On February 13th, I was sitting around watching some DVR’d “Law & Order” episode and crunching some baseball numbers (big Saturday night!) when I shut down the laptop and rallied.
As the title suggests, I rolled up to The Hollywood Improv to get my comedy on. As the title suggests, there were drinks to be had during this laughfest and story-telling extravaganza. Many of the folks near me might have loaded up on the adult beverages. I rolled up with a caffeine surge, courtesy of a quad skim latte (soft, I know). The legend shot-gunned a couple Red Bulls – they oughta sponsor the tour. Seriously.
I came to The Improv, like many in attendance, reaching for a little piece of the past. As I would tell the legend himself after the show, I first became enamored with the power of words, rants and verbosity while watching wrestling as a kid. Sure, I admired Vin Scully, Bob Costas, Jim Nantz, Dan Patrick and all of the other broadcast heroes, and they have their place in what I do now, but that ability to cut through everything with a sneer, a four or five-minute rant and that maniacal grin inside the squared circle hooked me.
I’ll save the wrestling tales of PPVs, backyard wrestling, beatdowns for a fictional belt and myriad other items for future podcasts — and believe me, there are a ton of them. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t donning the red and yellow of Hulkamania. I followed two – the brute strength and badass speeches of The Road Warriors (sorry, my body type screamed Animal) and the brilliant eloquence of Roddy Piper. (I still call people “pieces of garbage” when driving the 405 in LA.)
So, you could understand that, while I didn’t come bearing photos, belts or memorabilia on that night, I brought a lot of memories, more knowledge of the history than some would acknowledge and a desire to hear those tales from the squared circle. I received a bonus of Piper playing the electric bagpipes. Again, I digress.
Piper was greeted warmly by the fans in attendance as the famed bagpipe entrance fanfare blared over the speakers. He sprinted to the stage and smiled from ear-to-ear. There was a genuine feeling of respect and appreciation for those who came out to the show (an 11:30 pm start). I won’t roll through the act here, even in cursory terms, and give away the stuff you should be paying for when it comes on tour. It’s a trip through the memory bank – a 40-year tour from the first days on the circuit, through the growth of the WWF to WrestleMania and so forth. Seriously, you’re looking at 40 years of wrestling, film and that stare and laugh.
Along the way, Piper mixes stories with one-liners, taking his shots at his adversaries from the time, management (as you’d expect) and some of the big names. And the whole time, and this is the key to why this works — it feels like Piper is one of your buddies meeting you for drinks on a Friday night.
Piper bounced from story to story, some of which were extended versions that will be probably be refined over time (Jeffrey Ross made light of his verbosity in the Q & A session), punctuating the big stories with a quick jab.
There was a great energy in the crowd, and everyone in attendance hung on every word. Even when he lost his place, you could feel people inching toward the edges of their seats for the inevitable punchline. The stories will get shortened and refined over time. But there’s no caging the energy.
Obviously, those who grew up on wrestling in the 80s and early 90s are the prime audience here, but the tales can be enjoyed by anyone. It’s about raising a little hell and pulling back the curtain just a little bit. “Boys being boys,” for lack of a better phrase.
Following the show and Q & A session, the crowd was invited to hang out to meet Piper and get an autograph or a photo. Piper graciously greeted everyone who stuck around (we’re talking 1:30 am), signed pictures, answered more questions and showed his appreciation for those who came out to the show. I recalled a famous “Saturday Night’s Main Event” sketch and offered my best wishes for the show. Influences come from everywhere, people. Embrace them where you find them.
Watch for upcoming shows
I would remiss if I failed to acknowledge the other comedians on the slate. The jokes were all over the place and, at times, I was left looking for the non-existent remote. “Did I just hear that?” Truly a great mix of material, range and a great complement to Piper’s tales.
Check out their websites for more dates and material.
Don Barris hosted the event – http://www.myspace.com/simplydon
Eddie Pence – http://eddiepence.com
Bert Kreischer – http://www.bertbertbert.com/
Brad Williams – http://www.myspace.com/funnybrad
Light it up.
Chew some gum. Kick some ass. Revel, if only for a minute, in your memories of “the rock and wrestling connection,” “Piper’s Pit” and legends such as Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, “Mr. Wonderful,” “Cowboy Bob” and Andre The Giant.
I leave you with this thought. Can you imagine how many channels Vince McMahon and the WWF would have had if “reality” television had exploded in the 80s? Even that damn parrot that Koko B. Ware had would have had his own show.