I've now seen Mick Foley's stand-up comedy routine three times on Long Island in less than four months. The journey has not been unlike watching the Long Island pro wrestling legend's transformation from Dude Love to Cactus Jack to Mankind. Getting an act just right isn't easy, whether you're between the ropes or under the lights.
His biggest challenge has been entertaining the wrestling aficionados while making his act mainstream enough to appeal to all audiences. As Mick said himself Thursday night at McGuire's Comedy Club in Bohemia, even wrestling geeks may eventually find a girlfriend and have to take them out.
Foley's success in wrestling came not from athletic prowess, but psychological superiority. He could get a crowd to react the way he wanted. He sought their approval, of course, but remained in charge of the show.
His Bellmore comedy performance in August showed a lot of potential with a wrestling-centric crowd. The following month in Levittown, in a more mixed setting, he seemed a bit unsure at times where to go.
Thursday, he nailed it, reminding me of my all-time favorite television show in the process.
Growing up I watched M*A*S*H with my mom, and she and I never stopped laughing. It didn't seem to matter that my 6-year-old brain had no idea who Claude Rains was when Hawkeye Pierce referenced him. There was plenty for everybody to enjoy, so I just ignored the culture references that completely went over my head.
A non-WWE fan just wouldn't see the hilarity in a grapefruit reference. For those who are, I need say nothing else. But, without going into too much detail, his story of Vince McMahon's "gimmick infringement" of Foley's large "grapefruits" (wink, wink) turned into a funny story of Foley's wife craving the fruit during her third pregnancy. There was something there for everyone in the crowd to relate to, and Foley seemed to know it.
When Foley mentioned his legendary spendthriftyness, the crowd expected a story about a hellish hotel room somewhere in Japan during one of his "Death Match" tours. Instead, he took a 180 and turned it into a commentary on "Sweet 16" party excess amidst his daughter's normal teenage angst -- and his angst at her less-than-cherub-like dance moves at said affair.
For the third time I saw him -- with musical accompanyment -- give a reenactment of how hard it would have been for Lynyrd Skynyrd to pen "Sweet Home Alabama" had they known what a dump Alabama was. I knew exactly what was coming, but he added a wrinkle or two and I was laughing harder than the first two times combined. In the YouTube generation, that's crucial for a comedian.
Considering some of the juicy stuff he discussed with his two oldest kids in the crowd and his wife at home, he said at least five times, "What happens in Bohemia, stays in Bohemia."
I certainly hope not. His act -- slowly but surely -- is approaching big-time status.
* On Wednesday I did a Q&A preview of Foley's show for Newsday.com's ExploreLI section. A few things ended up on the cutting-room floor...
* I asked him if he had signed a Legends contract with WWE...
"What I'm going to be doing is a little more inclusive. I will essentially be wearing a number of hats with WWE, from working with developmental [wrestlers], to doing some media, to hosting live house shows to making an occasional television appearance." When asked if he had signed a contract, he said he has an "agreement" with the company but couldn't say more for contractual reasons.
* Long Island's own Zack Ryder was at McGuire's Thursday signing autographs with Foley. Foley said he thinks he will participate in a taping of Ryder's "Z! True Long Island Story" at Nassau Coliseum Saturday. I asked him earlier about Zack's rise...
"I think everybody is kind of in awe of Zack, and how he was able to make himself a huge star, without what would traditionally be called 'the machine' behind him. And to WWE’s credit they jumped on it. And Zack has become a very exciting entertainer, someone who is just a joy to watch because he is clearly enjoying this opportunity."
* Foley left WWE after not finding a groove and enough autonomy as a color commentator. I asked him about hosting the holiday "SmackDown" show and whether as a veteran he was able to contribute more to the creative content of that show...
"There was a combination. I think anybody who watched the show saw that the references to Jonas Salk and Peter Falk were coming straight out of my mind. I figure if I can entertain myself, at least part of the audience will be entertained as well."