In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
Colin Mochrie got his first big gig in improv comedy as a member of the Vancouver TheatreSports League before later making the jump to Second City. But it was securing a spot on the original UK version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? that began the process of turning him into a familiar face on the small screen. Mochrie made his debut on the series in 1991, and in addition to remaining a staple of the UK cast until the series ended in 1998, he was also a regular on the ABC version from 1998 to 2006. The CW revived Whose Line Is It Anyway? in 2013. Mochrie is once again a regular on the panel, and can be found there every Friday, now that the series is back for its third season.
Colin Mochrie: [Starts to laugh.] When I was growing up in Vancouver, there was a chicken franchise called Uncle Fred’s Chicken, and, um, I had to dress up as a chicken. It was for this special promotion where they drove me around to—and I didn’t actually think about this until later—radio stations, and I’d be dressed up as a chicken, and the DJ would interview me, but all I could say was, “Cluck.” I eventually asked, “Why am I wearing the costume? I’m on radio!” But the publicist thought it was a good idea. And then I got attacked by a doberman outside one of the radio stations, so… there really wasn’t a good point to that job at all.
The A.V. Club: How did this job come about? Did you work for Uncle Fred’s and they just drafted you to do it?
CM: No. [Sighs.] I was a struggling actor, I needed the job, and I guess I heard through a friend, “Oh, they’re looking for someone.” And I fit the costume. I think that was basically the reason I got the part.
AVC: Looking back, do you feel that wearing the costume helped your performance?
CM: It certainly made it much easier. And when the doberman attacked, I really got into my clucks. [Laughs.] I was a real motherclucker. I was really going for it.
AVC: Did the doberman attack result in any permanent injury?
CM: Nope. It was just embarrassing. The whole thing was embarrassing!
AVC: In the end, was it worth the pay?
CM: No. It wasn’t worth the pay. And since then, I’ve often weighed that as a point of consideration. It‘s become, “Is this worth what I’m going to go through? Is it worth the physical and mental anguish?“ You know, if it’s worth millions of dollars, then yes. But at that point, I’d say it was probably $2.50 an hour. [Laughs.] I don’t even think I made 20 bucks on it!
CM: When my mother was very excited to see me on The Hollywood Squares. I thought, “Oh, okay, I’ve made it!” I’d been doing Whose Line before that, and I’d been working fairly steadily since I’d left theater school, but it wasn’t until I could hear the pride in my mother’s voice when she said, “You were sitting right beside Kermit!” that I knew, “Okay, I’ve made it. [Laughs.] I can stop working hard now.”
AVC: And what was it like having Kermit The Frog right next to you, to be that close to Muppet magic?
CM: It was pretty cool. Actually, on the show, he did an impression of me, which I thought was amazing! [Laughs.] I mean, Kermit was someone I grew up with, so to have someone who’s obviously a frog made with green felt do a spot-on impression of you… It was quite amazing.
AVC: Do you remember who else was filling the Squares that week?
CM: It was most of the Whose Line cast. I know Ryan [Stiles] was there, I think Wayne [Brady], Kathy Greenwood, and I think some guy from The Howard Stern Show! [Laughs.] It was an odd group. It was like one of those groups that are in old World War II movies that they put together and send off on suicide missions to Germany. It was that kind of a group.
AVC: A rag-tag bunch of unlikely heroes, in other words.
CM: Yep. Each one of them with their own special set of skills, some of them there just to get killed early on. [Laughs.]
CM: [Long pause.] I have so many evil plans, I’m just trying to find the one which would be best right now! I’ve often wanted to… I think I’d just like to make everyone bald for a day. You know, having lost my hair, it’s become part of my job description, it’s done really well for me, but I feel at this point that it’s time to let it go. People are constantly coming up, and they’re going on Twitter or Facebook, and there’s a bald joke. And as I’m looking at their profile picture, I’m thinking, “Um… do you realize how nice I’m being right now by not saying anything? Look in the mirror before you make a bald joke! Think about it!” [Laughs.] So I’d just like to make everybody look the same for a day. Actually, it might not be an evil plan. It might end up being good for the human race if we all just look the same for a day.
