Yesterday Mick Foley revealed how fraternising with other comedians has rubbed off on him in the fact he has learnt to take old stories and give them a completely different spin for use on the comedy circuit. He also confessed that the Montreal and Edinburgh festivals were the two best things that could have happened to himand began hinting at how hard it really is to get shows off the ground in the US. Let’s pick up where we left off… Read More
So, before diving into this Mick Foley interview, I feel it would be remiss of me not to mention that I have a substantial interest in professional wrestling (there’ll be a photo of me somewhere on this page that should emphasise my claims of wrestling geekery, I mean, look at me). Mick Foley, well, he was always one of my favourites, I have followed his career through wrestling, writing, his role as the subject of documentaries, and now, I’m following his career as a stand-up comedian. Read More
The Madness Magnet, Ed Surname has been filming every moment of his waking life for over 10 years with a view to sharing his crazy situations that he seems to naturally attract, all the while creating an introspective case study of what it’s really like to follow dreams showbiz dreams. Ed can say “been there, done that, bought the T-shirt” for pretty any situation you can imagine.
He first became a wrestler, under the pseudonym, Matt Skillz, mentored by and living with none other than Jake “The Snake” Roberts. His wrestling carrer involved years of travelling, with 10 hour round trips to 3 hour gruelling lessons. Out of sheer dedication, he never missed a single week. Ed took the last ever bump in a WWF arena, had the final photo on Earth with Yokozuna and amassed a massive $20,000’s worth of wrestling merchandise.
Despite this fascination, his wife can consider herself extremely lucky to have a husband who says he is even more obsessed with spending time with her. Once he met her, all the travelling stopped temporarily in favour of a comedy career, which seems to be taking off rather nicely. He also hosts a radio show, the Standup Sitdown, interviewsing comedians to share their insight into following showbiz dreams with listeners. Ed also recently appeared on our Dot Com(edy) Spot, and, as it’s not every day you meet someone who’s filmed their entire life, we were more than eager to have a chat with him to share this unique journey with you.
When did you realise you wanted to document your entire life and how much of your life has this project consumed in terms of filming/editing?
At 7 I decided to be an entertainer (subject to personal opinion!) and wanted to record that pursuit for myself, but in those days it was just photos and tape recorders. I got a video camera at 17 which was really big; it was before everybody had one on their phone. It’s easy to forget we didn’t always have them in our pocket. I also wanted to record my life due to naturally attracting mad situations. The two pursuits merged and now my career is sharing mad things that happened to me. However, it’s also the first case study of someone’s entire journey into showbusiness with every single step filmed.
Since the filming covers my personal life, filming is all-consuming (I’m filming me writing this right now). Editing is probably 60 hours a week- though I have so far only released just under 100 shows.
How do you manage to film so much of your life whilst maintaining a fresh approach?
Assuming I do keep it fresh, it’s cuz I go through different career stages- there has been wrestling, on the street bits, family bits, sketches, stunts, radio, stand-up, then running my own comedy night. I also put a twist on whatever I do, like at my comedy night I interviewed acts on stage after their sets. I have so many plans I’ll likely never complete them all.
How do you manage to strike a balance between showbusiness and family life, particularly as you film so much of your life?
My wife is extremely supportive which grounds it. But honestly, I couldn’t find a balanace for ages. It affected family life but the project itself doesn’t shy away from that, so the struggle has become part of the story. The sheer magnitude of the project is lost on some people, who are perhaps expecting a few YouTube sketches. It’s an intimate case study that looks at literally every step of my journey into showbusiness- first payment, first TV appearance etc, and all of my family’s feelings on them. With other performers you hear in retrospect about how it affected family life. With me, you see it. It’s never been done.
Has no one ever said that you were over obsessive with this project? You even tried tracking everything down even if someone took a photo and your leg was in the distant background. Surely this is going a bit too far. What did these people say once you tracked them down? Anyone ever call the cops?
Oh yeah it’s totally over the top, I’ll be the first to say! Then again, nobody on the planet is doing my project so I have to draw my own lines. I pursued some photos which ended up becoming integral to my project, making me lose perspective and pursue everything. Luckily, there has been no cop-calling, largely due to the fact that my politely requesting photos hasn’t been considered a criminal offence, no matter how frequent.
The most difficult pursuits have been recordings of when I performed in Daytona Beach and also when I fell off a wall in St. Ives while I had my arm in a sling. Two pretty unique recordings that I still haven’t got, that are really needed for the project. However, the project as a whole can never fail- I simply made a chapter covering how I became obsessed, and another chapter exploring how if you’re doing a personal project, it’s an uphill struggle when dealing with people who don’t understand it. My case study is difficult by its nature but also explores the concept of how it is difficult to implement difficult case studies. It looks at itself, and it was all born out of being obsessive.
Having said that, it appears that your persistence has paid off. For example after three solid years trying to get into a magazine you did eventually manage it and from that appearance you got a deal to license out your videos. What would you say to anyone trying to get recognition in the showbusiness world?
