DECATUR - The poster for "Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood: The Two Man Group" depicts the two improvisational comedians crushed together under the bar of a giant mousetrap, while dozens of smaller traps dangle from their chests and arms in what looks like a rather painful scenario.
Believe it or not though, short of the giant trap, the image isn't too far off from the actual content of their show, which arrives tonight at the Effingham Performance Center.
"It's the world's most dangerous improv game, barefoot and blindfolded among 100 mousetraps," said Mochrie, who along with Sherwood is familiar to audiences as a longtime cast member of the popular comedy TV show "Whose Line is it Anyway?" "It really is a stupid and cruel game, but now people expect it so we can't stop."
It's a game that the pair probably wish they hadn't invented, but telling men like Mochrie and Sherwood to cut back on their innate compulsion to experiment is practically impossible. With over 30 years of experience in improv comedy, an actor and comedian like Mochrie has developed an aversion to ever performing the same joke or routine twice.
"It surprises us that we still come up with new games after so long but we do," he said. "We need that spontaneity. The show is most fun to us in the moments where we're not comfortable on stage and fighting for our comedic lives, so we find ourselves constantly seeking those moments."
As an actor who has been dedicated to comedy ever since getting his first laugh in a high school play, Mochrie has always loved the general conceit and unpredictability of improvisational humor. According to the comic, it also helps that the format gives him "a little bit more leeway to suck."
"I love how involved the audience is," he said. "There's a daredevil aspect to it, because on one hand people are rooting for you and on the other they kind of want to watch you go splat. It's a rush. I've said before that this is the closest I'll ever get to skydiving. Walking onto stage knowing that you don't have any set show, that makes you feel pretty daring."
In his dozens of years in the improv game Mochrie has worked with nearly every prominent improvisational comedian at some point, but he's always felt a certain compatibility with his stage partner Sherwood. The duo's two-man show has now been performed intermit-tently for almost 10 years as a result of their innate chemistry.
"The chemistry thing is really hard to pinpoint, because I've worked with people offstage who I love and adore, but the chemistry is just missing on stage," Mochrie said. "Your partner has to be someone you trust completely. I would say that I know exactly where Brad is going with something 90 percent of the time, but it's that other 10 percent that makes it as fun as it is. We have a bit of private one-upmanship between us; we test each other on stage but we know where the limits are."
The end result is similar to a live version of a "Who's Line is it Anyway?" broadcast, with a mix of familiar games like "sound ef-fects" and "moving bodies" mixed in with Mochrie and Sherwood originals. Mochrie describes it as " ‘Whose Line' without the tall guy, black guy and rich guy," referring to actors Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady and Drew Carey respectively.
Such jabs are characteristic of the improv business, a tight-knit group of practitioners who have a tendency to share many experiences in common as they perform for audiences around the country. Case in point: When asked for the single most commonly requested and overused audience suggestion for a sketch location, Mochrie provided exactly the same answer as Second City comedians who visited Millikin University in 2011.
"You always get ‘proctologist' or ‘gynecologist office,'" he said. "It's inevitable. Seriously, please don't suggest that for the sound effects game. We're fine with odd suggestions from the audience, but can we get some new ones? Ideally we would want the audience to try to be as creative as we try to be."
Regardless, Mochrie and Sherwood still love what they do, although Mochrie admits he wouldn't mind trying out a new career in Hol-lywood blockbusters, should the right offer come along.
"I want to make a big Hollywood action movie," he said. "Make Paul Giamatti my wisecracking sidekick. Nobody's jumping on this bandwagon for some reason."