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February 23, 2010

Q&A with Mick Foley

Mick Foley is a hardcore legend, New York Times best-selling author, philanthropist and public speaker. And now you can add stand-up comedian to his resume.

Foley will be performing his act at The Baltimore Comedy Factory Wednesday night. Joining Foley on the Total Extreme Comedy show is fellow pro wrestler Colt Cabana (formerly Scotty Goldman in WWE).

I conducted a phone interview with Foley last week about his foray into comedy, his upcoming book, the renewal of the Monday Night Wars and what it’s like working with Eric Bischoff.

newfoley.jpg

How did this comedy tour come about?

I was asked about eight or nine months ago whether I’d have interest in doing a show at The Improv in Los Angeles. It sounded like fun and something that was a little different than I’ve done before. I had spoken at several colleges, but there the focus is not all on comedy. I think doing The Improv is a little more ominous than doing a college campus because it was so different than anything I’d done. But I enjoyed it, and I think most people on hand enjoyed it as well, and it kind of opened up the door to doing a few more shows.

How many dates have you done so far?

I think we’ve only done like five, so it’s not something I do very often. I do realize that if I want to get better at it I’ll have to do more shows, which means kind of tagging along with other comics as they get their work in from club to club.

You are certainly no stranger to standing on a stage with a microphone in your hand in front of a crowd, but as you said, stand-up comedy is not something you had done before. Was it harder than you thought it would be?

Everything’s relative. I don’t think any new pursuit will be as difficult as trying to break into wrestling 25 years ago. But I realize that it’s very difficult to be really good at it. It’s not so hard to be decent at it, but there’s a big difference between being decent and being really good, and I think the difference comes in putting the time in and doing show after show instead of one every four or five weeks.

What is your act like? Are you doing one-liners or is it mostly you telling funny stories? And are you doing your own material or do you have someone writing jokes for you?

I’ve had some offers from people to do jokes, and if I get good at it and get to where it’s a little more regular, I might take them up on it. But I think as far as learning from the ground up, I’m better off doing my own material, which is mostly stories. But I’m trying to learn the art of having punch lines lined up even if the stories are mostly improv.

Do you do any topical humor or are the stories mostly wrestling-related?

That’s the biggest challenge – to delve out into other subjects without alienating the people who are there for the wrestling stuff. One thing I was proud of when I did the college talks was that, although stories revolved around experiences that I had in wrestling, one did not need to be a wrestling fan to enjoy them. I feel the same way about these shows. It won’t be so wrestling exclusive that a brave soul who wonders in to check it out will feel uncomfortable.

Yes or no: Are you funnier than Dennis Miller was on Raw?

(Laughs) I did not see that episode, but from your tone I’m taking it that he was not that great.

He bombed.

[Laughs] Well, you know, those guest hosts are hit or miss, too. It’s sometimes because they are coming into a new audience that might not be familiar with what they do.

Would you say that you have been influenced by any comedians, or is the act pretty much all you?

I’m trying to make it all me, but I’ve been corresponding with my comedy guru, my Mister Miyagi of sorts, who is Judah Friedlander. Judah’s recommending different comedians for me to watch, much in the way that I used to watch hours of wrestling every day in the ’80s and early ’90s. He explained that you can’t help but take on characteristics of your favorite comedians, and the secret is to be inspired by people without actually emulating them.

Do you have a favorite comedian?

There’s such a big list. I really enjoy Sarah Silverman’s fearlessness. You know, I would not have said I was a Wanda Sykes fan before I saw her recent show on HBO, but I thought that was hilarious. I loved Steve Martin during his stand-up days, and used to love the wordplay of George Carlin. I’ve been watching as much as I can on Comedy Central and I’ve even developed an appreciation for the blue collar guys, which is something I didn’t think I would be interested in.

How’s your new book, "Countdown to Lockdown," coming?

I just finished the afterword two days ago. The afterword I think is one of the best things that I’ve written. I think people will really enjoy it. During the afterword I talk about how in retrospect the period I chronicle may not seem important at all, but the journey that those six weeks led me on has become one of the most important periods in my life. There’s just so much going on in wrestling and the world moves so fast that we very seldom have a chance to look back and kind of appreciate the components of what makes a good wrestling show or a good wrestling angle, and I think that this book does that.

