WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley is bringing his popular “Tales from Wrestling Past” stand-up show to the Fort Lauderdale Improv on Wednesday, July 31 and Miami Improv on Thursday, Aug. 1.
After a historic career inside and outside the ring, the Long Island native decided to try his hand (and mouth) at comedy with a debut at the Improv in Los Angeles four years ago. The comedy show developed after the New York Times best-selling author did a few college speaking engagements.
“I had graduated toward stories that were humorous in nature,” Foley said. “Obviously, there is a world a difference in telling stories as part of a college lecture series and actually getting people to physically laugh. During the course of those four years, I’ve realized that I’m not much a stand-up comic as I am a storyteller. Therefore the tour name ‘Tales from Wrestling Past’ will allow wrestling fans to know that this is a show for them.”
Many former and current WWE associates have been known to be the subject of a few Foley zingers on stage. For the budding comic, it’s all in good fun.
“I think those people realize I wouldn’t even spend time on people I didn’t like,” Foley said. “I don’t have a mean-spirited sense of humor. Even the guys who are the butt of the jokes are dealt with affection.”
With that in mind, how many Al Snow quips will attendees hear during the South Florida shows?
“I don’t ever have a design number of Al Snow jokes or references,” Foley said. “However, if I sense an audience is responsive to a little Al Snow and to laugh at his expense, I’ll keep that ball rolling. It’s like being in the ring. If it’s an Al Snow night, I’ll roll with it.”
Much like in the ring, Foley feeds off the crowd.
“I used to think I owed it to the audience to give them a completely different show every time I got on stage. Now I realize I owe it to the audience to give them the best show I can every time I get on stage,” Foley said. “I do have some structure, but I try to make each show a unique experience. I will go out of my way to make sure the show I do in Fort Lauderdale is quite different than the show I do in Miami.
“I go back to experiences I’ve had in cities. One story specifically takes place in Miami, and I do have a special surprise lined up in Fort Lauderdale. One of my guests hails from there and will make a nice addition to a story…I’m lucky I have a woman named Jenifer Bloodsworth to support me on these shows. She is a former writer for WWE, so she brings a unique perspective to her comedy. She also plays a really vital role to one of my scenes that I try to create.”
The consummate entertainer believes for a while his show suffered a bit because he was trying so hard to make it accessible to everybody. A revelation came at a comedy festival in Montreal.
“I realized if people want to hear talk of subjects other than wrestling, there were plenty of other places to go,” Foley said. “So I do the show with the wrestling fans in mind, but I make the atmosphere an inviting one for non-fans. It’s very gratifying that after almost every show I will get three to four women who come up to me to say that they accompanied their spouse with no idea what to expect and really enjoyed themselves.
“There are colorful stories about unique characters that transcend wrestling. For example, Tim Allen’s humor may have been based around the dad and handyman, but clearly his audience was not solely comprised of dads who are handymen. While my show is tailored to the wrestling fan, it’s an enjoyable night out for those who are willing to take that plunge.”
The stand-up game very much reminds him of wrestling in that you respect anybody who takes their mic and gives it their best effort.
“Getting up on that stage feels so much like being in the ring, in both the best ways possible and the worst ways possible,” Foley said. “When everything is going right as I believe it will be when I’m in South Florida, it feels like being in the ring without the physical ramifications. On nights, especially early on, when things are not going well, it can be as painful as any bad match I’ve had. I respect anybody who gets up, but I try not to let other comics influence what I do.
“I realize that at a certain point those influences were showing through in a way that was not beneficial to my show. I love going out and watching comics doing their thing. I had a great time watching Jay Mohr a few weeks ago. I went to see Louis C.K. tear the house down. I think when I see those guys and realize how good they are, it further clarifies my goal of giving people a fun and entertaining evening without trying to be a better stand-up than the guys who have been doing it 20 years.”
Maybe inspired by Foley’s own success from putting himself out there in another form of the entertainment business, WWE superstar Dolph Ziggler has shown some interest in the art of humor. The “Show Off” may be next to follow in the legend’s footsteps.
“Dolph is a different situation because he is a real student of comedy,” Foley said. “He is a fanatic. Dolph was actually going to make his debut at my show in Phoenix a couple of months ago. I realized he was a little trepiditious about it. I took him aside and said, ‘A couple of nights from now you are going to be in front of 78,000 fans at WrestleMania, right?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘And you are going to be fine out there, right?’ He said, ‘Oh yeah.’ I said, ‘Okay, but 300 people in Phoenix?’ He said, ‘Brother, I’m terrified.’
“So I told him, especially when he won the World heavyweight championship, that your first time behind a mic probably shouldn’t be when he is announced and people are likely to have a camcorder or two going. So he has done a couple of open mics, very low key. He said he has enjoyed them and done well. So Dolph may be a guy who because of his love of the art could have great second career years from now when he has hung up the boots.”
[Ziggler’s brother, former WWE NXT superstar Briley Pierce, has a comic improve background.]
Foley is doing a show after SummerSlam at the Hollywood Improv in LA. Proceeds from the “Post SummerSlam Jam” will benefit RAINN, an anti-sexual assault organization that the star has been very active and supportive. WWE talent William Regal has already confirmed his participation in the Q&A portion of the evening. Others Foley friends are expected to be added.
Foley is also looking forward to the pay-per-view summer extravaganza itself. He is anticipating the main events.
“I wrote a little piece about SummerSlam that, although I was a big fan growing up, there was the occasional match that you felt like you had to absolutely, positively see. As a wrestling fan, I feel you have two of those on the SummerSlam card. You have Punk and Brock with Daniel and Cena.
“The desire to be the best is so strong in all the guys that it creates a very healthy competition. So I think you are going to see guys going above and beyond the call of duty to have the best match possible. The undercard is shaping up very nicely as well. This is a show I had planned on attending before I found out I was going to be a part of SummerSlam week.”
Foley enjoys watching some of the emerging WWE superstars on the roster.
“The Shield is guys who are creating great main events in their first full year in WWE, which is almost unheard of,” Foley said. “A character like Bray Wyatt really captures people’s imaginations. I love being put in that role where, even I, who has been in the business for so long can be caught up in a storyline or character. WWE suffers from no shortage of guys who are intriguing and enthralling and have their best days ahead of them. Damien Sandow is a sleeper talent for me because he has managed to come off so well, despite having a less than stellar win-loss record. That’s something I can fully appreciate.”
Aside from stand-up, Foley has been busy with many projects. He is penning new WWE-themed comic books. The hardcore legend has also been active in making “I Am Santa Claus” a reality. The film, funded through Kickstarter, follows six real-bearded professional Santa Clauses to find out what they do through the year on their off season.
“It is a relief to be funded, and we believe we are going to have a really good movie on our hands,” Foley said. “I got on board originally as a subject who had to undergo quite a startling moment that many WWE fans saw on Christmas Eve and at ‘Tribute to the Troops.’ I really fell in love with the project, where I asked to come on board as a producer…I do love it and am really looking forward to making it the best movie possible. The hope is to have it ready to be available for viewing for the 2014 holiday season.”
• See Mick Foley’s stand-up show “Tales from Wrestling Past” at the Fort Lauderdale Improv on July 31 and Miami Improv Aug. 1. Tickets and information are available at www.realmickfoley.com.
• WWE SummerSlam occurs 8 p.m. EST Sunday, Aug. 18 from the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.
• Follow Mick Foley on Twitter @RealMickFoley.
• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN, http://twitter.com/#!/smFISHMAN, where I post links and information. Opinions expressed reflect no other entity. I can also be found tweeting incessantly during wrestling shows weekly.