AVC: If we were to presume that this could still be seen as an evil plan, do you have any thoughts on how you’d bring this thing to fruition? Some sort of chemical compound, perhaps?
CM: Well, I’d probably have to develop it with some evil Hollywood makeup artists. And I’m sure I’d need a chemist, and, oh, some guy from The Howard Stern Show. [Laughs.] Together we’d come up with a plan!
AVC: You have to figure that there are plenty of evil chemists out there.
CM: Oh, God, yes. Absolutely. They’re experimenting with food, so how much harder could it be to work up something to change people’s faces?
CM: I was very quiet. I was a bookworm. Every week I’d go to the library and get seven books. Remember libraries? I wonder if people still go. And I learned about everything from the library. I came from a Scottish family. Old school. We moved over to Canada in 1964, and they never talked about sex, so everything I learned about sex was from the library. I would find The Sensuous Man, Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask, all these old sex manuals. I’d go through them and pick up stuff, and luckily, 15 years later I got to use it!
AVC: The readership will want to know: What’s the most fascinating fact you learned in your research?
CM: Well, The Sensuous Man had exercises, which I thought, “Oh, okay, this is good, because who knows when I’ll be able to use these things, but I’ll be ready. I’ll be so ready.” And one was… [Starts to laugh.] With a grape… You just had a grape, and you had it between your teeth, and you rotated it with your tongue without breaking the skin of the grape. And that was supposed to help you when you came in contact with nipples.
CM: Barbara Eden. I Dream Of Jeannie. I mean, every week, she was kind of half-naked, so… [Laughs.] When you’re in puberty, that’s pretty much all you care about. You don’t look beyond that to think, “Oh, she’s a very nice person with a lovely smile. She seems to be doing good work.” It’s like, “She’s half-naked, and I want that.”
AVC: So the absence of a navel wasn’t a problem for you.
CM: Oh, not at all. I could see that she had breasts, so I was constantly working on my grape technique. Just in case.
AVC: Have you ever had the opportunity to meet her?
CM: I did! Yeah, I guess it was about five years ago. We were at some event together, and I went up and got a picture taken with her. She was lovely… and still pretty darned cute!
CM: Gee, that’s a good one. I guess it would be Frank Sinatra’s “The Best Is Yet To Come.”
AVC: Do you remember the first time you heard it?
CM: Um… no. [Laughs.] I wish I could say there was some life-altering moment, but I just always liked that song. I used it, I believe, to suck up to my wife. It was on one of those pre-wedding mixtapes, which—I don’t even know if that’s something that even exists anymore! A pre-wedding mixtape: You already have her, but just to throw that extra thing in there; you put together some songs that make it seem like you’ll never want to leave her.
CM: I have woken up, had coffee, and this is the part of the morning where I plan my day. So we’ve worked out that today is a purge day. I mean, not bodily. [Laughs.] But our basement has just gotten out of control with stuff, so we get very excited when we have little projects like this. We’ll be filling up garbage bags with all the things we’re never going to use, and there’ll be boxes of things that we’ll be giving to Goodwill or to people who want whatever. So that’s going to be the rest of my day. I can’t even tell you how excited I am. I might even actually go to a store and buy tubs so I can put things in them!
AVC: It’s a liberating process.
CM: It feels so good. We did one about half a year ago, just a purge of the main house, and we had about 80 boxes of things. We felt reborn. It was just such a great feeling. So now we’re going to try and do it at least once a year.