I look forward to reading it. When does it come out?

I believe September.

I understand that you donated your advance for the book to an organization known as RAINN. Tell me about that.

RAINN was actually founded in Baltimore. It’s the Rape Abuse Incest National Network. It was founded by a man named Scott Berkowitz and singer Tori Amos. I finally learned how to use the computer, so I went on her Web site and from there linked on to RAINN and became interested and became a smaller donor. As the book-writing process went on, because I spoke about RAINN and wrote about Tori Amos, it felt like the right move and the right thing to do would be to contribute a sizable amount. I split the advance between RAINN and Child Fund International. The Child Fund project is specifically geared to victims of sexual abuse form the Civil War in Sierra Leone and their children. It supplies micro loans and scholarships. So even if the book doesn’t sell like I’d like it to, I feel like the decision to donate was the right one – and it was a good amount of money, especially in this book economy. I do mention the figure in the book, but it’s a good amount and it’s going to help a lot of people.

You also contributed to Awesome Kong’s effort to raise money for relief in Haiti, correct?

Yeah. The amounts in the book are a lot bigger, but I did. It’s the power of numbers – people texting $10 at a time – that really ends up making a huge difference. I guess Kong said that it did inspire some of the other wrestlers to kick in and to meet my total, so I think all told she raised about $6,000, which is a great credit to her.

Let’s get into what the wrestling world is buzzing about – TNA Impact moving to Mondays to go head to head with Raw. You were a big part of the first Monday Night Wars. Do you think this is a good move for TNA?

I hope so. I think it is. I was not somebody who thought that two shows going head to head in the ’90s would have been good for wrestling, and it turned out to be the best thing that could have possibly happened. I think anything that gets a buzz going around the wrestling world is going to be positive for everybody, including me, including the wrestlers, including Vince [McMahon], including Dixie Carter. I think it’s going to force both groups to put out their best product, and I think the wrestling fans are going to be the main beneficiaries.

You know Vince McMahon very well. He never acknowledged the competition in the past until WCW began taking it to him. Where do you think TNA is on his radar? Will he no-sell the competition? Do you think it will light a fire under him?

I think he will no-sell it publicly for a while. I think it has to be a concern to him internally, if only because so many of the people who were big stars on his show are now working for the competition. I would say honestly with the exception of their top six or seven guys that we have a lineup that fans are really more familiar with.

There is no denying that TNA has a deep roster with a nice mix of young guys, guys in their primes and veterans. With that being said, what are your thoughts on the new regime bringing in guys from the past that are taking TV time away from talented guys already on the roster?

You’re speaking of, like, The Nasty Boys? [laughs]

Yes.

Well I know that match is something that The Dudleys had wanted for a long time, and I think the Nastys still have a little bit left in their creative tanks. But I don’t think that’s going to be indicative of what the new regime is about. I really think just in the last couple weeks you can see that Abyss’ character has really benefited, and I think we can see “The Pope” really breaking through as a big star. That’s been one of the problems for wrestling shows in the past – breaking new stars through to the next level. I mean, Abyss has been there seven years, but when I say new star I mean a TNA-created star. The fact that two guys simultaneously seem to be making giant strides I think is a good omen for TNA.

When the announcement was made that Hulk Hogan was coming to TNA, I think some people like me were wondering how long it would take before The Nasty Boys, Brutus Beefcake, Jimmy Hart and others showed up. And then on the very first show, there are The Nasty Boys. But you’re saying that guys like that being on the show is just one part of a larger story?

I hope so. I think Hulk wants to really show what he can do on this side of the business. And I think Eric Bischoff, who has always been a bright guy, wants to show that he has learned from the past and he’s going to apply all the positive things he brought to the table without repeating some of the mistakes that were made in the past.

It’s been a lot of fun to watch you and Eric Bischoff performing together. What has it been like for you?

[Laughs] You know, I do enjoy it. There’s always going to be that little part of me that resents not being more appreciated 16 years ago, and I think that’s good. I think it results in more emotional programming. He’s one of my favorite antagonists, and I’ve had some pretty good ones throughout my career, and without spoiling anything for anyone, the next couple weeks are going to be a lot of fun as far as the Foley-Bischoff dynamic is concerned [laughs].

One of my criticisms of TNA is that there are too many turns and it’s hard at times to tell who the faces are and who the heels are. Casual viewers especially have to be confused. Even your character has gone back and forth several times.

