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Mick Foley, wrestling's Renaissance man, is performing comedy for all mankind | The Scene
Cactus Jack. Dude Love. And, perhaps the best known of all, Mankind. All were characters played by Mick Foley, one of the most compelling performers in the world of professional wrestling. Foley worked his way up the ranks across several leagues, making a name for himself as a wrestler who could take brutal physical punishment for the sake of the show. His accomplishments in the ring made him a star, but his accomplishments outside it gave him staying power. He wrote the first WWE autobiography without the aid of a ghost writer and, in his retirement from active competition, he’s written three more memoirs, four children’s books and two novels.
Most recently, Foley has taken the stage as a stand up comedian, recounting well-known stories from his wrestling career that transition into vignettes about his family and everyday life. Mick Foley’s World Tour will make a stop for one performance only at Parlor Live Feb. 16.
SCENE: So how did you decide to go into stand up? I think the earliest video I was able to find of one of your performances was about two years ago at Just For Laughs in Montreal.
MICK FOLEY: Well, that wasn’t my first time on stage. Just For Laughs is the biggest comedy festival in the world. So I didn’t just start out in Montreal.
SCENE: Yeah, you had to work your way up.
MICK FOLEY: Exactly. I had been doing it for a few years at that point … and when I started I didn’t have any wrestling material. If I did comedy I wanted it to be separate. But after a while I realized I had something people wanted to hear. Now I use wrestling as a jumping off point. It’s not a curse but a [way to connect with audiences].
SCENE: Do you remember your first time on stage?
MICK FOLEY: It was 2009 or 2010 and I had a chance to perform at the Improv in Los Angeles. The material I used was leftover from when I would speak at colleges. I quickly found out I was mistaken in my belief that it would be easy. It wasn’t. Now I have hundreds of hours of performances under my belt. What I love about it is it offers the same creative gratification wrestling did. Only now I’m creating without the injuries.
SCENE: Have you had any times on stage when you’ve bombed really badly? I mean, of course you do, everyone does.
MICK FOLEY: Everyone does and it’s painful, but you survive. An Australian comedian I know, Brendon Burns, taught me the difference between a funny guy and a comic is a funny guy will bomb and decide he won’t go up on stage again. When a comic bombs, he puts on a different hat, gets back on stage and jokes with the audience about how bad that last comic was. Everybody’s had those experiences, and how you deal with them determines whether you’re a comic.
[One difference for me from a lot of comics is] I tend not to get hecklers. I tend to get over-exuberant wrestling fans. Fans who don’t always understand that they shouldn’t shout out the endings to my stories. Because, if they’re fans, they already know how the stories end. Those people enjoy it, but it’s frustrating they don’t let me finish the stories. Fortunately, I’m experienced entertaining on Friday and Saturday nights, when some people are drunker than usual. But if that happens, I just stand back and let the club handle it.
I don’t fear a heckler. I don’t take pride in shredding them apart, but I’m not afraid either. We’re supposed to be having laughs … I take honor in the act of entertaining people who laid down their money.
SCENE: How do the other comics you work with feel about performing for wrestling fans?
MICK FOLEY: They love it. Some of them are a little worried at first, but I tell them, you know, they’re not a different species. Usually you hear (the audience during a performance) and the comic comes back and says, “They’re ready.”
I’ve been to 200 book signings with wrestling fans and there’s never been a problem.
SCENE: I’m glad you brought up your books because you’ve been published 10 times. So you’re a former wrestler, an author several times over, now you’re a comedian… has anyone ever called you a Renaissance man.
MICK FOLEY: (laughs) Yeah, but I’m uncomfortable with big words, so let’s just call me “guy who does a lot of different things.”
SCENE: Do you have a favorite story you tell on stage?
MICK FOLEY: Yeah, I do, I have a favorite story about Santa Claus I tell. I’m retiring my current material (soon) and this is part of that, but it’s a warm story. It lets me unwind an old school wrestling promo … I will have additional cheering from the audience by the time the story’s done.
SCENE: So right now you’re on your World Tour…
MICK FOLEY: It’s the “world tour,” but I’m only visiting the United States and Canada. We changed the name to Mick Foley’s World Tour (because it’s reminiscent of a wrestling event). Before it was called “Tales from Wrestling Past.
SCENE: You’re on your tour and you’ve been doing comedy for several years now. Can fans expect a special in the near future?
MICK FOLEY: Yeah, yeah. I believe this is the year WWE is rolling out their TV network. WWE gets this option on a special from me and, if they decide they don’t want it, then I can take it elsewhere. But fans can expect a special with an hour of my material relatively soon. And I’ll be happy about that too, because then I can stop going on the air and saying, “Trust me.”
SCENE: Finally, what do you have to say to people who aren’t sure whether to see your performance Feb. 16?
MICK FOLEY: Only this: If you’re on the fence, just get off, because it’s a good show. If I was going to suck, I wouldn’t go through all the trouble.
SCENE: Thanks Mick.