The lights were low and the man on the microphone called out his name.
“Ladies and gentlemen … MICK FOLEY.”
The former WWE champion and New York Times best-selling author emerged from the back area to the applause of fans. Foley was a long way from his days headlining arenas throughout the world, when he was one of the top draws during the successful professional wrestling renaissance of the late ’90s.
No, Foley walked out to a much smaller crowd, a more intimate setting: a comedy club.
While it might not have been Madison Square Garden, the pressure and anxiety was just as high, if not higher, for the former champ to deliver a top notch performance in front of the crowd at the mega-popular Jersey Shore comedy club Uncle Vinnie’s in Point Pleasant. He takes the mic, looks at the crowd and the show begins.
The move from the squared circle to the world of comedy seemed, at least on paper, as a natural move for Foley. For decades, wrestling fans have loved Foley’s wit, humor and everyman quality –- whether it be on television or on the pages of his numerous books. In 2006, Foley decided to give stand-up comedy a shot.
“I spoke at a lot of Universities from 1999 to 2006,” he explains, “but in 2006, it really dried up, and I really liked it: entertaining crowds without getting hurt.”
Stand-up comedy seemed to be the natural fit. So in 2009, Foley made his debut at the famed Improv in Los Angeles. Later that year, he and fellow wrestler Colt Cabana, went on what was known as the “Total Extreme Comedy Tour,” playing clubs and charity events around the country.
“It’s a bit tough to get the [wrestling] fans out,” Foley says. “I was at a Trenton Thunder baseball games and there was a two-hour line to get an autograph, but it’s a struggle to get them out to a comedy club. They have a hard time wanting to spend money on something unknown.
“There’s a lot more anxiety performing stand-up. The smaller crowd, the more the anxiety –- you can’t feed off the energy off the crowd when there aren’t as many people. There’s pressure on you to create the energy.”
However, you can see in Foley’s eye that this anxiety, this pressure is exciting. Foley went onto say that stand-up reminds him of his days working the independent wrestling circuit.
“It [stand-up] reminds me of the indies -– every night was the most important night of your career. A great show is not reliant on the number of people who showing up. It’s the experience, the fun they have.”
Outside of the comedy world, Foley is completing his newest book Countdown To Lockdown. It is similar in structure to his last book, The Hardcore Diaries, a behind-the-scenes look at the wrestling world, although it’s much more upbeat than his prior book. Foley admits that he was completely miserable during the writing of the former due to his situation within WWE.
“The book follows the six weeks leading up to my match at [TNA Wrestling’s] Lockdown with Sting. There’s some mythology chapters in there. I explain why I left the WWE, an in-depth look at wrestler’s dying young. There’s also a random chapter about my trip to Africa.”
The book will be released in October.
Yet even with a book coming out, rumors of a return to the ring (which could be a lot sooner than you think — hint hint) and being a father of four, Foley’s main focus for the evening was providing an entertaining night. And entertain he did. Foley’s unflagging charm and wit were clicking on all cylinders. His act, while not the most kid-friendly, was a hilarious mixture of stories, politics, celebrity run-ins, sex and, of course, wrestling. His conversational approach makes him a natural at stand-up. You relate to Mick Foley, because he’s not all that different than you, outside of the lack of his front teeth and part of an ear — he’s your neighbor, your brother, your friend. Someone you can listen to for hours and never get tired of it.
The future looks bright for Mrs. Foley’s baby boy.