Yeah, but part of that was out of necessity. When Jeff [Jarrett] left, I was in a position of having to try to build a match for Bound for Glory from scratch. I mention in my book that the easiest thing to do is to just say “I respect you brother, but when I get out there I only know one way to wrestle,” and that’s boring and it’s the easy way out. I did not want to do a second heel turn in a year – I mean, I fought it off for eight years in WWE – and so I understand where there could be some confusion, but in that case, I was doing what I thought was best for everybody. But I think people have to remember that sometimes the best characters are painted in shades of gray. Real-life people are very seldom black and white. I’m very happy with what I’ve done with the character. I think stepping out and taking chances is something that makes the business interesting for me. I’m not really interested in being the same guy all the time.

The good thing for you is that the fans like Mick Foley the person, so no matter what your character does as a heel, you can go right back to being a babyface and they’ll cheer for you.

[Laughs] Yeah. I remember thanking Shawn Michaels one time for showing the possibilities of the short-term heel turn. He was able to have that really successful match with Hulk and then have everything be forgiven the next week. When guys have been around a long time I think fans will cut them that type of slack.

The big angle in WWE right now is the one with Bret Hart and Vince McMahon. Back in '97, you were so upset with what happened to Bret in Montreal that you thought about quitting the company …

I actually did quit for one day.

That’s right. So what do you think about Bret coming back now and doing an angle off the Montreal Screwjob, which is something he pretty much said he would never do?

I think it’s great if it brings Bret some closure, because he never had closure in WWE. I think every wrestler reserves the right to change their mind and have that right respected. I know I’ve done it a couple of times. So I don’t think any less of Bret and I don’t think anyone else should either.

What are your thoughts on ECW ending? I know it was a TV show and not a company, but the letters and the logo were still used.

I think you covered it. It had kind of stopped being ECW in anything but letters a while ago. It was a good vehicle for younger guys to get some notice, and hopefully their new show will provide that platform for younger guys as well.

You’re obviously a creative guy. You’ve written novels and you have a great mind for the wrestling business. Have you ever given any thought to leading the creative direction of a company that way Hogan is doing in TNA?

I used to think about it years ago. I think I could be a contributor, but I wouldn’t want to have the pressure of having people’s careers in the palm of my hand. And I don’t think I’d be that good at it. There were certain characters that I thought I could have good ideas for, and others that I just wouldn’t have a clue. I think it’s just too much time, pressure and energy – certainly more than I’m willing to commit at this stage in my life.

You mentioned being a contributor. Do you pitch ideas in TNA? I’m sure if you had something to say, people would listen.

Yeah, I do throw ideas out there. I have put a couple out on the table that I think are home runs waiting to be hit. We’ll just see if they are willing to let me get those at-bats in.

Mick Foley and Colt Cabana are scheduled to perform two shows at the Baltimore Comedy Factory, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Wednesday. Tickets are available by calling 410-547-7798 or visiting www.baltimorecomedy.com. For more information on Total Extreme Comedy, go to www.totalextremecomedy.com.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 12:35 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Q&As
        

Comments

This was a really good interview. Foley's taken a lot of chair shots to the head in his career but it doesn't look like it's caused him to lose too many braincells. He sounds like he's got as level and intelligent head on his shoulder as anyone out there, in the business or not.

I liked his thoughts on the TNA side of things and what he said about the Dudleys wanting to face the Nastys is something I don't think anyone has really considered. We think of a lot of this stuff as just forced on the viewers by the creative side and it's easy to forget that sometimes a match might develop just because the guys really want to face each other.

I don't think the Dudleys and Nastys ever got in the ring before this because if I remember right they were never in the same promotion at the same time. So, if it makes them happy to have it I think that's cool.

His thoughts on Bret were sound, I think his comments on the face/heel stuff made sense, I'm curious to see how much Bischoff really has learned from the WCW past, and the last couple weeks I've started to think the direction TNA is headed in is better than I thought it'd be.

Outside of all that, I hope he does well with his comedy. I love Eddie Izzard's work in particular.

