I have a theory that in any group of comedians there’s one who’s so funny, so out there, so quick that person is the one who makes the other comedians laugh. It’s not a well-thought out theory and, since I’ve neither performed comedy nor spent a lot of time around comedians–I’m just a fringe fan, really–I don’t have a lot of evidence for it beyond the anecdotes of a few comedians from their time on the road. Oh yeah, there’s one other thing that put this idea in my head: watching Colin Mochrie, whose birthday is today.
I started watching Whose Line Is It Anyway? when Comedy Central aired the British version and although he was a late addition to the show–it started in 1988 and he became a full time cast member in 1991–he stood out to me immediately as a funny guy. In any great episode of Whose Line every member of the cast brings something distinctive. Mochrie was, and still is, the wild card. He responds to good-natured insults from fellow cast members with a deadpan stare but can then go to full-throated lunacy right away. He’s straight man–or woman–or joker, whichever is needed, with a sly, natural goofiness. Whenever the cast joins together for a hoedown Mochrie is always placed at the end of the line. He makes up for his lack of singing ability with non sequiturs that make the rest of the cast laugh.
Oh yeah, and there are at least two dozen “Best of Colin Mochrie” videos on YouTube.