CM: Well, I don’t know if I’m mistaken for them. They just never get the name right. So I’ve had many people come up and go, “Colin Montgomery! Big fan!” Once I had, “Colin Farrell! Big fan of your work.” I thought, “Oh, okay, I’ll take that.” But the weirdest one was when I was in an elevator, and a guy got in and went, “Colin Powell!” And I went, “Uh, no. [Laughs.] No, I’m not.”
Once somebody thought I was Bill Murray. That was good. And one person thought I was George Clooney, which I thought was weird.
AVC: Well, that’s… impressive.
CM: [Laughs.] Oh, yeah, I’m all over the map!
CM: Oh, I guess “screwed” would be the first thing I’d put on, because I have no skills. I wish I was joking! I have nothing. If this television show hadn’t come along that sort of highlighted the one skill I do have, I don’t even… I can’t even imagine. I love cooking, though, so I guess it would have to be a chef thing. But I don’t like people, so I don’t want to cook for people in a restaurant. So… I guess chef for a rich recluse? Are there a lot of those around?
AVC: Surely there must be. We just don’t know about them because they’re reclusive.
CM: Yeah! I just need one really rich guy who doesn’t really want contact with anyone, so we never really meet. I’ll just send him food. It’d be a great gig.
AVC: Do you have a signature dish or dishes?
CM: I have a lot of good pasta things. My wife is allergic to seafood and doesn’t eat red meat, and my son is a vegetarian, so I’m limited with what I can do here. Although in the good old days, it was carnivore city. Lots of meats. I have a lot of great chicken dishes. I found many wonderful ways to spice up chicken. [Suddenly.] Oh! That’s probably revenge on that horrible job I had!
CM: I guess comic books. I’m a little behind right now, but, yeah, I have a lot of comic books. I’m just looking around my office now, and I have a lot of little Superman and Batman figurines.
AVC: You seem to be more of a DC man than Marvel.
CM: Well, those do seem to be the ones that my wife buys me. I’ve been more Marvel lately, but the first ones I remember were DC. Back when comics were 10 cents. [Laughs.] Back in the old century. When we were fighting off Indian attacks and buying 10-cent comics.
AVC: And making pre-wedding mixtapes.
CM: A big turkey dinner. Just so that I’d probably get sleepy and miss the execution.
AVC: What would you have along with the turkey?
CM: Stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, Brussels sprouts, gravy, and coconut cream pie for dessert.
AVC: And for your beverage?
CM: Wine. Red wine. And I’d ask for the most expensive one, since I wouldn’t be paying for it. [Laughs.]
Bonus 12th question from Timothy Simons of Veep: “What’s the most meaningless lie you told someone today?”
AVC: Given it’s only 9 a.m., it seems fair to tweak “today” to “in the last 24 hours.”
CM: Okay, let me think back. Again, there’s so many of them, I’m just trying to think of the best one. But guess the most meaningless lie I told yesterday was… [Starts to laugh.] “Yeah, I like olives.” In fact, I don’t. But I was in the store shopping, and they were having little samples, and the woman said, “Do you like olives?” And I went, “Yeah, I like olives.” And it was one of those where I thought, “Why are you lying? Don’t say that! Now I’m going to have to eat this and make it look like I enjoy it!” So I guess it wasn’t that meaningless, because it turned out to be horrible!
AVC: And now you get to come up with a 12th question for the next person.
CM: All right, here’s their 12th question: “If you could go back and redo a project that you’ve worked on, because either you sucked in it or the surrounding environment was not productive to making a good project, which project would that be, and why?”
AVC: Do you have an immediate answer for that?
CM: Well, all my stuff’s been pretty good. [Laughs.] But I’d go back to my very first Whose Line appearance. I psyched myself out, and I was very tentative, very nervous, and I’d go back now, just not caring and, you know, I‘d just do it. The older you get, you just don’t care anymore.
AVC: Is that the key to success? Not caring?
CM: Oh, absolutely. When you really care, stuff doesn’t come to you. When you don’t care, that’s when you start getting free coffees and people thinking you’re Colin Farrell.