A game of Mousetrap, Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood style, involves 100 live traps fanned out across a stage. And the two improv actors walking across the floor barefoot and blindfolded.
"Oh yeah, it's just as stupid as it sounds," Mochrie says over the phone from his home in Toronto. "I'm still nursing an injury. ... Every once in a while, there's a point where Brad throws the mousetraps at me. He got one on my thumb, and it's been swollen for like two months now."
But taking your lumps is just part of the gig, when your gig is making stuff up.
"Sometimes we look at each other right before the show, when we're about to walk onstage before a thousand or two thousand people and all we have is a little piece of paper with a list of games — that's it," Sherwood says over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. "And sometimes we laugh about the fact that we really don't know what we're doing."
Sure, the Mousetrap bit usually makes people laugh, but Mochrie says there's a very basic reason for that: "People just love watching minor celebrities in pain."
If you know what I mean
If you recognize Mochrie and Sherwood's names, it's likely due to their stints on the Emmy-nominated Whose Line Is It Anyway? show hosted by Drew Carey. The two were regulars on the prime-time comedy improv series that ran on ABC for six years.
"Whose Line was one of the best gigs I ever had," Mochrie says. "First of all, it didn't take a lot of time. We shot three weekends out of the year. So that's pretty good. Also, all the guys were really good friends, so it was always nice to see them and just goof around."
As Whose Line was coming to an end, Mochrie and Sherwood decided to take a similar act on the road. The Colin and Brad Show is now in its fifth year, and making its second trip through Colorado Springs; this season's series is titled The Third Annual Farewell Tour. They piece the entire two-plus-hour show together on the spot, relying heavily on audience participation to propel them into and through myriad games.
There are some similarities to stand-up comedy. On any given night, a particular segment can either hit it out of the park or flop. And typically (i.e., mousetraps aside), the stage is mostly prop-free.
But Mochrie, 51, has never done stand-up. ("My thing has always been, if I'm gonna die I'm going down with a friend.") Sherwood, 44, did back in college, but says it wasn't really for him. He likes the "thrill and danger" of improv, and the freedom that comes with not having to write up acts.
"We bring people up out of the audience, and we're getting suggestions from the audience," Sherwood says. "And we try to take suggestions that are different all the time, so we're not falling into a rut."
Both men have theater backgrounds and a love of making people laugh, but each identifies unique sources of humor. Mochrie says he's always been a big fan of comedy; as a kid, he "used to watch television 24 hours a day," especially series like The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Jack Benny Program.
"I think I just took all the elements that I really enjoyed in everybody's comedy," he says, "and stole and refined and managed to use that to make a career."
Sherwood credits his dad and grandpa as funny people who were influential in his life, but he also indicates that he relied on humor to fit in socially when growing up.
"I moved around a lot, living with my mom," he says. "I think I sort of developed my sense of humor as a survival tool because I was always the new kid on the block. I think you either become a loner or you have to be really outgoing to make people like you."
The two agree that they now have similar senses of humor. They do, however, tap into them differently.
"Brad, not that's he's an old coward or anything — God knows, he'll jump in there with a fart joke, pull down his pants if he's dying — but he uses more wordplay," Mochrie says.
"I like the games that sort of use the same part of my brain as the New York Times crossword puzzle. ... Colin's a bit physical. He tends to go physical-goofy from a smart person. And I tend to go smart-alecky-sarcastic from a goofy person's perspective."
And true to form, even with 2,000 miles between them, Sherwood takes a second to throw a verbal mousetrap.
"Colin relies on the physical because he's not as smart as I am," he deadpans. "You know, I could do both, but really he's a one-trick pony."