While I was in Phoenix for WrestleMania weekend, I had the opportunity to check out something very unique. Headlined by Mick Foley and Colt Cabana and presented by Ring of Honor at Arizona State University, Total Extreme Comedy was a very intriguing concept: professional wrestlers doing stand-up comedy.
I joined a couple hundred people in an enormous and gorgeous theater, and sat down to take in the spectacle. ROH booker and current NWA Heavyweight Champion "Scrap Iron" Adam Pearce was the MC of the event, and he was joined onstage by an ROH referee, who patted down each comedian/wrestler as they approached the microphone, so from the outset, the wrestling theme was very much at the forefront.
The charismatic wrestling manager Prince Nana took the stage first, and was funny as he told stories about Africa, which was only natural, since he is descended from Ghana royalty and holds sway over his people.
Next up was Steve Corino, looking shockingly dapper in a suit, although the huge bandage on his forehead from that day's hardcore match against Jerry Lynn did ruin the effect a bit. Corino made it clear that he had never done any sort of comedy before, and had only had a couple of weeks to prepare. Despite this, he had some funny stuff, and you can tell that if he works at it and gets some better segues and stops fidgeting so much onstage, he could really be killer at this. It was pretty endearing that a guy so known for cutting promos would be so visibly nervous and uncomfortable telling jokes. I particularly enjoyed his Groucho Marx-style double-takes. He finished with a fairly libelous story about Chuck Guillotine LeGrande.
Austin Aries took the stage next, wearing sunglasses and drinking wine. He took the piss out of himself, goofing for quite a bit on his small stature before moving on to talking about his dick for five minutes. It was pretty much what you'd expect from Austin Aries, and it was a lot of fun. The indie-wrestling nature of the show was pretty evident at this point, as catcalls were thrown and returned by the former champ, who is no stranger to heckling. A thoroughly soused Roderick Strong, sitting front row center, enjoyed Aries's set quite a bit.
Each of the first three comedians went about ten minutes tops before the co-headliner Colt Cabana came out. The difference between him and the first three gentlemen was immediately apparent. Whereas the first three guys were wrestlers being funny, Colt was an honest-to-god comedian. He had stage presence, his material was well-rehearsed with no deadwood, his segues made sense and were on point, and everything he set up, he paid off. If you could get star ratings for being good at comedy (I'm pretty sure Star Search isn't around any more), he would get all of the stars. If you get a chance to check out Cabana doing stand-up, please take it. He will have a definite career in comedy if and when he finally hangs up the boots. Cabana also made it four-for-four of ROH wrestlers taking the piss out of Roderick Strong.
Colt finished up and out came Mick Foley. And just like that, a fun evening came crashing down. Mick was juvenile, rambling, and brutally unfunny. 70% of the stories he told were already in his books. He kept losing his train of thought and forgetting to make points with what he was saying. The crowd was really, really silent apart from occasional courtesy chuckles. Mick is likable enough, but it turns out that he doesn't really have much to say, and what he does have to say isn't funny. He rambled for well over an hour, managing to work in casual racism and misogyny, making light of waterboarding and torture by gargling water at Shawn Daivari's balls, and spend over ten minutes doing a note-for-note "Karate Kid remake" based around the premise "what if Mr. Miyagi worked at a massage parlor instead of being a carpenter." His brand of humor does not extend past junior high, and it's easy to see why he was in Vince McMahon's favor for so long. He would insist on using cutesy juvenile phrases for adult subject matter. Whereas, for example, Austin Aries referred to his "cock" and his "balls", Mick Foley would talk about his "weenie" or his "kumquats". It sometimes works on a TVPG wrestling show. It dies a horrible death in a night of adults-only stand-up.
At any rate, it was a great, fun, casual and funny show up until Foley took the stage. Cabana walked away looking like an absolute superstar, and the others showed they can be entertaining outside of wrestling. Just remember: if you ever have a chance to see Mick Foley do "comedy", save your money.