ARTS April 23rd, 2006

By Lorianna De Giorgio

Funnyman Mochrie shy guy at heart

But laid-back Canadian comedian doesn't let shyness get in the way when he's onstage

It’s not every day that you come across a shy improv actor. But then again, it’s rare to come across someone as talented as Colin Mochrie.

For most shy people, the thought of performing onstage makes them weak in the knees. But not Mochrie. Whether it’s onstage or onscreen, the 48-year-old embraces each role as a comedic actor.

Mochrie is outgoing and full of energy, and isn’t above being the butt of jokes. However, away from the limelight, he’s an entirely different person.

"I’m just a really quiet, laid-back person. I think I would disappoint people when they meet me because they expect some maniac. But I’m pretty far removed from that," the Leaside resident said.

However, that trait has never seemed to come in the way of his success during the 20-plus years he has entertained audiences.

Since he first graced the stage in a highschool play, Mochrie has gone on to garner countless laughs and praise for his roles in The Second City Theatre Company, and in This Hour Has 22 Minutes and both the U.S. and U.K. versions of Whose Line Is It Anyway?

For the past three years, he’s toured throughout the U.S. with Brad Sherwood, a fellow alum from Whose Line Is It Anyway?

But his current project has him mixing pleasure with work.

Mochrie is currently starring in Getting Along Famously with his equally hilarious and talented wife, Debra McGrath.

Mochrie and McGrath star as Kip Delany and Ruby Kendall, the hilarious and often drugged out stars of the fictional 1960s TV variety show, It’s Ruby & Kip.

The six-episode, half-hour sitcom premiered in January on CBC.

It reunites Mochrie and McGrath with many fellow actors including The Red Green Show’s Patrick McKenna, Saturday Night Live’s Robin Duke, and Wayne Brady of Whose Line Is It Anyway? fame.

"Kip and Ruby sort of have a Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton dynamic, where they fight passionately and they love passionately," said Mochrie, who co-wrote four of the six episodes with McGrath.

The writing and filming of the show gave the real-life couple a chance to spend time with each other, something they don’t always have a chance to do given their equally hectic schedules.

"We had worked together once before and we found out that we actually enjoyed doing it, so that was sort of the impetus to get something perhaps a little bit more longer running," said Mochrie.

And who would have guessed that Mochrie — who’s been called the "King of Improv" — might not be cracking up audiences if he hadn’t accepted a dare some 30 years ago?

Mochrie could be a marine biologist now if he hadn’t accepted a challenge from a highschool friend to audition for a part in the school play.

Luckily for his career and his thousands of fans, Mochrie took the dare and auditioned. And the minute he received that first laugh, he knew he’d found his true calling in life.

Born in Scotland, Mochrie and his family moved to a small town just outside of Montreal in 1964, before setting in Vancouver five years later.

In the late 1980s, he auditioned for role in Second City. Not only did he get the part but also his future wife, McGrath, hired him. They married in 1989.

Over the years the self-professed shy-guy has starred in numerous TV series, as well as having cameos in a number of films including Jackie Chan’s Tuxedo and the upcoming The Return of Zoom with Tim Allen.

Writing is also another one of his strengths, with Mochrie being nominated for a 2005 Gemini Award for Best Writing in Comedy, Variety Program or Series for Getting Along Famously. In 2002, he received a Writer’s Guild of Canada award for his work on This Hour Has 22 Minutes.

"Getting laughter is sort of like an illegal drug. There’s no feeling like it," said Mochrie. "That’s why I love the live touring so much — it’s because you get that immediate response."

As much as Mochrie is passionate about his own work, he is equally committed to seeing Canadian TV and film get the respect they deserve.

Canadians — including the federal government — don’t rally enough behind our talent, he argued.

"There’s a lot of great stuff out there. I think we have to blow our own trumpet a bit more," Mochrie said. "I love working here because we have much more artistic freedom."

As his career grows, Mochrie admits he’d love to do more films.

And what genre will his next movie most likely be? A comedy or drama perhaps?

"Probably a comedy. Might as well stick with our strengths," he quipped. "I never had an overpowering desire to do drama. I enjoy doing it but I’ve never thought ‘boy, I’ve really got to do my Hamlet.’"