Jake “The Snake” Roberts lived a hard life during his 36-year career as a professional wrestler, both inside and outside the ring. Whether working for the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, later the WWE) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in the ’80s and ‘90s, he was usually the bad guy, taking out the hero with underhanded tactics and siccing his pet cobra or python on whoever stood in his way.
But despite Roberts’ dirty deeds, wrestling fans loved him for his dazzling in-ring work and his deadly skills on the mic when it came time to get in his opponent’s head. They wouldn’t even boo him during his most iconic heel moment, when Roberts set his cobra upon “Macho Man” Randy Savage, letting it sink its fangs into Savage’s arm on live TV.
Over the years, Roberts had legendary rivalries with Savage, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Sting, The Undertaker and many more. He was regarded so highly by fans and peers that he was inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2011.
But behind the scenes, Roberts struggled with alcohol and drug abuse for decades, getting sober for good in 2012.
All this to say: Roberts has a lot of tales to tell. And that’s what he’ll do at The Comedy Closet in West Columbia next week. Roberts will pull back the curtain and tell behind-the-scenes stories about some of the biggest names in wrestling.
“You’re going to hear about everybody from Ric Flair to Rick Rude to “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan to Roddy Piper to Hulk Hogan to The Macho Man,” Roberts tells Free Times. “I just try to take people back to those days and tell them some of the stories from the locker room, or the ring, or bars or strip joints.”
Most of Roberts stories are emphatically R-rated. Some are X-rated.
“You can’t put 15 to 20 guys in a locker room and expect it to be church,” Roberts says. “If obscene language bothers you, do not come. We were always pulling pranks on each other, and it got outta hand a lot of times. Our idea of humor is a whole lot different than a normal person’s idea of humor. It had to be twisted, it had to hurt, and it had to leave someone mumbling in the corner of the locker room. But we had a real good time. I’m gonna take the folks on a nice ride.”
Roberts began telling these stories onstage after he and some famous friends went to see wrestler Mick Foley, aka Mankind, do a standup comedy show.
“I went to see Mick’s show with Scott Hall and Diamond Dallas Page,” he says, “and I sat there after the show going, ‘My God, I’m a lot funnier than he is.’ And the guys started prodding me, like, ‘Well, why don’t you go and do a show? You’ve got 36 years of stories to pull from!’ They kind of challenged me, and that’s what got me to do it.”
From autograph signing and photo ops before the show to the first story to the Q&A at the end, Roberts says he holds nothing back, just like in the old days.
“I leave it all in the ring,” he promises. “When I open it up for a Q&A, I give them answers they may not want to hear. There are no boundaries. It’s brutal, in your face, fun, and not for the faint of heart.”
It’s not just fun and games, though. No boundaries means that he’ll also be talking about his struggles with addiction.
Roberts says he tells those stories to give others hope.
“There’s a lot of people out there struggling, man,” he offers. “I encourage people, if you are struggling, to come to the show and let me know if you’d like to talk. After the show, we’ll go find a room somewhere, and we’ll sit down and talk, and I’ll see if I can help you get going the right direction. It’s my duty and my joy to help other people get their lives back together because it is possible. It’s not easy but it is possible.”
Roberts adds that he’s happy to bring his show to Columbia — for a couple of reasons.
“Coming back to Columbia’s going to be interesting,” he says. “I tried to marry a girl from Columbia but that didn’t work out. I spent a lot of time in the South with different promotions, and it’s pretty cool when you go out and talk to fans who haven’t seen you for 20 or 30 years, and you see their eyes light up. That makes me so damn happy.”
What:Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Where:The Comedy Closet, 735 Meeting St.
When:Wednesday, Nov. 27, 8 p.m.