"We're both pretty amazing people so we get along really well, we travel well together. It helps. It actually gives us time to spend together, which is nice."
– Colin Mochrie
"I shamelessly pursued him. Typical of most men, he was clueless as a post."
– Deb McGrath
Guy MacPherson: Hello.
Colin Mochrie: Hi, it's Colin Mochrie. So sorry about calling you late. We're just dealing with a family situation.
GM: Oh, I'm sorry about that.
Deb McGrath: It's not serious. My mom... Hi, I'm Deb!
GM: Hi, Deb.
DM: My mom's in a wheelchair and Colin's mother is visiting from Vancouver and we're having a birthday party for her, and we wondered why she wasn't here. So we called her private Wheel-Trans guy and he said, 'I'm in Kitchener,' which is two hours away from where we are. So we were scrambling. I apologize.
GM: No problem. I just had my in-laws here last weekend.
DM: You relate.
GM: I've talked to Colin before. This is my fourth time with you, Colin.
DM: Oh, wow, aren't you sick of him?
GM: Yeah, that's why I'm glad you're on the line this time.
CM: Wow. Tough house.
GM: I've never talked to you, Deb. But I am impressed. I was looking at your imdb and you did a voice on my favourite children's cartoon.
DM: Which one?
GM: Little Bear.
DM: Oh, yeah. I know, so sweet.
GM: Wasn't it? I hated most of them, but that one I could tolerate.
DM: I know. Sadly, when our daughter was little, I wish I'd gotten a chance to voice something on Thomas the Tank Engine because it was her world. She had Thomas everything. I thought, oh, what a shame I never got to be a Thomas character.
GM: That's too bad.
DM: But of course she's 27 now so I'm sure she's over it.
GM: I'm trying to think... You guys are like the King and Queen of Canadian comedy? Or the Duke and Duchess? What would you say?
DM: We, of course, wouldn't say anything because we sound like pretentious gits, but it's okay if you say it. I would say we were the Lord and Lady.
GM: That's a good one!
DM: I think Duke and Duchess. Some gigs we are. King and Queen? I don't know. I think there's other kings and queens out there.
GM: Colin, do you have one?
CM: I can't. Obviously Deb has thought about this for a long time. I have nothing.
DM: Or we could be the Footman and the Upstairs Maid of Canadian comedy.
GM: That takes up a little too much space, though. But I like that, too. You two have been married since when?
GM: And when did you meet?
CM: Yeah, we move fast.
GM: Did you meet at Second City?
CM: Yeah, Deb hired me for the touring company. My friend Ryan Stiles was on the Main Stage at that point and he called and said, 'Hey, they're having auditions. I've mentioned you. You should go do it.' And Deb hired me after a very gruelling audition.
DM: I just finished my stint as a Main Stage actor and they would often ask one of the Main Stage people who had moved on if they would direct the touring company. It wasn't a full-time job. You could still go on to do other things. Colin was my anchor in the show. I could always depend on him. So it started like that and then one day I went, 'Hmm... I think it's something else.' So I shamelessly pursued him. Typical of most men, no offense to you, he was clueless as a post. But then we, you know, fell in love.
CM: It seems like it was a lot of work on her end.
DM: Yes, indeed.
GM: But you didn't just hire him because you had designs on him?
DM: No, absolutely not. He was just so different from anyone else. And he was a smart improviser. No offense to people in the touring company but generally they're not at the top of their games when they start, and he was already someone that you thought, he has to go through the process to get into the Main Stage but his improv skills were really beyond a touring company level. Like he just knew how it worked.
GM: I know how Colin started. I don't know your early story, Deb.
