Mick Foley: Prisoner Of Raw
The path for former wrestlers is pretty well defined: you hang up your lycra underpants and either make awesome action movies or terrible kids' films (or, if you're The Rock, both). So the world was pretty much stunned when the all-time hardcore legend, Mick Foley, decided to become a writer. We were even more stunned when the books turned out to not only be bestsellers, but also really good.
Foley's sold us another dummy with his latest career move into standup comedy. Even then, you'd expect him to book a big theatre tour and dine out on his fame (to wrestling fans, he is simply known as 'God'). But Foley's been touring hard, working with circuit comics, having success, having failures and generally trying to learn his craft in a way that demonstrates the flannel shirt-ethic of his time in the ring.
So why has he started at the bottom in comedy? "If I was given the chance to approach it from the top I probably would," he laughs. "I'm afforded chances that other comedians, who struggled and suffered for their art, just don't get. So I realise how fortunate I am but I realise that the best way to do it is to get in on the ground floor and try to build an audience."
So what made him get behind the mic? "It's another method of storytelling and comedy is so immediate. I love writing but I found out that the time from idea to seeing a reaction is a four-year process. Having an idea at three o'clock in the morning and doing it 24 hours later on Raw was immediate – you know if it works, you know if it doesn't, you see what you can do to make it better, sometimes you throw things out when you see it's not as good as it can be. Sometimes you strike comedy gold in the strangest places.
"Brendon Burns and I had a great show last night that had disaster written all over it. Brendon asked me to book us some places so we could get some practice in before the Montreal Comedy Festival. We ended up at The Stonehaven Bar & Grill in New Jersey, we arrived down at the Marquee and the board still said 'Wings 50c every Thursday' and Brendon was like "But it's Friday!" He was saying he wasn't going to go on, that it was the worst venue he'd ever seen in his life, and then he went out there and killed. And I was able to create some nice moments with ad libs and wrestling stories and non-wrestling stories. So like I said, you never know when you're going to strike something that works. You find inspiration in the oddest places."
If you've read Foley Is Good you'll know that his wrestling career consisted of one long attempt to kill or maim himself in the name of Sports Entertainment. It's what made Foley so great: his utter fearlessness and disregard for personal safety, his willingness to do anything to put on a show. Still, that addressed a different set of fears than the terrors he faces when stepping on stage to make people laugh. He admits it's daunting, but is still going to go for it at the Fringe..
"I do like taking risks. Its a formidable challenge to take those risks at a place like Edinburgh where so many great comedians are there and they have routines that work. I'm just going to be flinging stuff against the wall and hoping it sticks.
"Martin Mor is a great comic, and he was the guy who watched my set and said, "There's an Edinburgh show in here," – and Martin's not the kind of guy who just gives away compliments like that. It's always nice when you have the respect of – well, these guys are more than my peers, they're seasoned veterans. They can see I'm not someone just trying to cash in and make a few dollars, that I'm someone who wants to give people a good show."
Foley has already toured the UK and has worked extensively with some of the hardest working guys on the circuit: Martin Mor, Billy Kirkwood, Jim Smallman, to name a few. They're great tutors who understand the comedy circuit at a nuts-and-bolts level, and his involvement with them does show that Foley is sincere about wanting to be a great comedian. Foley's humility is quite endearing. Although he admits that he recently got let off by the police simply because He Is Mick Foley, you get the sense that the he'd like to walk on stage and not have people say, "It's God!" but think, "Yeah, this guy is pretty funny."
Wrestling, writing, comedy. A strange mix, unless you're a fan of all three in which case you'll immediately see the common link: storytelling, and a desire to connect with an audience. Foley agrees that this is what's driving him:
"There's a line from a song, a David Allen Coe song, that goes, 'Boy can you make people feel what you feel inside.' That's what it was like for my when I was wrestling and making promos, I really wanted to touch people. Comedy seems like an odd way to do that; but when I'm really enjoying myself, when I've earned their trust and can make people think a little bit, I really enjoy that. I enjoy finding laughs in unusual places and finding humour in things that bring people discomfort. I'm pretty ambitious to want to achieve these things but someday I hope I'll be good enough to achieve those goals."