A Conversation With Mick Foley
Earlier this year I saw Mick Foley’s one-man show at Helium Comedy Club in Philadelphia and it exceeded my expectations. After the show my friend Brian and I stuck around to meet Mick, get his autograph and get a photo with him. I also asked Mick if he was open to doing an interview with me, primarily focused on his work as an author, and he obliged. Several months later the interview came to fruition, and once again, Mick exceeded my expectations.
But before we get to my interview with Mick, I have to tell you about his new film: I Am Santa Claus. I just finished watching it, and it was excellent. This documentary chronicles the year-long journey of professional Santas, and Mick’s transformation into becoming the iconic figure. Learning about the lives behind these uniquely different individuals, what drives them to be Santa and how they view Christmas, was an eye-opening experience. It was humorous, moving and representative of the spirit of Christmas. If you enjoy Christmas or are simply a lover of great documentaries, I highly recommend you watch I Am Santa Claus. It’s an excellent film that doesn’t disappoint.
Not only is Mick Foley an iconic figure in the world of professional wrestling, he is the New York Times best-selling author of multiple books, a stand-up comic/spoken-word performer and a film producer. Simply put, he’s a busy guy. But he was nice enough to take the time to speak with me. I hope you enjoy my interview with Mick Foley.
What have you learned by speaking with fiction and nonfiction authors, such as Steve Berry, that you’ve been able to apply to your own work as a writer?
Well, actually, I met Steve after I wrote the two novels. I did learn that my suspicions were confirmed… If I were to have tried to create a fiction readership, it would have required six or seven novels. Once it became clear that wrestling fans were not going to follow me on that particular journey, I realized I had to make a decision whether or not to dedicate myself to being the best novelist I could be or spend some time with my family.
I think the two novels were great experiences. I’m really proud that I wrote them. But I made that decision because as strange as it sounds, I thought writing was a less healthy (laughs) lifestyle than wrestling. There’s only so much caffeine that the body can endure. And the second book was largely written from 9 PM to 5 AM, at which point I would take over the parenting duties. So, it was tough. It was a tough ride. Everything I did was done in great bursts of energy. There were six or eight week marathon writing sessions. I never had the discipline like Steve to write every day as a way of life. For me, (laughs) it is always a deep dive into the pool and I would stay submerged until I came up with something noteworthy, then I emerged.
When your first autobiography, Have A Nice Day, came out they weren’t common in the wrestling industry. As a matter of fact, yours may have been the first one.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that wrestling is the only entertainment sub-genre where guys (laughs) regularly do their own writing. When I say “regularly,” there’s probably been eight or nine of us who’ve actually done it. And I don’t think baseball, basketball or football can say the same.
To this day people come to my shows with this 15-year-old, massive, mammoth (laughs) tomb and they’re really proud of it. They talk about how it influenced their lives. And the just the way I took on the task of writing, which seemed impossible at the time, showed other people that things are possible if you give it your best shot.
(laughs) I appreciate that. That’s a much better and more welcome story than, “You really encouraged me man.” And I go, “What did I encourage you to do?” And he goes, “To start wrestling.” (laughs) I don’t want to lead you down that path. Have a Nice Day, for a lot of people, was the first book they were reading willfully.
The editorial process is interesting. I know certain authors hate it while other love it. Where do you fall along that spectrum?
I remember with my first book my editor asked me if I ever considered being an editor because I so willingly cut things from my own book. And in many cases, what I cut were suggestions he would have had.
One author told me I had a gift (laughs) other authors didn’t have. And I said, “To know when my writing isn’t good?” And he said, “Exactly!” (laughs) Usually, writers think every word they write is a masterpiece. But when I did my first novel, I specifically went with the most demanding editor and she was great. We had a few offers for that first novel and she suggested the most changes and the most work for the least amount of money. And I went with her because I believed that she had a feel for it and how to make it better.
I think if I ever did sit down to write something of substance again (laughs) I’d turn it in and say, “Do what you want with it.” At the time, I enjoyed the editorial process, whether it was a 200,000 word autobiography or a 1,500 word article.
Speaking of editing, in your new film, I Am Santa Claus, you had a hand in the editing process, correct?
I know the word Producer is vague but I was really hands-on with this, especially when it came to the editing and I found that I loved that aspect of it too. Trying to take the footage and tell the best possible story with it, even if it meant cutting out parts that were personally important. Leaving a great scene with me and my son on the editing floor, even though there’s not technically an editing floor anymore, was tough but you do what you think is best for the film. So, whether it’s editing a book or a film, the editorial process extends across multiple mediums.
For those unfamiliar with I Am Santa Claus, what should they expect from the film?
My fans know that I’ve had a fascination with Santa Claus and Christmas for a long time and I spend most of my time in the Foley year-round Christmas room. And they know I take my portrayal of the iconic figure very seriously. For my money, it’s the greatest cinematic metamorphosis since (laughs) Lon Chaney turned into The Wolf Man. To watch me transform from Mick Foley to Santa Claus, I think, is pretty inspirational. I love the movie and I loved being part of it. So, people should expect…while you might think it’s light-hearted and funny, it’s actually a really substantial character piece on five guys and what drives them to take on this character each year.
In addition to taking place on film, your storytelling is now taking place on stage. When I saw your live show earlier this year in Philadelphia, during your set you started telling a story about The Undertaker’s Streak being broken at WrestleMania and then you went off on a tangent and I had no idea if you were ever coming back (laughs). Then, when I thought all hope was gone, you brought it back to the Streak in a masterful way that totally caught me by surprise. It was phenomenal. How do you go about telling such a complex, yet satisfying, story on stage?
I do enjoy it, and I have to be careful not to go off on those tangents but in that case it was intentional. I basically start off with a premise and then take people on a fairly long autobiographical journey that (laughs) concludes by coming back to the original premise. And I’ve found that stories are at their best when people forget the intention of the story. So, when you come around, it’s not a technical call-back, as they say in the comedy world. But you’re definitely calling back the original premise, and when people get it, it’s a very rewarding, sinking-in feeling.
Knowing that you’re visiting multiple cities on an annual basis, how do you keep your stage show fresh year after year?
I’ll never go back to the same city with the same show, and each show is something of a unique experience because they evolve over time – even if it’s just because the question-and-answer session will be unique in each city.
I start out with an idea of where I want to go and I add to it, take things away and make it as good as it can possibly be. Even if it’s just me driving down the road going, “Boy, I should have really put more emphasis on the first syllable.” (laughs) I really want to make it as much fun as it can possibly be. And then at a certain point, you realize, all right, I’ve got this down and it looks like I’m going through a routine. It’s time to start thinking about the next show. I’ve already got ideas for the next show starting in January. I will start out with some ideas and basically (laughs) just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks.
Is there anything you’ve yet to accomplish that you’d like to do?
I’m not sure. I love doing these shows and I’d like to get involved in future film projects and I want to be home more often. Doing these shows on the road is the perfect way to be my own boss and get the same rush that I did when I was in the ring, without getting hurt, and still rack up enough frequent flyer miles to maintain my status with Delta.