DM: I was an actress from the age of maybe a year-and-a-half. I was just a ham. I wasn't like Colin, the shy, retiring, gets-the-right-opportunity-and-blossoms. I was always putting on plays in my basement and garage, directing, producing, starring roles. Then I did musicals in high school. Always acting, as I said. And then I went to Ryerson University after Grade 13, which was a thing here at that time. You did five years of high school. And I did four years at Ryerson and it was a great experience. I knew deep down that even though I was a dramatic actor potentially, that my real shining thing was comedy, but they kind of wouldn't let me do it. So it was great. I got to do Shakespeare and Molière and all the different things you do in theatre school and hone my skills that way. Then, like most actors that left university with high hopes, proceeded to wait tables for three years. Then there was an actor, God bless him, he died last year – Tony Rosatto, wonderful Second City actor and on SCTV and Saturday Night Live – and he was my customer at Mr. Greenjeans, which was a restaurant here. And he kept bugging me: 'Do the classes, do the classes, do the classes. You shouldn't just be waiting tables. You gotta take classes.' And he pushed, and pushed, and pushed me, God bless him. He brought me an application one day and I did them and he strong-armed me into getting an audition for the touring company and I got in on my first audition. My teacher said, 'She's good but she's just started classes,' and Tony was, 'I don't care! Give her an audition! If she doesn't get in, that's fine.' And I got in to the touring company and did that for two years and then the Main Stage for three years in the day when actors did do Main Stage for three years. Now they don't, really. Two, I think, is tops. Then I directed and that's when I met Colin and we moved to California because myself and another Canadian actor created a show and we sold it in Los Angeles. It took so long for that process that I was already very pregnant by the time it was a go and we moved to California when I was seven months pregnant with our daughter and lived there for three years then came back.
GM: Was that My Talk Show?
DM: Yes, it was.
GM: I liked that show.
DM: Oh, thank you! The other creator was Linda Cash, who you may know. She does a lot of things. Sadly a great Canadian actress who, when you tell people, was most known for being the Philadelphia Cream Cheese angel for seventeen years. She's a wonderful actor and she co-created it with me.
GM: I stumbled across it and I saw Ryan Stiles as the milkman on it. I hadn't seen him in a few years since he had left Vancouver.
DM: He's pretty close to you, isn't he?
CM: In Bellingham.
GM: Colin, have you ever done Shakespeare or Molière?
CM: I did when I was at Studio 58. Actually, this December I'm doing King Lear. Well, I'm not Lear; I'm the Fool. Seana McKenna is playing King Lear. So I'm looking forward to that.
GM: Where's that?
CM: It's going to be, I believe, at the Harbour Front Theatre downtown. It's a theatre company called The Groundlings, which is Stratford alumni. Graham Abbey started it and they did their first show a few years ago, The Winter's Tale, that was a resounding success. I'm looking forward to it.
DM: It's great because Graham brings Shakespeare into Toronto in the middle of winter with the actors that you schlep up to Stratford to see, so it's wonderful that he's doing it.
GM: That's a lot of lines to memorize. You can't just wing it.
CM: Well, we'll see. I'll talk to Graham. If I get the gist, I think that should be all right.
GM: I'm sure you've done lots of the faux-Shakespeare improv games.
CM: Oh, yeah. There are some people who had that real skill of being able to do it beautifully. I'm not quite there.
GM: You will be after this.
CM: I will be.
GM: You two are performing here together and I know you've performed lots together. Does it help or hurt a relationship? Or is it just neutral?
CM: We're both pretty amazing people so we get along really well, we travel well together. It helps. It actually gives us time to spend together, which is nice. And going back to Vancouver is great because, you know, I have family there so I can see them. I love the city. It's always nice to bring Deb to my hometown.
GM: Deb, have you spent much time here?
DM: Oh, yes, yes. I guess when we met, 31 years ago, I came to Vancouver – for Colin's brother Graham's wedding – for the first time and just fell madly in love with it. I consider it my second home. Also, when you come to a place so often, it feels like home once you get to know it. I always think it feels like home once you're not lost in it anymore, then you can actually go out on your own and kind of know where you're going. Yeah, I love Vancouver. We've been many, many times. A few years ago we came and did the Unique Lives and Experiences. And we've done other gigs there. That's what it was, Colin, Variety Club. The other night we were trying to remember a gig we did and it just came into my head. So I love being there. Love it.
GM: Did you ever in those 31 years consider moving out here or was there too much work in Toronto?
DM: It isn't that, really; it's that Colin came here.
CM: Once I left, the city really boomed. I like to take a little bit of credit for that.
GM: Thank you.
CM: Any time.
