WILKES-BARRE — A night of entertainment hosted by a local healthcare organization and featuring two internationally celebrated improvisational comedians will demonstrate that humor can be healing.
Geisinger Health will present Laughter is the Best Medicine on May 11 at the F.M. Kirby Center. Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood of “Whose Line is it Anyway?” fame will perform their two-man improv show at 8 p.m.
A VIP reception will precede the performance from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Attendees will have an opportunity to meet Mochrie and Sherwood as well as President and CEO of Geisinger Health Dr. David T. Feinberg.
Catering will be provided by the Westmoreland Club, and VIP patrons will have an opportunity to enter a 50/50 drawing worth $10,000.
Chief Philanthropy Officer of the Geisinger Health Foundation Nancy Lawton-Kluck said the event is one way the foundation is trying to reach out and bring joy to its community.
“We wanted to engage a broader community as well as some of our best partners throughout the Northeast,” Lawton-Kluck said.
The associate vice president of the foundation, Jeramie Barber, added that Geisinger is looking into progressive ways of maintaining general health.
“Geisinger is very focused on a community health initiative to bolster the health of the population,” Barber said. “Laughter is a big part of that.”
One of the gentlemen providing that laughter, Mochrie, said he and Sherwood have devised a way to keep their show, titled “An Evening with Colin and Brad,” fresh after 15 years on tour.
“We spend our time trying to make the show the least comfortable it can be for us,” Mochrie said. “That’s when it’s most fun for us, when we put ourselves in the most trouble and we have to get out of it.”
Sherwood said the duo feels a responsibility to keep the show changing constantly so their fans feel compelled to come back. They do this by coming up with new twists on the improv games they play and asking for crowd suggestions and participation.
“There’s something about being uncomfortable when you improvise that makes you do better improv,” Sherwood said. “The fear of propelling into the unknown pushes you to do better work.”
Mochrie said he and Sherwood, friends for 27 years, trust each other on stage and can antagonize each other.
“We have almost an evil sibling sort of relationship where you really enjoy each other, but you also pick on each other,” Mochrie said.
The comedians, Sherwood said, know they can deliver a high quality product together but are brave enough to improvise with completely inexperienced audience members who join them on stage for six of eight games during the show.
“If you can’t do that, you’re missing that particular improv merit badge,” Sherwood said.
Crowd interaction, Mochrie said, is more frequent during a live show than during a show designed for television, which depends on three-to-four-minute clips.
“When we’re on stage, we can explore different avenues,” Mochrie said.
Whether Sherwood and Mochrie are improvising sound effects or songs — Sherwood’s favorite challenge — or a variety of other games they play, they continue to entertain audiences with unpredictable and uproarious humor.
With the return of ‘Whose Line,’ which is in its fourth season on The CW since 2013, and their live touring schedule, Mochrie and Sherwood are reaching a new generation of comedy fans.
“Thank you YouTube,” Mochrie said.
All proceeds from the VIP reception will benefit women’s health services, including obstetric, gynecologic and advanced subspecialty care, throughout Geisinger’s Northeastern Pennsylvania campuses.
Mochrie said that while he doesn’t recommend solely laughter as a method for healing the sick, he does believe it leads to relaxation and the type of positive outlook needed to heal.
“I truly do believe laughter is the best medicine,” he said.
“I totally believe in the power laughter has to deal with pain or illness or discomfort,” Sherwood added.
While the duo will accept virtually any challenge on stage, Mochrie mentioned one bizarre and frequently-requested prompt they shy away from.
“We’ll never take on the role of proctologist for a sound effects scene,” Mochrie said. “I’m always tempted to say, ‘I’ll do it, and we’ll see how quickly you turn on me.’”