The line on Colin Mochrie is that the Scottish-born Canadian and world-class improv comic had no plans to write a book until his manager goaded him into it. Not knowing where to start, the star of TV’s Whose Line Is It Anyway? drew upon what he knew best. For his debut book Not Quite the Classics (Viking, $24), he was inspired by an improvisation exercise in which the audience supplies a beginning line and an ending line, with the improvisors filling in the middle. In this case, Mochrie used the first and last sentences from a dozen classic novels and stories (from Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451) and made up the rest for each chapter of the book. What follows is a cliffhanger excerpt from his Casey at the Bar, a hockey poem launched by the opening lines of Earnest Thayer’s lyrical baseball story Casey at the Bat. – Brad Wheeler
The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play …
The side struck out, all hopes were dashed – so close and yet so
Then someone turned the TV off at Sam McCluskey’s bar.
With Happy Hour just starting and the room devoid of cheer,
Disappointed patrons drowned their sorrows in their beer.
Mudville is a baseball town, through their team they live and die.
It doesn’t matter much to me, for I’m a hockey guy.
Been a fan since ’64, when there only were six teams.
Drank champagne from the Stanley Cup (though only in my
The league now numbers thirty, and not that I’m berating –
But two are now in Florida, a state not known for skating.
Having seen so many games in the fifty years that passed,
And versed in hockey trivia – can’t be stumped by what I’m asked.
I know the players’ faces, from Dick Duff to Bobby Orr.
So imagine my surprise, seeing Casey at the door.
He strode into McCluskey’s, as the jukebox played Adele.
He hadn’t really changed much, since he left the NHL.
The greatest goalie of his time – he could have been, hands
Instead all went astray, and they ran Casey out of town.
He was a goalie phenom, rated highly by the scouts;
He was superstar material, of that there were no doubts.
Toronto celebrated. He was drafted by the Leafs!
“We’ll win the Stanley Cup now!” was the popular belief.
Fans all hoped that this was true: it was time to dry their
They hadn’t tasted victory in over forty years.
Could this Casey spur the team? At that thought, the fans
did foam …
Could this finally be the year that the Stanley Cup came
The promise started early with a ten-game winning streak.
The way the team was playing, not one person could
The forwards, they were scoring. All believed the hype:
This team could not be beaten, not with Casey ’tween the
Nailed the Eastern Conference, due to Casey’s acrobatics.
Playoff fever swept through town; it really was dramatic.
Casey took the league by storm, he was the King of Hockey.
And then, oh-oh, it all went south, for Casey became cocky.
He was growing quite conceited, which much concerned
Case in point: website photos of Casey in his briefs.
Without expressing sorrow as other people would;
He arrogantly smiled, and said, “Man, I’m looking good.”
The team got through the first round, then the second and
It almost felt too easy, these playoffs were absurd.
They made it to the finals, every hockey team’s one wish.
Casey said, “We’ll win in four! All comers we will squish.”
This spurred the opposition, as the Leafs fans feared it
The Penguins won the first game. (Casey wasn’t very good.)
The Leafs bounced back the next match, they won the third
The Penguins ruled the next one, scoring five on you know
The fifth went to the Penguins, but the next was theirs to
A seventh game was needed. Who would win? Too hard to
Leafs fans, ever hopeful that the Cup would come their way,
Longed with such intensity that even atheists prayed.
The hockey game was started, back and forth the teams
Both played their very best, every player pulled his weight.
It came to pass the score was tied, one minute left to play.
Surely there’d be overtime. Oh no! – A breakaway!
An errant pass was picked up by a player from Pittsburgh,
He headed for the net, but Casey didn’t seem perturbed.
He calmly touched the goalposts with his custom-made
Then gliding to his crease’s edge, there mighty Casey
The Penguins lad raced closer – the fans were on their feet.
Thousands screamed their lungs out, “Casey, don’t get
From: Not Quite the Classics by Colin Mochrie Copyright © Colin Mochrie, 2013. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Canada Books Inc.
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