Growing up in the late ’80s and ’90s there was this weird, unknown, British game show where the points didn’t matter. Whose Line is It Anyway? was an improvised comedy in the form of a faux game show produced by Channel 4 in the UK. Ten years later, Drew Carey and ABC would revive the show in America featuring many of the recurring cast members and improvisers such as Greg Proops, Wayne Brady, Brad Sherwood, and more. I spoke with Brad about different types of television shows, travel tips, and his new two-man show, Scared Scriptless.
For someone who travels as much as you do, do you have any helpful travel tips?
One of my best is in the hotel room, there’s always those suit hangers that have the clips on them. Use those clips and that hanger sideways to close the curtain in the room to make the room as dark as possible. Then you have a perfectly jet black room for sleeping past sunrise.
Is there one musical improv impersonation you particularly favor more than the others?
This was unearthed by the producers of Whose Line … They would have us meet with the musical people and the musical people would try different songs, and I would just start singing the way I thought these people sounded and the producers would all start laughing. So I sort of discovered I could do sort of vocal musical impressions of people. I don’t necessarily have a favorite. I always love singing like Bruce Springsteen because then you get to pretend you’re a rockstar for five minutes which is satisfying. One of the funniest ones I think was a Fred Schneider from the B-52’s. I had never even thought of it or attempted it and the musicians started playing and I started singing and they all just busted out because apparently I sounded exactly like him.
What’s with the mouse trap?
Someone compiled all of the game ideas that anybody who was in Theatresports had ever heard of and put them in a book. One of them was this stupid mousetrap game where you put blindfolds on and lay a bunch of mouse traps on the floor and take off your shoes and socks. So one time I pitched it to the guys in Vegas, and we’ve been doing it ever since. It is the Jackass of Improv ideas. It’s really stupid. It’s inane, but audiences squeal like little kids when we play it. So that’s the only reason we still play it.
If you had to choose only one of these game shows to be on The Price is Right, Hollywood Squares, or To Tell the Truth, which would it be?
Ooh, that’s tough. As a contest and I’d rather be on the Price is Right because you would be able to win a car. I’d probably like to be on To Tell the Truth because I like to figure who’s telling the truth and who’s lying. It’s kind of like being a detective. And then I guess Hollywood Squares would be fun too, just not as fun as winning a car.
Is there a trick to improvising with people who aren’t as experienced as you?
I should be able to work with a newbie improviser that doesn’t have a fully developed skill set and make the scene work and make it funny and make that person look good. That’s kind of your job is to take whatever is thrown at you, good, bad or otherwise, and still be able to turn it into something funny. That is the superpower of a truly good improviser. They can fix something that’s broken and make someone who’s not necessarily coming up with the greatest stuff in the world still [be] part of the scene and help them get good.
Is there a time working with someone not experienced in improv that stands out?
Here’s a very surreal moment. We got asked to do the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, because I think they wanted somebody that was just silly and goofy. During our show we go out into the audience and pick someone. So I wanted to pick someone that was sort of high profile that everyone in the audience would recognize and know. And I saw Karl Rove sitting at the table next to us. So I thought at least after he says no, I’ll ask, Wolf Blitzer and Wolf will come up to the stage. So, I asked Karl if he would help us and come to the stage, expecting him to just shake his head and have his Secret Service person tell me to go away, but he stood up, turned around and waved to the whole audience than came on stage. It became a crazy viral thing for two days.
See Brad and Colin Mochrie on their two-man show Scared Scriptless, Friday, September 28th at The Wilbur. Also listen to the full, unedited podcast at deadairdennis.com/podcast, and for a full listing of all the comedy shows in Boston visit bostoncomedyshows.com.
Deadair Dennis Maler is a comedian, actor, writer, & podcaster who has been heard on radio stations throughout the country including SiriusXM, DC101, The Party Playhousewith Jackson Blue and more. He has been featured on comedy festivals throughout the country, founded BostonComedyShows.com, is the Comedy Editor for DigBoston, and hosts the iTunes podcast So What Do You Really Do? He’s funny, loud, abrasively social, and allergy free since 1981.