Being funny on cue is kind of like peeing on command. You gotta have it in you. Improv master Colin Mochrie's got it. "Because it's basically my only skill, I find it fairly simple," says Mochrie (foreground), best known as the guy constantly ridiculed for his nationality (Canadian) and follicles (few) on TV's Whose Line Is It Anyway?.
Though the off-the-cuff comedy show has ceased production -- ABC airs the final episodes starting June 24 -- local fans can collaborate with two of its stars this weekend when "An Evening With Colin Mochrie & Brad Sherwood" visits the Valley.
"We thought we'd exploit the popularity of Whose Line and turn this into a cash cow," Mochrie admits. Of course, some of the series' trademarks are missing, i.e., Drew Carey's pointless points system, Wayne Brady's frenzied dancing and Ryan Stiles' stylin' shoes. All the better to focus on the comedy.
"In some ways, it's tough, because there's just the two of us, and we don't have anyone else to fall back on," Mochrie says. "But, on the other hand, we're both stage hogs, so we're really enjoying it."
So whose line is it, anyway? Could be yours, seeing as how the audience shapes the show.
"Just like Whose Line, every scene starts off with a suggestion from the audience," Mochrie explains, "and for about 80 percent of the games -- 'Sound Effects,' 'Moving Bodies' -- we have audience members on stage with us."
Mochrie barely made it on to ABC's sound stage in the first place. Despite his nine-year run on the British version of Whose Line, the Second City vet had to fight for a spot on the American version of the show. ABC's head cheeses wanted to drop Mochrie, considering him "too old and not hip enough."
"They wanted young, good-looking improvisers," he recalls, "and there really aren't any."
So to the quick-witted, balding 40-somethings go the spoils. And the TV shows. This fall, Mochrie returns to prime time in Drew Carey's Green Screen -- a mix of improv and animation -- and most of the Whose Line regulars are along for the ride.
Mochrie knows he hit the career jackpot. "It's always like a big party," he boasts.
Crash it at 8 p.m. Friday, June 18, at the Celebrity Theatre, 440 North 32nd Street. Tickets are $32.50 to $53; call 602-267-1600 or see www.celebritytheatre.com. --Jill Koch
Stormin' Up North
Prescott arts festival brings summer fun
Every June, a tsunami hits Arizona, bringing a wave of fire-jugglers, stilt-walkers and break-dancers to Prescott. The sixth annual "Tsunami on the Square" festival, Friday, June 18, and Saturday, June 19, features more than 80 performers, including comedians, Irish step-dancers, pyrotechnicians and puppeteers. Most performers are Arizonans, and Phoenix is represented by traditional Brazilian drum group Zum Zum Zum, urban dance group Nebellen, and martial arts group Axe Capoeira. San Francisco's Kid Beyond brings his beatboxing skills, and the festival also includes live music, a DJ, and shows and workshops for the young'uns. Ride the wave at Courthouse Square in downtown Prescott. Admission is free. Call 928-445-5540. --Niki D'Andrea
Strike a Poser
Art flexes its muscles with yoga at SMoCA
When celebrating the summer solstice via yoga, a "downward-facing dog" just won't do. The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art suggests the "sun salute" -- a more fitting gesture to honor the longest day of the year and official start of summer. On Monday, June 21, instructors from At One Yoga guide a special hourlong yoga session in the museum's galleries. The evening starts at 7 with an informal lecture inside the museum's open-air observatory. Tickets are $25, $20 for museum members. Call 480-994-ARTS. --Joe Watson
Gunnin' for Dad
Rockin' R shooters pack heat
Every kid thinks his dad is invincible. That is, until Dad got his ass kicked by Booper the Clown, the circus freak who made you cry when you were 8, and Dad thought he'd be a tough guy, then Booper kicked him in the nuts with those big clown shoes. Personal issues aside, the Arizona Gunfighters at Rockin' R Ranch, 6136 East Baseline in Mesa, aim to prove they're bulletproof on Saturday, June 19, for the ranch's Father's Day celebration. It starts at 5:30 p.m., with dinner, music and an Old West shootout. Tickets are $25 for adults, $13 for kids. For reservations call 480-986-1800. --Joe Watson
Museum rolls Native flicks
Movie buffs go native this weekend at the 2004 Heard Museum Film Festival. From Friday, June 18, through Sunday, June 20, cinephiles feast on 10 motion pictures by indigenous artists, and meet the actors and directors who made them. Given the trail of tears that winds through native history, we'd expect dramatic offerings such as Cowboys and Indians: The Killing of J.J. Harper, but there's comedy, too, i.e., Don't Call Me Tonto. And viewers in search of northern exposure can take in the Inuit documentary If the Weather Permits.
Sunday's finale features Black Cloud, the story of Navajo boxer Lowell Bahe, shown at the AMC Arizona Center. A reception and Q&A with actor and director Rick Schroder follow. Admission prices start at $7 ($10 for Black Cloud), with day and weekend passes available. The Heard Museum honors native art and culture at 2301 North Central. For information and a schedule, see www.heard.org or call the festival hot line at 602-251-0205. --Kim Toms
Juneteenth celebration toasts the end of slavery
The anniversary of the end of slavery is always a good excuse to throw a party, and that's just what the South Chandler Self-Help Foundation is doing Saturday, June 19, for its annual "Juneteenth" celebration. In 1865, more than two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the last American slaves living in Texas learned they were free. Nearly 150 years later, the SCSHF commemorates the occasion with a bash featuring food, fun, funk and the blues. Performers include the Uncle Mike Band, and the Loose Cannons; the party rolls from 5 to 11 p.m. at Folley Park, 601 East Frye. Call 480-899-3022. --C. Murphy Hebert
Freaks of Nature
Wild on the west side
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If heading to the west side only conjures up memories of Metrocenter ice skating or renewing your car license in '92, check your snob-o-meter, because, for more than two decades, the West Valley Art Museum, 114th Avenue and Bell Road in Surprise, has been going strong.
And from Friday, June 18, through August, "Imagine That!" showcases works by some of the greatest wildlife artists in the country, including Edward Aldrich, Joe Garcia, Nicole van Axx and Carl Brenders. Can one expect to see stampeding buffalo or a dramatic lone howling wolf? Not in this Marlboro country, as artists were asked to paint imaginary animals using techniques of realism normally associated with wildlife depiction. Witness sea monkeys actually in the sea and hammerhead storks rendered quite literally (pictured). The fanciful exhibition is worth moving your wagons west. Imagine that!
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Call 623-972-0635 or see www.wvam.org. --Marnie McGann