Over the last year I have had a bit of a habit of going on mini – and not so mini – adventures on a whim. Going to America was probably the biggest – it wasn’t exactly on a few hours notice, but it wasn’t planned way in advance. Plus then there was a two day trip to Paris for a free gig, that was fun too.
The latest mini adventure came about when the guys from Eros Comedy, who put on the last Mick Foley Standup Tour, announced that there would be a one off evening with William Regal coming up. I was sold instantly: William Regal is a legend, one of the most experienced and incredible wrestling personalities in the history of the business, and he is completely hilarious too. I knew a couple of people that might be going, and as soon as tickets went on sale I grabbed mine. There were, however, a couple of setbacks.
Firstly, it sold out in half an hour, before I could really even ask if anyone else was getting a ticket. Secondly, it was mid week… in Birmingham. And thirdly, I broke my hand shortly after getting my ticket. Still, what’s a 300 mile awkward drive on your own when it is William Regal? Nothing! So hand in splint and after checking with my boss that I could head off early if I took my Blackberry and laptop with me (I was still working, after all…) and I headed off to Brum with my sat nav balanced on my knee after losing the holder…
The journey was, thankfully, uneventful, with the hardest bit being finding the venue itself (the fantastic Glee Club). I wasn’t alone in my troubles though, as just after I found the entrance I heard a distinctive voice behind me “ah, here we are…”; it turns out Mr Regal didn’t seem too sure where he was headed either, and was being guided in on the phone. Doors opened at 8pm so I headed out briefly for some food (check out Mambos Piri-Piri on Ladywell Walk) and headed back for a pint, discovering via Twitter that Jim Ross was going to be there. Now I knew what organiser Chris Brooker meant when he tweeted “Just seen who’s on @RealKingRegal’s guest list for tonight. #Crikey” earlier.
Sure enough, after going in and taking my seat just in front of the bar (I can’t emphasise how tiny the Studio at Glee Birmingham is. It’s tiny. Which is awesome.) I turned round to see none other than JR standing behind me, sans cowboy hat but wearing his OU jacket. JR was out with friends, including Jerry Brisco, to watch the show (he and William Regal go back a long way), and whilst I can appreciate people want to say hi and have a photo, it did make me feel a little awkward that he couldn’t just sit down and enjoy himself. I know that is part of the trappings of fame, but it must be very frustrating to seemingly be ‘on call’ at all times – he could hardly say no when people asked, but if he hadn’t have dashed off a couple of times he would have been there hours!
So, on to the show. In a similar format to the Foley shows, there was support from comedians who were also wrestling fans, as well as compering by Chris Brooker. Chris is a huge wrestling fan, and it was incredibly refreshing to have a compere that seems as genuinely pleased to be there as anyone in the audience. If he hadn’t have put the show on himself, he would have bought a ticket and been front and center in the crowd. He is also very good at what he does – setting the mood and exploring the niche that is a pro-wrestling audience!
The first support was Jim Smallman. I’ll be honest here, I was always going to be biased about Jim’s act. Even though I had never seen him do stand up before, I knew I would love it, and say I loved it, because he is one of the legends behind Progress Wrestling, therefore he can do no wrong in my eyes. Luckily, however, he was bloody brilliant! Jim has a very laid back style, and in such an intimate venue it felt almost as if we were sitting down the pub with friends, rather than watching a comedian performing a ‘routine’. As expected there were plenty of wrestling references, but they wouldn’t have stopped anybody that wasn’t a fan from enjoying the set (except perhaps ‘that’ joke, from Jim’s time at $5 wrestling, that won’t be repeated!).
The second support also represented a UK wrestling promotion – Billy Kirkwood from ICW, north of the border. Kirkwood is almost the complete opposite from Smallman; where Jim was laid back and relaxed, Billy is a pent up ball of energy, bursting onto the stage and reveling in the chance to perform top such a unique niche audience. He also played up to the WWE officials in the room, and whilst nobody could really forget why we were there, the evening was shaping up to be worth the ticket price for the comedy alone.
There was still one man at the back of our minds, however, and after a half hour intermission, and more photocalls for poor ol’ JR, it was time to introduce the man himself, the gentleman, the wrestling villain, William Regal.
As I mentioned earlier, this show was promoted by the same people that did Mick Foley’s tour, however the two shows were very different. Mick Foley came to the UK to perform stand up – bringing with him a comedy act that he was looking to hone and perfect, hoping to become a true comedian in the eyes of wrestling fans and non-fans alike. In fact, he ended up taking his routine to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
William Regal opened with “I don’t do stand up. I haven’t got an act.” It was plainly true, he wasn’t there to tell jokes all night and have people roaring with laughter, however he was there to tell anecdotes from his colourful, and at times hilarious, life, and to interact with the audience. It was fantastic.
It is hard to dislike Regal – he is incredibly articulate and intelligent, he is well mannered, however he carries no aires or graces and is exceptionally humble. Also, he is frankly honest about everything, even past misdemeanors, whilst stating categorically that one should never regret anything, as it is in the past and forms who you are.
Regal (and yes, I am sure you have gathered by now that’s how I am referring to him at all times!) opened with several anecdotes, all going back to his Blackpool and World of Sport days. In fact, there was barely a reference to the WWE throughout the night, which is in itself a testament to the incredibly extensive and wide ranging career he has had. He pointed out at one stage that he has wrestled in more countries than any other professional wrestler. Ever. A fact that earned him a well deserved round of applause!
Due to the fact that Regal didn’t have an ‘act’ as such, the Q&A came round very quickly, however this merely served as inspiration for more anecdotes, tangents and stories from his colorful past (including such gems as boarding a plane in Tokyo and waking up in a cell in Alaska, seemingly for urinating on a flight attendant. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds…) For someone that had little predetermined material, the time allotted disappeared in seemingly an instant, as the curfew drew closer and there was still the meet and greet to fit in. After he finished with a joke that Mick Foley had convinced him he must use to end the show, Regal had a brief respite as a table was hurredly set up, and we all filed out via the upstairs foyer to have a brief chat and a photo.
I thanked him for the Twitter DM he sent me about www.regalsays.com (@regal_says) and he seemed genuinely pleased to say hello, and asked if I could send him all of the Maxine quotes I have, which I will endeavor to do when I have added them all. The organisers also took a photo for each person that will go on Flickr for download, free of charge, which was a great idea to speed things up, and was particularly welcome as the camera I had borrowed for the evening was terrible…
William Regal is a true gentleman, and one that could no doubt tell fascinating, insightful and hilarious tales for many nights to come. I hope that he enjoyed himself and will want to do this again – the whole evening was a tremendous success, including the brilliant support acts and Chris Brooker himself who does an incredible job on these events. This one sold out in half an hour; if he does more I don’t doubt they will be just as popular so follow @ErosComedy and make sure you don’t miss out. Plus, if it happens and there is not one near you, then go the distance to get to a show: it will be worth it.