Mick Foley Interview From Avclub.com
Itís hard to imagine a more unlikely stand-up comedian than Mick Foley. Most famous for his time in the WWE (formerly the WWF) where he played the character Mankind, Foley was the wrestler who seemingly cared the least about his physical wellbeing. Hiding behind a decaying leather mask and squealing his way into wrestling immortality as a deranged psychopath who often spoke through a sock puppet, he would typically come out of his matches drenched in blood. The acclaimed behind-the-scenes documentary Beyond The Mat earned Foley fame both inside and outside of the wrestling community by revealing him to be a relatively normal guy who just happened to put himself in absurd danger every week to both the shock and support of his family.
Fortunately, now that heís doing comedy, Foley can finally expect at most minimal emotional injures at his performances and leave behind the physical turmoil. Though still involved with wrestling, acting, and writing books, performing live comedy is Foleyís foremost passion these days.
With an appearance Dec. 2 at the Toronto Underground Cinema coming up as part of the Canadian stretch of his Hardcore Comedy Tour, The A.V. Club got a chance to chat with the surprisingly soft-spoken Foley about his wrestling background, new career path, and an upcoming appearance on 30 Rock.
The A.V. Club: How did this new comedy career come about? Was it inspired by your regular appearances on The Opie & Anthony Show at all?
MF: No. As a matter of fact, those guys were surprised when they first heard I was doing comedy, and that was my answer to them, ďHavenít I been kind of funny on your show for a long time?Ē It seemed like a big leap, but actually it was kind of a natural extension from some of the speaking Iíve done at colleges over the years. The difference, and it is a big one, is that there was no emphasis on me being funny at those shows, but I found that I really enjoyed telling humorous stories in front of audiences.
AVC: Do you feel comfortable onstage at this point?
MF: Yeah. Well, itís always a little bit nerve-racking, but Iím feeling comfortable enough to do bad jokes on purpose now. That was one of the gifts I have from wrestling: I used to go out there and willingly do things that I knew would be bad.
AVC: How do you find people react to you in public? Youíve got that odd level of celebrity where a certain percentage of the population would shit their pants to see you, but to everyone else youíd just be a normal toothless guy.
MF: [Laughs.] Well, I think fans feel like they have a closer relationship with me than the other wrestlers because Iíve written books that have been very conversational and personal. So, there millions of people out there who arenít fazed when they see me, but the ones who do recognize me feel like they know me, which can be a little odd at times. Fortunately, itís more positive than not.
AVC: Howís the body holding up from your extreme wrestling days?
MF: Oh yeah, I would not advise anybody to do the things that I did during my career. Iíve tried not to be reckless, although Iím sure people could find many clips where I was. But I think the most lasting effects were just from being very physical and high-impact for a long time. I may have avoided too many knee surgeries, but my knees are shot. Theyíre worn down and arthritic from landing on them for so many years.
AVC: Was it tough to find ways of topping yourself at a certain point? You set a pretty insane personal standard during the peak of the Mankind days.
MF: Yeah, I think once the Hell In The Cell match took place the bar was ridiculously high, and I never attempted to reach it again. I specifically asked not to after I did it, which was probably the best thing that could have happened with me.
AVC: Did you find that the documentary Beyond The Mat changed how people saw you? It seemed to really open things up for you in terms of being able to be yourself publicly and not hide behind a character.
MF: Yeah, I think it let people appreciate my career and what Iíd been through a little bit more, and it helped them appreciate me as a person and not just a wrestler. Itís interesting that quite a few people who enjoyed Beyond The Mat werenít wrestling fans. I can always tell when itís been rerun on cable because a whole new group of people will come up and say hello to me, who never actually watched wrestling but were captivated by the documentary. It was surreal to actually watch that movie on the big screen during its limited run. When we started shooting that, I really thought it would be my lasting legacy in the wrestling business. I had no idea that things were going to turn out as well as they did.
AVC: Do you ever get into trouble for speaking so candidly about the industry?
MF: Not really. My book in 1999 was the first major book that talked about what went on behind the scenes in professional wrestling. There had been others, but not with a major publisher or that reached that large of an audience. But I always felt that what goes on behind the scenes is at least as fascinating as what you see on television. And I also thought that if I wrote honestly about pro wrestling, people would have a greater respect for it. Iíve always felt that I should leave the wrestling business at least a little better off than it was when I joined, and I think by writing and speaking about it, Iím actually helping, not hurting, the business.
AVC: How did you feel about The Wrestler? Did that movie nail a certain aspect of that world for you?
MF: Yeah, oh yeah. I enjoyed the movie. I thought it was a great depiction of one guyís journey in pro wrestling. By no means is that every guyís journey, but Iíve certainly known people like that. Iíve known people who ended up better than that and people who actually had a worse journey. I thought [the film] did an extraordinary job of getting inside a wrestlerís shoes and soul, and again I think it led to a lot more respect for pro-wrestling.
AVC: Have you ever found yourself at one of those truck-stop wrestling conventions from the movie?
MF: Oh sure. I donít know if Iíve ever been to one quite that bad, but itís been close. Iíve done a comedy show in front of 16 people where I was billed as the headliner. Everybody has had one of those appearances, and itís not really indicative of the guys who are in it, as much as it is as the guys who are running the show. You know, I can pull over to a rest stop for a designated meet and greet, and it doesnít mean that anyone will be there.
AVC: You were at the Insane Clown Posseís Gathering Of The Juggalos this year. What was that like? Any bottles flung your way?
MF: I was dumb enough to watch some of the clips where fans were bombarding the stage with debris. So I came prepared. I picked up a goalie stick for the first time in 30 years to stop some really unpleasant materials coming my way. But I didnít end up having a problem. It was almost like a love-in. You know, doing comedy at 4:30 in the morning for guys who have been sitting on hay bales and waiting for hours is maybe not the best condition for a show, but it was fun. I think everyone involved with wrestling should venture out to the Gathering at least once, simply because thereís really nothing else like it. Part of what Iíve enjoyed about doing this comedy tour is that I can look at my list of dates and see that I was at The Gathering, then at the Leicester Square Theatre in London, and then I was in Sinners And Saints Tattoo in Marshfield, Massachusetts, and then the Polar Theater in Santaís Village in New Hampshire. Itís pretty surreal. Iíll go from telling G-rated family stories in Santaís Village to not-so-G-rated material when I come up to Canada.
AVC: Is it true that youíre going to be on an episode of 30 Rock?
MF: Yeah, yeah. 30 Rock is probably my favorite show on network television. Judah Friedlander is a buddy of mine. Judah presented me as one of Jennaís cool new friends. Iím not only on the show, but Iím on as 1997 Mankind, and I do have a kissing scene, so it was a win-win. Iíll also be showing up on Celebrity Wife Swap in a couple of months. [Laughs.]