This week begins the North West Comedy Festival in Vancouver with a great lineup that includes comics and storytellers like Pee-Wee Herman, Bobby Lee, Dave Foley, and Judah Freidlander to name a few. It’s a large variety of acts but the one that stood out for me was a former professional wrestler and three-time WWE Champion…Mick Foley. The man who was anointed the King of Hardcore and was known for his three faces of Foley which included Mankind, Cactus Jack and Dude Love, will be at Lafflines from February 13th to 15th for his “Tales from Wrestling Past” tour which has already garnered great reviews.
Some of you remember Foley being thrown off a twenty-foot steel cage onto a table in a classic and very brutal WWE Hell in the Cell match in 1998, or his anything goes and violent King of the Death Matches in Japan. It’s hard to believe that Foley’s life trajectory would lead him to one day becoming a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author and a comedian selling out shows worldwide. However, since retiring from the squared circle, Mick’s travel schedule and public appearances hasn’t slowed down much.
“Up until recently I have been an official ambassador for the WWE,” said Foley. “So I had to check all my dates with the company and one of the talent relations guys laughed and said, ‘you’re busier than the guys.’ I was the only one requesting a couple of days off because I needed to compete in the international fruit cake eating competition, they would say, ‘where is that?’ and I had to tell them it was in Santa Clause, Indiana. They were like, ‘there is a town called Santa Clause?’ I was like yup and I’m in the international fruit cake eating competition. There is never a dull moment.”
What makes Foley so intriguing is his gift of gab. He can tell a story that seems so brutal and chaotic on the outside but he tells it in a way where it actually becomes charming. Who knew the idea of getting barbed wire wrapped around your head could be considered hilarious fodder, but when Mick tells one of his legendary wrestling stories, you can’t help but laugh out loud while still grimacing in pain.
“My show is more of a spoken word, one man show. I don’t know of any rules where there has to be a punch line or laugh every fifteen seconds, Foley mused to me over his morning cup of coffee. “I don’t measure the success of my show based on how many laughs or how hard someone is laughing during the show, because I know there are lots of other comics who are better at that than me. I want to see people smiling on their way out and that seems to be the case where people are leaving saying they had a really good time.”
Back in 1999 Mick wrote a critically acclaimed memoire called Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweat Socks, and followed it up with Foley is Good, which also went on to huge success in the literary world. What made his books so interesting was the way he inserted humor and warmth into the storytelling. After doing a few public speaking engagements at some of the top Universities in the United States, Foley started to realize that people wanted to listen to him tell old wrestling tales. Who knew that all those years of taking stiff chair shots to the head, or falling from tops of ladders onto pins and explosives, would pave the way to a great career outside of the crazy world of professional wrestling.
“There was never a moment, when I was doing some of those wild things that men would do to pay their mortgage and fund their children’s college educations, did I think ‘hey these are going to make some humorous antidotes’”, said Foley. “Never did I think when I was in the emergency room after the Cell match, ‘hey sixteen years later this is going to make for a great story!’ But it turns out there is humor in the bizarre situations surrounding these surreal matches.”
Whether you were or currently a fan of professional wrestling or not, you do not want to miss out on the hardcore musings of one of the funniest storytellers out there. According to Mick there is something for everyone.
“Just arrive with low expectations and that way I can hurdle over them,” laughed Foley. “It happens all the time, especially with the women who are accompanying their guy who is a big wrestling fan and I can see the faces and tell right away who is not a fan. I will focus on those faces and tell them that they will have a much better time than they are expecting and ten minutes in, their faces light up because although they are wrestling stories they are also about unique individuals in bizarre situations.”
There might still be a few tickets left for Mick Foley’s “Tales of Wrestling Past” at northwestcomedyfest.com/tickets. What better way to spend Valentines Day with your loved one by listening to stories about blood and missing teeth. Enjoy the show and “Have a Nice Day!”
For those of you who are not familiar with Mick Foley’s work or you need a reminder of the brutality, enjoy the following career retrospect. Warning…not for the faint of heart.
Written by Trevor Dueck @TrevDueck