Arts & Entertainment

Corrigan: Hardcore Storytime with wrestler Mick Foley

Columnist John Corrigan speaks with the professional wrestler about unique ways to captivate audiences.

Mick Foley is not a stand-up comedian. 

The “Hardcore Legend” pounded that depiction out of my psyche during our W.H.I.P. radio interview.

“I’m not sure comedy is the right word for what I do,” Foley, 48, said.

“Comedy clubs are the best venue for what I do because at this point you try to bring a crowd that you can attract without a lot of advertising. It’s more of a one-man show than a set of stand-up comedy. It’s wrestling stories that wrestling fans love brought to life on stage.”

As a self-proclaimed devoted journalist, and more accurately a lifelong Foley fan, I decided to attend his performance at Helium Comedy Club on July 10 to find out just what exactly he is.

The last time that I met Foley was at the Free Library of Philadelphia for a book signing, almost 10 years to the day of his Helium appearance.

After penning two No 1. New York Times best-selling autobiographies, the one-eared author wrote his first novel, “Tietam Brown.”

Still my favorite book, and yes I’ve read “The Great Gatsby,” this coming-of-age, dark dramedy focuses on the reunion between foster veteran Antietam Brown and his demented father.

When Foley signed my copy in 2003, he was not only elated at finally transcribing his idea but also hopeful that the literary world would welcome him with a Mark Henry bear hug.

A decade later, “Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy” confessed that “Tietam Brown” couldn’t draw nearly the amount of money as Mankind, Cactus Jack or even Dude Love.

“That was my first real venture in finding out my wrestling fan base will be tough to reach in non-wrestling avenues,” Foley said.

“I thought if just one-tenth of the people who bought “Have a Nice Day,” his inaugural autobiography, “buy my novel, then I’ll be a novelist. If that was the case, novelist would be my job title right now. It’s difficult to get wrestling fans to support something that they don’t see as an extension of wrestling.”

Since I have studied all four of his memoirs, both fictional works, and half of his quartet of children’s books, I was worried that I already knew the endings to Foley’s “Tales from Wrestling Past.”

However, the “Senior Ass Kicker” assured me that listening to familiar stories was like “seeing a musician perform your favorite song.”

“It can take on a new life,” Foley said.

“I was worried the first time I took a story from the book on stage which was last August in Hollywood because I knew [Diamond Dallas Page] would be in the audience, so I did the cookie story. That was a real breakthrough for me because I realized if you rewrite stories for the stage, they’re not the same stories. And actually, probably two-thirds of the show will be stories not found in the books. But I have no problem going to that well because the effect is a new item, not a rehashing of an old story.”

Despite the aforementioned lack of advertising, the four-time world champion, whose most recent title win occurred at the Liacouras Center for TNA Lockdown in 2009, sold out the club.

It didn’t seem to surprise Foley because he forged a bond with the City of Brotherly Love many flying elbows ago in Extreme Championship Wrestling.

Although the steel chair avalanches and flaming branding irons have become distant squared circle memories, the “King of the Death Match” believes the comedy scene isn’t much different than pro-wrestling.

“There are guys who do the same things every night for years, and then there are others who try new things,” Foley said.

“In wrestling, it’s two guys with no net creating their own action movie. In comedy, it’s one guy. It’s about as naked as a human being can be in the entertainment field. Even though my nights in emergency rooms are over, I still get bad nights. But I don’t expect one in Philadelphia.”

Sipping on a “Johnny Carson,” a delicious blend of Bacardi Coco, Blue Curacao, pineapple juice and orange juice, I relaxed with my fellow wrasslin’ brethren as Foley’s opening act took the stage.

Jenifer Bloodsworth, a New York City-based comedienne, recalled her experience working as World Wrestling Entertainment’s solo female writer.

Catering enough to the wrestling diehards while still delivering some funny anecdotes about her love life, Bloodsworth was an ideal choice to whet the crowd’s appetite for Mr. Socko’s puppeteer.

As the classic screeching tires of his entrance theme echoed throughout the club, the flannel-clad headliner shuffled across the stage to soak up the thunderous “Foley! Foley!” chants.

I won’t spoil the show for you, but I will tell you what to expect.

A pitch perfect Vince McMahon impression.

Ridiculous skits.

The unexpected.

Philly was lucky to have Extreme Championship Wrestling’s founder Tod Gordon and local favorite the Blue Meanie join Foley for the Q&A session to conclude the show.

You’ll still laugh if you’re not a wrestling fan, but you’ll have a blast if you are.

“Maybe I’m fortunate that [“Tietam Brown”] didn’t sell as well as I hoped, because I really enjoy doing these shows,” Foley said.

“When other comics have seen me on stage, they know I’m not just using my set as an excuse to get to the merchandise table. It’s still discouraging because I know it’s easier for me to do a signing at a book store, and I’ll get a bigger crowd than I will at a club, which is actually a much better time and will eventually yield the same autograph for the same type of money.”

The Mickster doesn’t lie.

He signed any piece of memorabilia and posed for pictures with every single person that waited in line.

I paid $25 for over an hour of laughs, an autograph and a soon to be framed photograph.

Mick Foley is not a stand-up comedian.

Mick Foley is a story-teller, a grateful entertainer and one hell of a bargain.

 

John Corrigan can be reached at john.corrigan@temple.edu.

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