Chris Jericho is a world champion professional wrestler, a New York Times bestselling author, and the frontman of heavy metal band Fozzy. On Sunday, November 20, he takes his Talk is Jericho podcast to Toronto for a live broadcast at the 1300-seat John Bassett Theatre. We recently caught up to talk about his Jack-of-all-trades status, the temperament of wrestling fans, and his love for Canada's largest city.
Steven Shehori: You've been doing Talk Is Jericho for a while now, but recording it in front of an audience is a relatively new thing.
Chris Jericho: I had Kevin Smith on the podcast a couple of years ago, and he does a lot of live shows. He said, "Any live show you do, record it because you can always use it." And I've done a couple of one-man shows, Q&As -- that sort of thing. I always put them up on Talk Is Jericho and audiences seemed to enjoy being a fly on the wall for that. So it's kind of the live interactive way of doing the podcast. I just do my conversation, people do their Q&As, ask what they want to ask, and everybody has fun.
SS: What feels different about the live experience?
CJ: Anytime you're live, you get that instant gratification. Whether you're doing a rock show or a match, or if you're doing a conversation in front of people, when something funny happens you get that reaction right away. Whereas if it's just one on one, my guest and I can enjoy the laughs but it always accentuates the funny stories when you have three, four, five, six hundred people laughing along with you. It makes the ambiance better because you're putting on a little more of a show. I find when it's one on one it's much more personal and you probably get a bit better of a conversation. When you're in front of people, it can go in a different direction. It's just two different ways of doing it.
SS: Is there an expectation for it to be bigger, funnier, crazier?
CJ: I find the best way to do it is to not ignore the crowd, but to be aware that the more of a 'show' you're putting on, the faker it is. It becomes less legitimate. Whereas if you really get into it one on one and you just happen to have five hundred of your closest friends watching, it can still be very intimate. So, when I try to not put on so much of a show, it always works better. It's like when you do improv comedy, when you don't try to be funny it's always funnier. And I find with the live conversations, when you don't try to go over the top and entertain it's much more entertaining.
SS: You're no strnger to performing comedy in Toronto. A while back you hosted the Sunday Night Live show with the Sketchersons.
CJ: Yeah, that's right. I did that and I did a play in Toronto about ten years ago. Toronto's always a cool town. We always have good shows with my band in Toronto. It's just one of those cities where you know it's going to be a good time no matter what it is you're doing.
SS: It's interesting: I see a bit of a parallel between you and Henry Rollins. Like him, you're a writer, you do the spoken stuff, you've got the hard rock band...
CJ: I think in this day and age, the more diverse you are as a performer the better it is. The more different lines of communication you have, the better it is for yourself. And you never have to depend on just one thing, which is always a smart plan.
SS: Some wrestlers are able to stay in the ring beyond a certain age. But a lot of guys have to close up shop because of the wear and tear, and they don't necessarily have something to fall back on. whether it's to make money or just occupy their time. It seems like you've planned ahead.
CJ: I've always had that attitude. I've never considered myself just a wrestler. And with that in mind, since the day I first got into the business when I was 19 years old up until now, it's enabled me to embrace that a lot easier. I have no fear to try different things. As long as I feel it's something I can enjoy and that I will enjoy, I'll give it a try. And if it's something I'm not interested in, I won't do it. One of the best things about being in my position is that I don't have to do anything for money. I do it because I want to do it and because I'm looking for a challenge. I'm looking for the experience that will be beneficial to me as a person and as a performer.
SS: Wrestling fans are very loyal. They can also be a little rambunctious. Do you have to get people to chill out a bit at your live shows, or has that not been a problem yet?
CJ: No, not really. I think a lot of wrestling fans -- a lot like heavy metal fans -- get a reputation for being rambunctious. That's not really the case. It's not like they're running down the street body slamming each other, or something along those lines. I find people are very respectful. Wrestling fans are a lot like Star Wars fans or KISS fans, in that they're very knowledgeable and very opinionated, but also very respectful of what it is we do. I think my podcast connects not just with wrestling fans, but with fans of music and comedy and the paranormal -- all the different types of guests I have. It's just conversations. It's not an interview, I don't have a list of questions, I never prepare. We just go and talk. That's always, I find, the best way to do the show. As I've said a few times, people like being a fly on the wall and kind of eavesdropping into your conversation. Wrestling fans probably appreciate it even more because there's a certain veil of mystery to the business, by design. It's the reason there's a Billboard Magazine or a Variety Magazine, if you like movies. Or Entertainment Weekly. It's because you like hearing the behind-the-scenes stories. There's plenty of them. And I think that's another reason why these shows work.
SS: On your podcast you interview people from several disciplines -- not just wrestling. Any dream guests you'd love to have on?
CJ: I think Paul McCartney is obviously at the top of the food chain. Keith Richards, those types of people. But as far as someone I've been working on getting for a long time, it'd be Mike Tyson. He's at the top of the list, for sure.
SS: Let's put that out into the universe and see what happens.
Talk Is Jericho LIVE! hits Toronto on Sunday, November 20 at 10am. Special guest: WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens. Ticket information is available at www.MarkOutMoments.com.