For professional wrestling fans, March means one thing: WrestleMania. But these days you’re more likely to find WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley (aka Mankind) in a comedy club than in the ring. The former WWE Champion and best-selling author has found a second career as a comedic -storyteller (but not—he insists—a standup) and stops at the Parlor Live this month. Foley is known for taking more physical abuse than any other wrestler (fake pile drivers still hurt), but it hardened the hardcore legend for the brutality of the stage. —Seth Sommerfeld
What initially made you want to start doing standup—or rather, do comedy clubs?
I always have to stop and go, “It’s not standup comedy,” because it’s amazing how quickly people lose interest if I say it’s standup and how quickly they’ll regain interest if I assure them that it’s the same type of storytelling that made them laugh out loud in my books. It’s the difference between saying “Russell Wilson talks football” and “Russell Wilson tells jokes”; one will draw a big audience and one will not.
Do people have to be wrestling fans to enjoy your show?
Even though it’s clearly geared towards wrestling fans, it is really rewarding to see the faces of those dedicated spouses—who are under the impression that they are not going to have a good time—light up. In the end, good stories are kind of universal, and I think I tell pretty good stories.
How does being in the ring in front of a sold-out arena differ from being on stage at a comedy club?
The amazing thing is that the rush is almost the same. It’s all about making the connection with the people you can see in the audience, which is about 200, whether you’re talking about a big arena or a 200-seat club.
Which is more brutal, getting thrown off the top of a steel cage or bombing onstage?
Nothing hurts as bad as bombing onstage. Really nothing. You can understand the physical pain, but there is no way to rationalize how bad a bad set can make you feel.
So basically your show is This American Life or Prairie Home Companion for the edgier set.
I will take Prairie Home Companion as a comparison any day. I would say that I’m a less sophisticated Garrison Keillor.