I have always been a Mick Foley fan forever & he is a funny character - so I can see this working for him on the side -- Kev - as you know Sunday, I was at an event with Christy Hemme & Hacksaw Jim Duggan in Milwaukee, but before this of all things - a few weeks ago I saw the standup comedic offerings of KING KONG BUNDY - as he too was appearing at a comedy club and suprisingly he was really funny -- Kev do wrestlers get "personality character training" besides the physical training ? If you look at some of the most amazing characters in wrestling throughout the years - the showbiz part is just as amazing - who ever thought country boy the natural Dustin Rhodes could transfer himself into Goldust? & though very creepy, was well done, don't think any actor could do much better

Great interview Kev, and you asked him all the right questions concerning TNA and where they're headed. He answered them beautifully as well. Foley is a great ambassador for TNA!

Perhaps he should do a comedy act involving all three of his persona? That should be a hoot!

"But I think people have to remember that sometimes the best characters are painted in shades of gray. Real-life people are very seldom black and white. I’m very happy with what I’ve done with the character"

Now correct me if I am wrong but I am pretty sure that Mick criticised this in one of his books; I believe it was a critcism of WCW booking and praising HHH as a heel in 2000.

My thoughts on the whole 'shades of grey' thing is that it's cool to show some extra dimension to a character with Rock, Austin and Michaels being face but still showing heel tendencies (e.g. happy to have a countout victory, aggression, being a dick). BUT a character still needs to be a good guy or a bad guy. If you've ever watched the Wire (just finished the first season, check me out being hip!), you have good and bad guys on both sides (cops and criminals) but you are still able to identify the good and the bad guys.

The problem with TNA is that these changes are happening so quickly (great example - Samoa Joe), that when a big turn that should be epic (like AJ Styles) does happen, then it fails to have a big impact. Compare that to Batista's or CM Punk's heel turns recently. I'm all for trying new things but sometime you gotta stick to what works i.e. the struggle of good vs evil.

On a side note still a huge fan of Foley! The passion he has for wrestling is great and that's why he became such a star in the Attitude Era. Personally I think they should give him an Undertaker-like schedule - where he only wrestles on special occasions. Imagine if he only wrestled on PPV to prove himself against guys like AJ, Joe etc rather than on free TV against Nash. Oh and Kev, I wonder what Foley's thoughts are on of the criticism of TNA being WCW-lite, with its booking, considering his experience (Lost in Cleveland anyone?)

"I think he will no-sell it publicly for a while. I think it has to be a concern to him internally, if only because so many of the people who were big stars on his show are now working for the competition. I would say honestly with the exception of their top six or seven guys that we have a lineup that fans are really more familiar with. "

This TNA delusions at their finest. WWE has Cena, HHH, Michaels, Orton, Big Show, Taker, Edge, Rey, Kane, Batista, Jericho and Punk. Yeah, that's why WWE is in big arena for shows with a lot of sellouts or close sellouts, while TNA TV is in a little sound stage with 800 people and their live events only do in the 500-1000 range. However, that means nothing to the main decision makers in TNA since every thing revolves around ratings and grudges against Vince.

So TNA has more recognizable names? LOL! They have Hogan and Flair, but already TNA's ratings are back down to the same level. People care about Jarrett(has never drawn a dime)Nash, Hall?
Waltman, 3D and the Nasties? LOL!

Sting? Overrated in terms of drawing power. I don't think people who watch today even know who he is. Angle is so overrated in terms of star power. WWE never lost a beat once he was gone. Rey and Eddie were the main draws on the Smackdown brand when Angle was the headliner.

TNA existing ang moving to Monday nights is not truly about helping the wrestlers. It's more like a gigantic group therapy session, which includes TNA employees both on and off camera, where everybody gets together cause their life obsession is to try to prove a point to Vince McMahon and WWE.

I've never seen him live, but I'm pretty sure that Bundy has been doing standup comedy almost full time for a number of years now - so it doesn't surprise me that he's gotten good at it.
He was great on Married with Children, too.

CAN ANYONE HELP ME I AM FROM CAPE TOWN SOUTH AFRICA AND I AM POOR AND ARE WANTING TO BECOME A WWE WRESTLER MAYBE SOMEONE CAN HELP ME HERES MY EMAIL(Beatmasterproduction@ovi.com) PLEASE I REALLY WANT TO WRESTLE I NEED A PRO WRESTLING SCHOLARSHIP THANK YOU

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
E-mail Kevin.
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