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‘They think we’re either geniuses or frauds’ - A conversation with Brad Sherwood

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Brad Sherwood (seen here with Colin Mochrie) is back for a 14th season of "Whose Line is it Anyway," airing Mondays at 9:00 pm on the CW network. Brad Sherwood (seen here with Colin Mochrie) is back for a 14th season of "Whose Line is it Anyway," airing Mondays at 9:00 pm on the CW network. (Photo courtesy of Colin and Brad

Comedian and actor Brad Sherwood has been flying by the seat of his pants for most of his life.

A comedy cornerstone of the long-running improv-comedy show “Whose Line is it Anyway?,” Sherwood was part of the cast of the original British version of the show for three years before becoming a regular for all seven seasons of the Drew Carey-hosted U.S. version, which aired on ABC from 1998-2004.

“Whose Line” was revived in 2013 for The CW network with host Aisha Tyler. The show’s 14th season began last month, with new episodes airing each Monday at 9 p.m. Like the classic series, the new shows feature Sherwood, Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles and Wayne Brady, all creating comedy in the moment based on ideas from the studio audience.

Since 2003, Sherwood and Mochrie have joined forces for “An Evening with Colin and Brad.” In a show subtitled “Scared Scriptless,” the improvising funnymen essentially create a new show every night based on audience suggestions. For tour dates, visit

In the following interview (for The Maine Edge and BIG 104 FM), Sherwood says it’s a great compliment that people continue to ask if he and Colin really do make everything up on the spot. But he also explains why that question is really kind of an insult.

Sherwood: It’s great to be back in Maine and on the radio! When I was younger, I always thought that doing a late-night rock radio show would be the greatest job for me. You know, just spinning Pink Floyd albums from 10:00 p.m. on.

Dow: (laughing) I think you selected your career path wisely. It’s so much fun to watch you at work. I try to figure out where you’re headed and I’m rarely right. You and Colin seem to have some form of comedy telepathy.

Sherwood: We always hope for the comedy telepathy but we never really know if it’s there until after the show or during intermission when one of us will say “I knew you were going to say that!” Because it’s all done in the moment, the preparation is in having done it for so many years. The moment you say something funny, the clock resets and you have to start from scratch. As soon as the audience stops laughing, you have to come up with more new material that isn’t written or preplanned.

We’re always flying by the seat of our pants. No matter how many times we’ve done it in life, there are no shortcuts. We just have to wing it and go for it. Kind of like what you do on the radio. You have to improvise an entire radio show.

Dow: Yes, but we have the luxury of playing recorded music. When you incorporate music into your show, you’re doing an impression of the singer but you’re improvising the lyrics. From watching, I can tell that you are a big music fan. I’ve seen you do Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Bob’s hard enough to sing like those guys but to create funny lyrics in their voice on the spot – I’m in awe when I see you do it.

Sherwood: You’re right, I am a music geek and those games are my favorite ones. It’s where I kind of sing and do an impression of somebody and sing about the topic and try to make it rhyme. For me, that is like the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle. That’s where I keep the most plates spinning in my brain. I really like the thrill of that more difficult type of game.

But going back to what you said about working on the radio and going to music when you’re finished talking, I think I would like to do that in our show. If something is bombing, I’ll just go: ‘And now, AC/DC with “Back in Black!”’ Then we can just walk offstage, have a coffee and regroup.

Dow: (laughing) I’ve always wondered if you guys have a default plan tucked away in your back pocket if you feel that a bit isn’t working.

Sherwood: No. We tend not to have go-to stock endings because the scenarios and situations are always so different. We get suggestions every night from the audience. Sometimes we’ll take one bit of information from one person and another bit from someone else and we’ll put them together. It would be cheating to have a default ending. We’re always in crisis-mode. We’re so panicked all the time – even when it’s going well. As I said, the moment the laugh dies, you’re onto “Now what?” We can’t discern the difference between successful panic and horrible panic because it’s all the same monster when you’re onstage.

Dow: You and Colin make it look so easy. I’m guessing the most frequently asked question you guys hear is “Do you really make everything up on the spot?” People have a hard time believing that it’s possible to do that every night.

Sherwood: I always look at that as a great compliment that people don’t believe that we’re really doing it. But it’s also an insult (laughs). It’s like they’re saying “We don’t think you’re smart enough or clever or creative enough to actually be doing what you’re saying. We think you’re a liar. We call BS on you!” I don’t know which side of the coin to accept on that. They either think we’re geniuses or frauds.

Dow: I like the fact that you let the audience know in advance that you and Colin do a mostly family-friendly show but that you allow them to dictate the direction of the show.

Sherwood: Our show isn’t squeaky clean, but most of the stuff that would be considered saucy, as it were, is sort of innuendo. There’s no vulgarity or anything overtly sexual that kids would be offended by or even understand. Part of the success of our tour is that “Whose Line is it Anyway?” has one of the broadest demographics in comedy. We have eight-year-olds and we have grandparents and everybody in between. There’s no other comedy show where an 80-year old and an eight-year old will be laughing at the same thing. Stand-ups usually have an age niche.


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