Former wrestler Foley finds way in comedy, returns to Fat Fish BlueWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mick Foley is no stranger to Toledo audiences, from his years performing with WWE — where the old Sports Arena was a regular stop for the crew — to an appearance as part of the Toledo Public Library’s “Author! Author!” series. His latest appearances, though, have been in somewhat unexpected environs — The Funny Bone at Fat Fish Blue, where the former wrestler and multiple-time bestselling author has made stops as part of his “Tales from Wrestling Past” comedy tour.
Foley’s next appearance at Fat Fish Blue will be on at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23. So, how does it feel when a whole audience is right there with Foley, in the palm of his hand, laughing in unison at his hilarious stories?
“The flip side is, how does it feel when things aren’t going well? It’s peaks and valleys. It’s like the old ABC ‘Wide World of Sports’ — thrill of victory, the agony of defeat,” Foley said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star.
“And yeah, you can go from feeling on top of the world, like I did last night — may have been my best show to date. And then you show up in Erie, Pa., and you think a guy is doing a spit-take because you said something funny, and it turns out he projectile vomited on the woman in front of him. The entire show took on a sense of gloom.”
Foley’s first few years navigating the world of comedy have been full of those kinds of ups and downs — not always filled with such extreme gross-outs, of course, but still a struggle. Foley admits it’s taken a while to find his groove with audiences.
“The truth is, up until the last year or so, it was like banging my head against the wall, because I knew I could draw bigger crowds with just a simple Q&A. It was almost like the idea of a show was deterring people. And it was really just in the last year and a half where word is getting around, and now the show itself is becoming an attraction, instead of just the guy doing it.”
Indeed, as word of mouth has spread on the quality of Foley’s sets, he’s found himself performing in front of larger and more enthusiastic audiences — and not just among wrestling fans.
“Generally speaking, they’re very prone to liking me. I have them, I just have to be good to keep them, in most cases. The people I win over [are], generally, the significant others — the spouses or girlfriends who show up in a dramatic display of love and dedication, and end up having a really good time.
“And it’s funny, because I see the look. And it’s really rewarding, because at the 10-minute mark, they realize they’re actually having a very good time. And they see that they see that the stories from the world of wrestling actually translate to the real world, because there are colorful stories about unique people, who just happen to be wrestlers.”
During his years as a wrestler, one of Foley’s trademarks was his willingness to do anything to make a match or show better — up to and including being thrown off a 15-foot-high cage and other feats of daring-do. Oddly, that dedication to doing the unique and untested was a bit of a deterrent in his new pursuit, Foley said.
“I think one of the toughest things for me was to accept that you’re not only not cheating the audience by working on a specific set, that you actually owe it to the audience to give them the best set you can,” he explained. “And that does include shifting new material in, but that does not mean that you have to come up with an entirely different set for every audience. I used to think that was the sign of a talented performer, and I guess in a way it [is], if you accept that no one is ever going to see a really good show, because every single story is a work in progress.”
As Foley has refined his set over the past few years into a consistently entertaining and successful act, he has begun to reap the rewards his hard work has sewn in terms of larger and more enthusiastic audiences. He expressed hope to record the show sometime in the coming year, either for home video release or for broadcast on WWE’s new online network. And Foley noted that he feels the same fulfillment from making a small crowd laugh as he did from making a large crowd gasp and cheer.
“I take as much pride for a job well done in front of 200 as I would for a job well done in front of 20,000. They’re coming around, and it’s really rewarding. The only downside is, I have to call up people I’ve known for years and say, ‘I’m sorry, we’re out of tickets. We have none!’”