night,” Sherwood said. “You never know what’s going to happen so you have to be on your game. You bring that excitement and nervous energy up there, flying without a net, every single night. It’s really exhilarating and it never gets old.”
“It excites me and I’m never bored with it,” Mochrie added.
Sherwood loves performing live. “It’s an addiction to making people laugh. Once you’ve gotten that first laugh, you don’t want to give that up. It’s almost like vampires, you live for it. There’s nothing to describe the feeling of laughter because you’re performing live so it’s immediate,” he said.
Mochrie agreed. “That’s the best that I am in life. When I’m on stage with nothing except whoever I’m working with, it’s the most confident I am in life and I love it. Everyone’s sense of humor is so personal so just to be able to get everyone to laugh by making it up on the spot is satisfying. It’s the best way to make a living.”