Fact: old pro wrestlers never retire, they just become…stand-up comedians?

posterwebAfter Mick Foley’s recent comedy tours, and William Regal’s ‘gig’ in the autumn, the next superstar to head to these shores to try his tongue at stand-up is Raven.

He debuts at the Good Ship, Kilburn, North-West London (and the venue for my birthday party three years ago, fact fans) on February 19 (four days after my birthday, fact fans).

Comedy promoter Nathan Neumann explains: “I heard Raven was doing stand-up last year and even though none of his material was available online I thought he’d be funny as he’d been quite funny in some shoot interviews I’ve seen, and he’s always been one of the best promo guys and most intelligent wrestlers around. I got in contact with him and he was really keen to bring his comedy show to London, and it turned out he was in Europe doing some dates in February so it made sense to have him come over to do this show then. Before we arranged this he gave me a preview of some of his material – and it is very funny!”

Funny he may be, but what’s with the current vogue for stand-up? Is it just a variant of the after-dinner speaking that’s been a staple of so many retired sportsmen’s incomes for decades?

“The comparison with after dinner speaking is interesting and probably quite accurate,” says Jon Briley, whose day job before he got into running PROGRESS was comedy management. “Performer – ex- or current pro in their specialist area – tells stories about that area, to an audience who are already onside because they know about that area too. There’s little of the ‘winning over an audience’ that stand-ups have to be able to do when called upon to do it.”

“Wrestling is naturally quite comedic, both intentionally and unintentionally, be it the OTT characters and storylines or the fact we’re watching grown men in spandex, covered in baby oil, put on a performance fight,” says Neumann. “I’ve always been a huge wrestling fan but I think fans of wrestling and the wrestlers themselves acknowledge the ludicrous and comedic elements of the sport whilst still appreciating it as an art-form.”

He thinks that the loss of kayfabe has allowed the comedy inherent in wrestling to be more openly acknowledged, with those more naturally gifted at the hilarious aspects of their job employing it to good effect out of the ring.

“Comedy is so accessible if you have the aptitude for it,” says Neumann. “All you need is a pen, paper and microphone. So wrestlers can do this cheap and easy – they can do it in their own time, on their way to shows, and can perform anywhere in the world relatively easily. Plus we all know there are a lot of backstage shenanigans, pranks and stories from the road that wrestlers can tell which are guaranteed to amuse a room full of wrestling fans.”

Even so, Briley is loath to call these wrestlers’ shows ‘stand-up comedy’ per se, describing them as “more a spoken-word-cum-storytelling type affair”.

He adds quickly: “I don’t have a problem with people telling stories to people who want to hear them! I’d be surprised if many of the wrestlers making that transition into solo performance have seen lots and lots of stand-up – which is what any aspiring pro comedian should do, just as an aspiring pro wrestler should watch lots of wrestling – but then it seems that they’re not necessarily looking to become either a full-time stand-up so that’s less important.”

In the meantime, this little trend looks like continuing. And Neumann has his wishlist of wrestlers he’d like to see trying the mic out.

” I think Kevin Nash and Kurt Angle would be good at comedy. In terms of younger guys, I’m sure Eric Young would be very successful if he ever wanted to pursue comedy, and he’s definitely one I’d like to see give it a go!”

Watch this space…

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