Brad Sherwood is a seriously funny guy. So much so in fact, he has made a career of it! You may recognize him from his time on ABC’s wildly popular series ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ Alongside the likes of Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles and Wayne Brady, this very talented group of improvisational performers brought loads of laughs into countless homes in the series initial run, as well as in syndication. His time on the show unlocked a cavalcade of opportunities to spread his comedic wings which range from ‘The Drew Carey Show’, ‘The Green Screen Show’, ‘The Smartest Guy In Town’, ‘Jury Duty’, ‘VH-1’s I Love The 70s, 80s, & 90s’, and over 100 sketch appearances on ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno’. On July 10th Brad and company will be seen in the new ABC improv series called ‘Trust Us WithYour Life’, produced by the makers of Whose Line and co-starring Wayne Brady and many of his former Whose Line cast members. The series hosted by Fred Willard will have famous celebrity guests who tell stories about their lives and the improv cast will reenact these scenes in their own funny way! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Brad Sherwood to discuss his comedic roots, taking the improvisational show on the road with Colin Mochrie and what we can expect from ‘Trust Us With Your Life’.
We want to give everyone a little background on you. Where did you grow up and how did you get started on your journey in the entertainment industry?
I was born in Chicago and I lived there until I was about 10 years old when we moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I lived there through all of high school. I went to school in Ohio after that and then moved out to Los Angeles.
Were you always considered “the funny kid” in your family and in school?
Yeah, I was. I always liked trying to make people laugh when I was a kid. I didn’t have any siblings and we moved around a lot, so I think that became my way of getting people to talk to me and like me. It was a survival social mechanism!
What initially drew you to comedy and why did you take a chance on doing that professionally?
I don’t know. I think I just liked it! When I was a kid, I grew up watching comedy on television and I liked laughing at that and reading “MAD Magazine.” I sorta became obsessed with what makes things funny, making people laugh and doing things to make people laugh. It naturally progressed from there. I started acting and the combo platter therein became what I am today!
You mentioned “MAD Magazine.” I am curious to know who you cite as your biggest professional influence.
When I was a really little kid, I watched old black and white sitcoms, so Don Knotts from “The Andy Griffith Show” and Art Carney from “The Honeymooners” were really instrumental, and then, when I got a little older, it became “Monty Python.”
What does it take to be an improvisational comic like yourself? Where do you start?
That is a good question. I think you have to be someone who obviously thinks fast but then can synthesize the information that is being thrown at you and craft it into a funny concept. Standups take what they see, hear and read in the world and think it over, mull it over and turn it into a joke. We are basically doing that but in the blink of an eye. You are an instant joke writer is what you are, as well as being a performer because you are doing a scene, it is theatrical and you are playing characters.
You have been at it a long time. To what do you attribute your longevity in the entertainment industry? What keeps you going?
It never gets boring! It is a different show every single night! Colin [Mochrie] and I have toured for about eight years now doing a two-man show. It really is different every night, so the adrenaline is always there. It is not like you are doing a play that you have memorized and rehearsed over and over and over again. This format has no repetition, it is always scary and it is always fun!
You and Colin have a great chemistry. How did you originally meet and form that bond?
We first met because I was working on a show which was being produced by Second City that his wife had created. I met him on the set of that and then six months after that, we met again when we started shooting “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” in New York. We shot a British episode of “Whose Line … ” there. We have been working together ever since! Pretty much everybody on the planet gets along with Colin! He is the most easy going, laid back guy. You would have to be a mental patient if you didn’t get along with him.
How did you initially get involved with “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and did you expect it would be the hit it became?
I had no idea! I auditioned for the show because I was working with Ryan [Stiles] at Second City. He had told me that the producers were coming to look for new people because he had been on the show for a couple of seasons. I went and auditioned and have been doing it ever since. Honestly, none of us had any idea that it would become such a huge hit. It had been popular in England and became popular in America through reruns on Comedy Central. When they finally brought it to America, we ended up having a good seven-year run with the show.
You mentioned tour North America with Colin Mochrie in your two-man improv show, “An Evening With Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood.” What has that experience been like for you?
It is a lot of fun. For people who do improv, it is all about doing it live in front of an audience and both of us come from a performing background. We love being on stage, making people laugh and we get excited about doing improv because it is so scary, so it is the perfect experience as a performer to be able to continue to do it. The notoriety that we got from “Whose Line … ” is what has allowed us to be still touring after eight years!
Being on the road can be a crazy experience in itself. Anything spring to mind from your travels?
The rush of things that always come into our minds is almost missing flights and possibly not getting to do a show! That is the thing we always remember! As far as the shows themselves, because we are making it up every night, every show has an element of chaos and, “Oh my God! What’s going to happen!?” It is dictated by where we are when we are performing. But yeah, our biggest panics and memories are things like, “Remember that time we were running through the Salt Lake City airport and almost didn’t get on the plane?” That is what we remember! [laughs]
You guys put a DVD out a while back. Was the live experience of your show difficult to capture in that form?
