Colin Mochrie Hangs With A Telepathic Ape In ‘Liverspots And Astronots,’ Smartly Predicts ‘Whose Line’ Renewal

The improv jester revealed that 'everyone hated Hoe Down' and that it's important to be selfish to succeed.

colin mochrie, whose line is it anyway
Ben Gabbe / Getty Images

The improv jester revealed that 'everyone hated Hoe Down' and that it's important to be selfish to succeed.

Colin Mochrie’s star athlete days may be behind him, but he might have a future in telling fortunes.

During our recent conversation, he correctly predicted that the improvisational laugh-fest that is Whose Line Is It Anyway? would get picked up for a 15th season by the CW. Maybe the time he recently spent in a floating nursing home in space, hanging out with a telepathic ape, imbued some psychic abilities. Or maybe that was just an easy call to make and he’s not the Canadian answer to Miss Cleo. Time will tell.

What we do know for sure is Colin is hilarious in everything he does, and his latest project, Liverspots and Astronots, looks to be no exception. The show, a series of animated webisodes produced by Cartuna for Facebook Watch, follows the adventures of Roosi (Mochrie’s character) and Big Man, a three-eyed psychic ape voiced by Nicole Sullivan, as they hurtle through space aboard Dusty Craters, a dilapidated space nursing home under the care of an evil goat doctor voiced by Keith David. If that sounds a little Adult Swim, it’s because Liverspots is indeed very much in the same vein as Cartoon Network’s celebrated animated programming block that’s for grown-ups but certainly not mature audiences.

This recent voice acting project is a clear sign that Colin Mochrie is no longer able to get by on his looks and boyish charm alone. Wait, no, that’s Robert Downey Jr. Colin will be just fine, making us laugh up a storm all the while.

Kevin Tall: ‘Liverspots and Astronots’ is coming out soon, tell me a little about that project and how you got involved.

Colin Mochrie: Gosh how did I get involved? I think it was just the process of them asking me to do it. That’s now my favorite way of finding work.

KT: That sounds like a model with some promise. So, I know you’ve done voice work before; as someone who’s, perhaps, best known for improv, in which body language and physical performance can be key, how do you compare the two?

CM: I found when I was recording, the same with most animation projects I’ve done, my body is moving anyway, along with what I think the character is doing, just trying to get that in my voice. So, even though, you would think, on paper, improv is more physical, I think it was actually more physical doing animation.

KT: That’s fair. I’ve seen a video of Benedict Cumberbatch doing the voice of Smaug in the ‘Hobbit’ movies, and it’s pretty intense. He’s fully acting it out in a motion-capture suit, and you think ‘Really? It’s just the voice..’ But he’s going the extra mile.

CM: Yeah, just a little physical movement adds so much to a voice; it’s amazing how, when someone says ‘Put a smile into that line,’ and you do and it changes it totally. It’s amazing how just one little tweak can totally change the way a line is heard.

KT: What was it like working with Cartuna for a platform like Facebook Watch?

CM: I don’t really know much about animation at all. I didn’t really get to meet anyone. I was, like, literally recording on someone’s basement, with the producers somewhere in the ethernet. What I loved about them is they had a clear vision of what the show was and what they wanted me to do. That always makes it a lot easier, rather than ‘Well, we’re not really sure. We thought you could make up stuff and see how it goes.’ I love when there’s a strong foundation and then they’ll say ‘Why don’t you fool around with different lines here?’ But it’s nice to have that solid foundation first.

KT: Given that it’s attached to Facebook, did you get any weird sponsored ads for SpaceX or other commercial space flight in the middle of your script?

CM: [Laughs] No. No, I don’t think so. Not yet. It’s still early.

KT: I think it’s fair to say most people would associate you with ‘Whose Line?’ Looking at the timeline for the show, it’s almost as erratic and unpredictable as the show itself. Speaking of which, the fall finale just aired, is the show going to get Season 15?

CM: I’m going to go out on a limb and say yes. I never understood why it ever got canceled in the first place. It is the cheapest show in the world to put on, people enjoy it, and we have a good audience despite the fact that no one ever publicizes us. All the performers are always tweeting about it. The network never seems to get behind it. And that was even the [case] even when we were doing the Drew Carey version. ABC never really publicized us. So I have to thank the fans for somehow keeping up and finding us on the schedule.

KT: So, I’ve seen some crazy bits from that show and its various iterations, but one thing I find most ridiculous — I just found this out the other day and I’m sure you’re tired of answering questions about, so I’m going to apologize in advance…

CM: [laughs]

KT:…is you actually didn’t make the cut in your first audition. What the hell is that about?

CM: Well, I wish I could say they made a mistake… I was at Second City at the time. They had come to see the show I was in and they auditioned our entire cast the next morning at 8 o’clock. And when you’re working at Second City, you never see an 8 o’clock in the morning, because you’re doing the shows, and then after the show, you sort of decompress, everybody sort of hangs around. So you never get home ’til like 4 or 5. So that was sort of the first mark against us.

And then, because we auditioned as a cast, we did that thing you’re supposed to do in improv, where you’re supportive of each other, you make everyone look good. So nobody stood out. So that’s why none of us got hired and it wasn’t until the next year, when I moved down to L.A., I was auditioning with people I didn’t know and it was ‘Hey, screw you, look at me!’ So, an important lesson for all the kids out there.

KT: Yes, it’s very important to be selfish and let the rest of them fall by the wayside.

CM: It gets you so far. Exactly! If they’re good, they’ll come back.

