WWE superstar Chris Jericho, after making his mark on the wrestling world, wants to conquer Hollywood.
Easier said than done. Jericho soon discovers the entertainment industry is an entirely different beast where he must prove himself (again), while dealing with all of its insanity and absurd lifestyle. At least, that's the premise behind Jericho's fictionalized 10-episode web series, "But I'm Chris Jericho!", which releases a new episode every Tuesday (starting November 5). Jericho recently jumped on the phone with HuffPost TV to discuss flexing his comedic muscles and spoofing himself, and moving from the soap opera of wrestling to the untamed wilds of the internet.
Many wrestlers-turned-actors jumpstart their Hollywood careers in action, sci-fi and horror projects. What excites you about comedy?
Chris Jericho: It's something I've always been into. Growing up in Canada, we have a very interesting sense of humour. When I was a kid, I was always watching "Fawlty Towers," "Monty Python," "Black Adder" and then, of course, "SCTV" with Eugene Levy, John Candy, Dave Thomas and Catherine O'Hara. Then "Kids in the Hall" came out, where the stuff is not really funny, but super-fun. I've always had a little bit of a warped sense of humour just by growing up in Canada. But, also, just being attracted to comedy. I've never had a problem opening the door and making fun of myself. You have no limits, no boundaries and never take yourself too seriously. That's kind of my natural personality.
Where did the idea for "But I'm Chris Jericho!" stem from?
It came from a real-life scenario. Back in 2005, I left wrestling to go to Los Angeles to study acting and break into that world. I realized pretty early on that just because I was Chris Jericho, world champion and worldwide star in wrestling, a lot of people in Hollywood didn't really care. I was starting at the bottom, which wasn't a big deal, but I would go to an audition with 10 other guys there. They would like me for some "Ghost Hunter" show and it would be a one-line audition of, "The ghost rose from the grave." "Okay, thank you. Next." I'd be like, "That's it? I'm Chris Jericho. Don't I get another chance or more of a response?" I'm not sure if "Curb Your Enthusiasm" was out at that point, but the mindset was, "What would happen if Jericho was blackballed from wrestling and had no other choice but to get into acting at the lowest level with a half-assed team behind him?" It blossomed from there.
What's been fun about playing an exaggerated version of yourself?
When a lot of people see my name attached to something and they don't really know what the show is about, they're thinking, "It's going to be Jericho in control, in charge, probably doing something with wrestling or beating people up." This is the exact opposite. I'm not in control. I'm almost the straight man in the show. I almost based the concept on Jerry Seinfeld playing Jerry Seinfeld on the show "Seinfeld." It's an exaggerated version of him. Some of his characteristics are real and some are completely exaggerated. That's kind of what I'm doing with "Jericho."
I don't have to be the star of the show, even though it's my name. It makes for a better show to be surrounded by a cast of complete lunatics and how I'm dealing with all this ridiculous stuff that gets thrown in my face. That's why the show really worked, and the way I wanted to play the character as well. A little bit uptight. A little bit cranky. A little bit over-the-top at times, but always the butt of the joke in every episode.
The first two episodes feature a naked man leaving poop streaks on your expensive couch and the other an audition from hell. Please tell me those weren't based on personal experiences.
One of them was and one of them wasn't. The naked dad, "Sausage and Eggs" episode, was a strip that we created. "Pirates" was basically, to a T, exactly what happened to me one time when I went for an audition in L.A. for a Lifetime movie. I was reading these serious lines while there's a pirates movie audition next door. You can literally hear the pirates making noise. I'm delivering these serious, teary-eyed lines. I'm like, "Can nobody else hear this?" And they're like, "That's not in the script." What you're seeing in the scene is exactly what happened, including the phone ringing and her picking it up during the audition. A lot of stuff like that happens. You can either sit down and cry about this or you can use it for something positive. As soon as we started talking about this web series, I knew this had to be a script. It's one of my favourite episodes. As ridiculous as it sounds, it's real.
So what kind of antics can viewers expect over the next eight episodes?
I wanted to start with a bang and have our most ridiculous, over-the-top episode with "Sausage and Eggs." The rest of the series doesn't really get much better for Chris. We learn more about his ridiculous agent, played by Andy Kindler, who is amazing. Chris goes to acting class, where Scott Thompson plays my acting teacher. If you liked the first two episodes, you're definitely going to like the rest of the series because the characters that have been introduced continue to grow and blossom and bloom. And the situations get more and more stupid.
Will your Thor be popping by at all?
Anal Thor? No. That was a G4-only thing. Super funny, though. Talk about something we made up last-minute. When I did that character, I decided he would have a Stewie from "Family Guy"-type voice. Suddenly, it becomes the biggest thing ever. One of my most famous characters, shall we say.
You come across as fearless. Do you intentionally seek work that challenges you or is the trick to just always commit to the material?
It's a combination of both. That's one thing about wrestling and singing ... you have to commit to what you're doing. If you don't believe it, nobody else will. It doesn't matter how ridiculous it is. If you sell it and commit to it, people will respond. That's part of it.
The other part of it is, yes, I'm fearless. Like I said, there's a certain stereotype that comes along with being a wrestler. It used to be a detriment to me, like, "Oh, you're not big enough to be a wrestler." "Why not? Those muscles are bigger than you." "I disagree." Now, it's like, "You're a wrestler, so you should probably do wrestling parts." I've always stayed away from those too. When I'm wrestling, that's what I do. When I'm not, the last thing I want to do is play bouncer #1 or security guard #2.
What was the thinking behind doing this as a web series? Are you testing the waters for a weekly TV gig?
Like I said, this is a show that's been developed and created and pitched and kicking around for years. It got some interest from big networks, but never really went anywhere. So when the idea came up to do the web series, it was like, "Well, yeah, let's give it a try and see how it goes." In this day and age, you could probably get just as many people to watch your web series as if you had a show on the CW or the Outdoor Life Network or whatever. There's a certain convenience to it that more and more people are getting used to, similar to iTunes or Netflix, where they want something and they want to watch it now and wherever they can. Also, on top of that, we have 10 episodes, basically a 70-minute pilot, that we can now show to any network and say, "This is what we can do with our idea." We don't even have to worry about getting a pilot funded. We have one already. It's living, breathing and it's great. That's the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is we have an amazing web series that is funny.
You can check out "But I'm Chris Jericho!" on the Action YouTube channel.