We shot the show over two nights in Wisconsin and Milwaukee and kinda went through and chose the best performances from the games we got from those two episodes. We pieced them together into a power packed performance. It is difficult to capture the immediacy and spontaneity of an improv show on video because the audience that is sitting there, they came up on stage and gave us the suggestions, so they absolutely know that it isn’t made up. Even people who watched “Whose Line … ,” some were skeptical that we were getting advanced notice from the producers about what some of the topics were. They thought, “There is no way these guys are completely coming up with this stuff!” But we did!
You guys definitely make it look easy. That is for sure!
As you said, it is a different show every night. How do you keep it fresh and interesting for yourselves as well as the audience?
That is the only part of our tour that is work, constantly trying to find new ways to change up the games. We have to take the game, make it have new rules and play it differently. We also change the way in which we ask for suggestions from the audience, so that we don’t keep getting the same things. Our main responsibility in this show is keeping it fresh and different for ourselves so that the audience benefits from the fact we are changing it up.
Since you change it up often, are there any plans for a future DVD release of some sort?
There is always that possibility. I think we would have to come up with a new thing that would make it completely different from the old one. The old one is sort of a representation of our live show on the road, so we would probably have to come up with something that didn’t take place in a theater, maybe out and about in front of people on the street or something.
You have a series starting up this summer on ABC which sounds awesome. What can you tell us about “Trust Us With Your Life?”
It is another show being produced by Dan Patterson, who created “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” It is the combination of a talk show and an improv show. It is basically a bunch of performers, like you would have seen on “Whose Line … ,” and it is hosted by Fred Willard. They bring in celebrities to tell us stories from their life and then we take improv games and the information from those stories to sort of expound and explode the actual stories from their life into goofy chaos! For example, we might hear a story from Jerry Springer about a first date and with some of the details that he gave us, we might do it as a sound effects game, so we have the chaos of that or we do it as a musical. It is a fun take on “Whose Line … ” because ABC wants something like an improv show on but I don’t think they just want to bring “Whose Line … ” back. They want something with a fresh twist.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a performer on “Trust Us With Your Life?”
Being funny the whole time you’re on stage! That is the biggest challenge! You just have to keep going. Like I said, we are instant joke writers and you are only as funny as your last show and you have to keep singing for your supper. You have to be creative, high energy and funny!
That sounds great and it is good to hear there will be something refreshing on TV this summer.
Yeah, we are going to keep our fingers crossed. There are no promises but we had a fun time shooting it and hopefully enough people will watch it and like it that they will give us a chance to shoot some more episodes and get some momentum going!
You have a great track record at this point. What do you consider your career defining moment at this point?
I would say my career defining moment was getting on “Whose Line … ” because, if it weren’t for that show, I wouldn’t have gotten to go out and do this tour afterwards. I wouldn’t have met Drew [Carey] and ended up on “Trust Us With Your Life” and a couple other shows that Drew did like “Improvaganza” and “The Green Screen Show,” which are all improv-based shows. Without a doubt, that was the defining moment! Pretty much every other aspect of my professional career has been an off-shoot of the notoriety of it or the people I worked with on that show.
What’s the best piece of advice someone gave you that you would pass along to someone interested in pursuing a career in entertainment?
My advice to someone wanting to go into a career in the entertainment industry is that you have to be patient, you have to expect a lot of rejection and keep doing it as long as it fulfills you. You shouldn’t go down a path that is tearing you apart and not making you happy. Pursuing an art if it is completely ruining you is not worth it but follow the path as long as you are getting some enrichment from it. If you enjoy the struggle and feel creative in the whole process, even if you are not working, but you love auditioning, performing and doing plays in the meantime while you are trying to get a professional gig, that’s great! Keep doing it! But if it tears you down and you don’t feel good from it, you should stop. As far as improv, you just have to get out there and do it. Find as many places to perform as possible and always listen, listen, listen when you are on stage.
What should we be on the lookout for from you in the months to come?
In the fall, Colin and I will be back out on the road doing shows. We have a few lined up over the summer as well! We have plans to possibly go back to India where we had done a tour about two summers ago. We may be going back there as well, possibly with Wayne [Brady] and his performing partner Jonathan [Mangum], who is also on “Trust Us With Your Life.”
That is very cool. What is it like taking your comedy to a place like India?
We couldn’t believe that they wanted us to go! We thought “How is this going to work out?” But it turned out incredibly great! The people there completely loved it and knew “Whose Line … ” and were big fans of it from being an ex-commonwealth of England. They all speak English and grew up watching British exports television! They had BBC and Channel 4 and all of that. The show was part of their cultural vocabulary.
Where is the best place for people to catch up with you online?
You can find me on Twitter at @thebradsherwood. You can find information on Colin and my show at www.colinandbradshow.com. That has all of our dates and where we are going to be over the next few months!
Thanks for your time today, Brad. We look forward to spreading the word on all you have going on!
Thank you very much, Jason! It has been a pleasure talking to you.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.