KT: How do the British and American versions compare?

CM: Let me see. For us, it was the same sort of preparation, if you will, because it was the same producers. So, basically, we show up, find out what games we’re playing, sort of give the cameras an idea of the space we’re going to be using, then that was it. The major difference was censorship. In Britain, pretty much everything goes; they were allowed to do anything. And then, when we came to the U.S… it was weird because we weren’t really sure where the line was. There were some things that made it through and I thought, ‘Oh, OK.’ And then some things were totally innocent that got kiboshed.

The censor came up to me once after a show and said, ‘You know when you were naming that music album ‘Captain Waldo And The Salty Monkey, that was a penis reference, right?’ And I said, ‘No. I just put words together that I thought would be funny.’

KT: It’s like, ‘Yeah, have you ever seen improv before, sir?’

CM: Yeah. I’ve never heard anyone refer to their penis as a salty monkey. So…

KT: I mean, I’m going to now…

CM: You know what? Let’s see if we can get it trending.

KT: Either that or we need to start a punk band.

CM: OK, I do like that.

KT: Colin Mochrie and the Salty Monkeys. We’re doing it.

CM: Alright, let’s do it.

KT: How would you compare the different American versions of the show?

CM: I think we’ve gotten a little raunchier, probably, than we were allowed to in Drew’s time. But again, same producers, it’s most of the same performers, along with some new blood injected there. And the audience is…It’s so weird. I’ve been touring with Brad Sherwood for about 16 years now. And we found in the middle of a tour our audience was getting younger, which never happens, and it’s because they were catching up with ‘Whose Line?’ online. So they were enjoying a show that wasn’t around… no, they weren’t around when it was on. And it was because of that groundswell that it came back on the CW. So it’s very odd when we’re doing the show and I look out and it’s like, I could have been a parent to everyone sitting in this audience watching us. It’s very strange.

KT: It’s always interesting to see how different technological advances and streaming services, all that stuff, affect the entertainment business. Switching it up, my understanding is you’re not a fan of the Hoe Down. What would you say was your favorite game?

CM: I would say, on ‘Whose Line?’ it was always Greatest Hits, because it gave Ryan and I a chance to sit down — which is always good — and we just got to banter and hand it over to the amazing singers. So it’s a thing where I got to be a participant and a viewer at the same time; I enjoyed both aspects. It was always fun to goof around with Ryan, but then it was just amazing to see these guys come up with the songs for some of the crap we gave them.

KT: Does that particular game add a different element since performers observe and then participate?

CM: Yeah. At times I was working with Ryan, which was great; we’ve known each other for a long time and I’ve always enjoyed working with him. But I felt that it was more of a group improv and I enjoyed that, that we could play off of whatever they just sang, we could from their song to what we were about to do next. Yeah, I just enjoyed that scene the most.

And you were right; everyone hated Hoe Down. There is not an improviser alive who liked Hoe Down.

KT: Really? Not even Wayne?

CM: Oh yeah; it’s horrible. No. There’s no winning at it. If you’re the first person to sing, you’re immediately put on the spot, you’ve gotta come up with something. And then the rest of the guys, you’re just hoping the person next to you doesn’t take your line. And if they do, you’re screwed.

KT: Yeah, you’re banking on that and then all of a sudden it gets taken away from you; it’s like, ‘Great, now what?’

CM: Yeah. I mean, it’s hard enough to come up with one. Especially when you’re at the end, you think, ‘Oh, I better have a backup, just in case.’ And then you’re just. I don’t know, it’s just too much to think about.

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KT: If you had to pick, with a fictional gun to your head, which incarnation of the show is your favorite? Bear in mind you don’t have to be honest in any way, shape, or form in this answer.

CM: Oh god. How many people do I want to piss off? It’s like ‘Who’s your favorite child?’ I love the British one ’cause it took me over to Britain and I got to see that country and work on weekends. The Drew series was the one that sort of propelled us all, so we all managed to keep this career going that didn’t exist when we were kids. And this new one with Aisha is just as much fun and is keeping our tour alive, so, for mercenary reasons, I love them all.

KT: That’s a very safe answer.

CM: That’s what I thought.

KT: So, you’ve done voice work, acting, improv, written a book, and even did a live run of Shakespeare this past January. How was that experience?

CM: It was great. I am at the point now where I love to do things that are totally outside my comfort zone and I couldn’t think of anything farther out. And I was working with these incredible actors; I had a front-row seat watching what they could do. Again, really positive, fun experience.

KT: I find myself hard-pressed to find a more appropriate Shakespearean character than Lear’s Fool, other than maybe Puck, for you to portray.

CM: Yeah, it does seem to fit. It’s not like I was playing Lear or Romeo. Although, I would think an older ‘Romeo and Juliet’ might make more sense.

KT: We’ve got all kinds of project ideas, I love this interview. So, I guess the real question is when you’ll drop a mixtape and subsequently transition into professional sports. I hear the Ottawa Senators need some help.

CM: Yeah, well the Senators may be the only team I could make. My star athlete days are far behind me. I now have arthritis in my knees. I’m trying to think of a sport that I could do. Bowling maybe? I don’t know.

KT: I think you have to be out of shape to be a professional bowler. I think it’s one of the requirements. Is shuffleboard a sport or is it more of an activity?

CM: I’ll have to check. I have no skill as a bowler, so that would be tough.

‘Liverspots and Astronots’ premieres Thursday, October 18, on Facebook Watch.