DM: And the thing was, it did boom. And there was certainly, on one level, more work there, but for us, we wanted to be involved in Canadian projects. And basically the Toronto area – Toronto, Hamilton, you know, Ontario – was the hub of original Canadian stuff. The American stuff, you can have a nice role but it can never really be your own, from our perspective, do you know what I mean? We wanted to be involved. I certainly did want to be involved in things like Little Mosque on the Prairie and shows that were Canadian conceived with Canadian casts. And Vancouver for the most part – I guess DaVinci's and a few things like that, but they were few and far between. And plus, I'm one of those people born and raised here. It's hard to extricate me from this city. It's so much my home. I really was born and raised here and I think he would have had a hard time dragging me away.
GM: How do you describe the show like the one you're going to do here? What does it look like when you're performing together?
CM: That's a good question. It's basically us talking a little bit about our lives but mostly doing improv based on the dynamic of couples. We usually bring up a couple who's been married longer than us. We talk to them about their marriage and then we reenact it for them. We do some scenes that would be familiar to Whose Line fans, like the sound effects scene. But it's just Deb and I talking about us as the Lord and Lady of Canada.
DM: It's just us having fun but with the rapport of our marriage and sort of off-the-cuff kind of stuff with the improv games and as it always is, very much using the audience to be a part of it.
GM: This is a charity show you're doing. I know Colin does a ton of these. You must be contacted a lot to do these kinds of things. How do you decide which ones to do?
CM: Deb and I actually sat down a couple of years ago and talked about it. We decided that we would work for charities that either we had a personal stake in or charities that we felt needed us to get the word out there. Deb's always saying, 'Cancer doesn't need us.' A lot of the top charities don't need us because they have great spokespeople and they do have a presence out there. We started working with a charity called Skylark, which targets teens and mental crises. We've also worked with Lupus and another charity out here called Ability Online. It's helping disabled people connect online. These charities are not really that well-known so we usually end up doing a benefit a year for them to just sort of get their message out there.
DM: We've just become involved in another charity that we just did our first ever fundraiser for that we produced. It's called Rainbow Camp and it's for LGBTQ2+ youth in the Sault Ste. Marie area of Ontario, to send these kids to camp. We just did a big fundraiser a week ago today at the Second City, who generously donated the stage to us and gave us lots of help. So I think that will become one we'll become very involved with as well.
GM: You're good people.
DM: Oh, thank you.
CM: Being Lord and Lady, we have expectations made of us.
GM: My son has just started his first week at Killarney high school.
CM: Oh, really?
DM: Oh, wow.
GM: Grade 8.
CM: Do I have a section of the school named after me or anything?
GM: Well, you should.
CM: I mean, really! Damn them!
GM: Speaking of charities, you should go do a show for them! They have a great theatre and film program. I've been to some of their shows.
CM: I think the last show I did there was Dracula Baby.
GM: Is that while you were a student?
GM: It seems like a nice school.
CM: Yeah, I have a lot of fond memories there. I had a lot of great friends.
GM: Colin, I know you also do non-charity work. You travel throughout the States doing shows. Have you noticed any difference with audiences in Trump's America? Or is it a safe haven when you're in a theatre?
CM: Brad Sherwood and I have been touring a lot and we actually say off the top of the show, 'This is a political-free zone. For the next two hours, it's just going to be goofy and fun, so let's try to stay away from that.' God knows we slip things in every once in a while. But we found, starting with the Bush presidency that whenever you would make a reference, no matter how innocuous, you immediately split the audience in half. So it just became a thing with, why? There are people there who do satirical shows. The depth of our satire is still in the shallow end. It would just be, 'Oh, that Trump, what a dick.' That would be it for our social commentary.
GM: So you started saying that off the top during the Bush era?
CM: Yeah. Brad had made a Bush joke – and again, totally innocuous – and you could just feel immediately the audience split in half. It was very disconcerting because Americans have had a long colorful history of making fun of their presidents. I think it's really dangerous when you feel you can't do that anymore. Especially now. I mean, for God's sake! How can you not? Every day is just fodder for something.
GM: When you travel outside the US, then you're more free to make any kind of joke?
CM: Yeah. We just did Edinburgh. And even then people weren't giving a lot of Trump suggestions. I think people are just really tired of it.
GM: He's kind of a cartoon character on his own.
CM: Yeah. Without the depth.
GM: Okay, guys. Thank you so much for talking. I hope you get things cleared away with your parents.
DM: I hope so. I think we've sorted it out.
GM: Okay, well thanks a lot.
DM: Thank you for taking the time.
CM: Thanks, Guy. I look forward to our fifth time.