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Mick Foley: Prisoner of Raw - Standing Up to a Wrestling Legend

Mick Foley has just arrived in Tampa Bay, Florida, and is kicking his
heels before he starts work.  What that means for the American
wrestling legend turned stand-up comedian is literally showing some
younger guys the ropes at a 'developmental group' run by WWE, the
big-league wrestling promoters Foley has recently rejoined after
several years on the independent circuit. In the meantime, what's
keeping him amused is a real-life story that came straight out of
Tampa, but which sounds truly stranger than fiction. In-between laughs,
Foley christens the protagonist of the incident, which hit world
headlines, “Bath-Salts Man.”

Bath-Salts Man, it seems, was the Tampa drug addict who, according to
Foley, was so high on the amphetamine-based drug known as bath-salts
that he ran naked from the woods and “ended up eating most of his
room-mate's face off. They've donated his brain to science so we can
learn from our mistakes.”

While the story didn't quite pan out the way Foley tells it – it was a
homeless person, not his room-mate, whose face was chewed off by his
marijuana, not bath-salts induced perpetrator - the way Foley latches
onto and embellishes such a yarn should come as no surprise. He's been
dealing with such fantastical narratives for decades, after all, first
in the ring in one of his many guises, be it as big-haired hick, Cactus
Jack, the mentally challenged Mankind, who pulled out his hair and
talked to rats, or the tellingly named Dude Love. Inbetween stints as a
commentator and referee, Foley is also the author of several children's
novels, three volumes of auto-biography and a couple of grown up
fiction books, not to mention his time as a WWE story-liner.

With all of his books penned without the aid of a ghost-writer, Foley
has hit the best-seller list on more than one occasion. He's also
worked for anti-rape charities, is an ardent Democrat and even
campaigned for Barack Obama's presidency. Indiana-born, New York-raised
Foley is no ordinary wrestler, then. In the ring itself, he was a four
times world champion and eleven time tag-team champion, and, still
wrestling part-time after time away from the ring, is considered one of
the most articulate ambassadors of a much derided but infinitely
appealing form of blue-collar Greek tragedy.

Somewhat ironically, it was one of Foley's fiercest brawls as Mankind,
the so-called 'Hell in a Cell' match that concluded an ongoing feud
with Mankind's nemesis, The Undertaker inside a large steel cage.
Somewhere between dislocating his shoulder, losing a tooth and briefly
being knocked unconscious in one of the most extreme matches in WWE
history, after fifteen years in the ring, Foley had an epiphany.

“I realised I needed another facet to my character,” he says. “I
couldn't take the punishment every day, and that's when the humour came
in. Then later, the success of my books made me a credible invitee as a
university speaker, and that I suppose is a form of stand-up, just one
guy with a microphone. Then I was asked to do something at an improv
night, and that seemed very easy, seeing what I could come up with over
twenty, twenty-five minutes, but I didn't really have a passion for it.
Then, bit by bit, I realised there was a real art to this, and there
was one night last year when everything fell into place.”

Foley loved comedy as a kid, and by the time he was ten was listening
to Class Clown and other records by George Carlin, who moved from more
straight-laced material to become a contemporary of Lenny Bruce, who
Carlin was arrested with. Class Clown featured Carlin's routine, Seven
Words You Can Never Say on Television, for which he was unsuccessfully
prosecuted on the grounds of obscenity.
Foley was at school in New York with comic actor Kevin James, and if he
hadn't fallen in love with wrestling, a sport also beloved by comic
maverick and star of Taxi, Andy Kaufman, who knows what might have
happened.

“I liked it as a fan,” Foley says of his introduction to pro wrestling,
“and I wanted to make people feel as I felt when I was in an arena,
that emotional roller-coaster. Whether people thought wrestling was a
sport or not didn't matter. For me it was always an art.”

As for the imagination that dreamt up Mankind, “That's what happens
when you're at the back of the bus reading Frankenstein and listening
to Tori Amos,” Foley says of his creation.

For his Edinburgh dates, at the time of talking, not everything in
Foley's act was set in stone., although it would be reasonable to
expect something in there about bath-Salts Man.

“I try to provoke thought, but I reserve the right to act juvenile and
immature as well,” says Foley.

As for what's next, Foley isn't sure, but he's done well out of his
twenty-seven years in the front-line of sports entertainment, and isn't
complaining.

“I've been back in the ring long enough to realise I shouldn't be doing
it much longer,” the forty-seven year old says. “But I had lunch with
Edge [fellow former WWE wrestler, forced to retire in 2011] the other
day, and he said as long as he's got a creative outlet, he's at peace.
I feel the same. I don't need thousands of people cheering for me.
Sure, it's nice to hear hundreds of them sometimes, but it's not
everything.

“I had dinner with [historical thriller writer] Steve Berry last
night,” Foley continues on a culinary theme, “and I don't often get to
talk about the craft of writing, the same as I don't get to talk much
about the art and craft of comedy, but Steve writes every single day,
which is wonderful. For me, it's the little moments that count, if a
story goes better than planned, or being a dad and spending time with
my kids.

“Life's still a great adventure for me. There's not a day I go by when
I'm bored or feel I don't have anything to say. My last novel came out
in 2005, and I think, well, maybe I'll never do another one. But then,
I keep on getting these ideas...”

Mick Foley: Prisoner of Raw, Assembly Rooms, Aug 8-11, 8pm
www.arfringe.com
The Herald, August 8th 2012

ends





Comments

Neil Brogan said…
Mick Foleys new career, like his time as an author and wrestler before that, is nothing short of incredible. His comic timing and knowledge of how to work a crowd are in full effect - cheap pops and all. Having experienced Mick Foleys show earlier this evening, I can safely say that it is, far and away, the best £15 I have spent during the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe. BANG BANG

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