That literally every step is a fight and the equivalent of a job interview IF you are wanting things on your terms. I’m saying that from my own experience and from the experience of every show business personality that I like, who have said the same. Also, one needs to personally define recognition: there are amazing artists that have no mainstream recognition and all that matters when the sun burns out is if you had a great time.
Which “pitches” have been the biggest failures, to date, with regards trying to get into magazines/television/radio?
The hardest ones to take aren’t blunt rejections, they’re the ones where everyone means well but to no avail. I had a TV company that really, really understood the project and were going to develop it with me, but they went into liquidation.
You could say that you learn from everything so nothing is a failure. But comforting philosophy aside, I considered it a bad day when I had a TV pitch go down well for a pilot but was then hit with a £16,000 bill at the eleventh hour if it was to go ahead. I declined, gutted, but then remembered I had a project where every disaster is my latest storyline.
You have had “nine near death experiences”. Can you enlighten us a bit about these? Where they all the result of your life filming master plan or did some of them happen by chance?
Firstly, thanks for generously referring to this crazy endavour as a master plan!
The near death experiences were all from filming…
1. We went to film some layabouts at a holiday resort and planned to invite one back to our hotel then wake up the hotel manager. But we got lost in a drug dealers den and held up with knives.
2. I was attacked by a gun maniac.
3. I nearly fell off a car park during a photo shoot.
4. I had no choice but to take a car ride with someone who went 90mph down a one-way forest road. At night. The wrong way.
5. In Florida I found myself trapped up a tree with venomous snakes at the bottom.
6. I am allergic to bees and was stuck on top of some castle ruins while a swarm surrounded me.
7. I went running at night when I lived in Florida. I was told not to, something I later saw sense in when I was met in the dark by a massive animal that I managed to run away from into the house.
8. I jumped off a 30ft bridge.
9. There have been many suicide overdoses (so, more than 9 near-deaths). Sorry to lower the tone, but they are part of my history.
I also hear you had a stalker and rather than seeking a restraining order you actually developed a stage show with him. How did all of this come about? When did you find out you had a stalker and how did you approach them regarding the stage show? Were they willing to work with you?
He met me under the proviso that he was a TV producer, but it became apparent that wasn’t the case. In the following weeks I was bombarded with 4am calls and did have to call the police when he threatened suicide if I didn’t work with him. However, in an untold part of the story he actually got me a show business job at the place he was doing an internship at, which was too good to turn down, therefore I was around him by default. Fast forward to months later when I was developing a stage show, I wanted to focus on the stalker as a storyline. As things with the stalker had calmed down, it crossed my mind that it’d be different to blur reality and have him involved as himself. Development began and he was willing, but he was ultimately too difficult to work with so the script remains on the cutting room floor- though I haven’t hired a cleaner just yet.
You also take a lot of your filming out on the street. What are the most memorable “stunts” you have played out in the public and how do passers by react to you?
Passers by are supposed to react with confusion if I am, for example, singing a song with a trolley attendant after having convinced him to wear tape on his face and abandon his workday. Of course, that’s the intention. Most memorable would be visiting a gun maniac at 3am, who really could have shot us. The first time we visited he hadn’t yet bought a gun- but he did punch me in the face and run after us with fire tongs. This aspect of the show isn’t hidden camera, it’s me leaving my common sense at home then making a ‘school project’ with anyone that’s around, about anything that’s confusing.
You have your own radio show “The Standup Sitdown” where you chat with comedians about their journey through business and what it all entails. How did you end up doing this show? What were some of the biggest surprises you have heard from some of your guests?
Though a development of my psychoanalytical exploration of my own journey where I could now explore other, the real intention was to network in London and meet influential people. And that has happened better than I could have hoped for, though it’s no accident. I’ve been surprised that every single guest has been really interesting and introspective about the craft of comedy. Nobody has been disappointing. It started when I had an interview on the station about my 500 hours of footage. They spoke about me doing my own show; I had a printed pitch ready. That’s obsession for you.
On the back of your interviews with comedians, you turned your hand to becoming a stand-up comedian yourself. How has that gone for you? Was it all you expected it to be?
Yes and no. The bad thing is that when labelled as a stand-up, people expect all your other content to be always hilarious, when most of my videos are me sharing my feelings about my journey and not meant to be funny at all. I wanted to have stand-up as a way to vent things that really happened to me. Those things may be funny in real life if you consider that they actually happened but a stand-up audience expects a punchline and doesn’t care or always believe they really happened. Therefore its not always the right outlet for me personally. But there have been big promotors that have been very complimentary, therefore in many ways it’s taken off more than I planned.
Although comedians seem to the the happiest people on stage, they are only human and obviously many can become depressed. You filmed some depressive periods of your life. Is it not difficult to now watch these videos of some of the hardest moments in your life? What message did you want to get across by filming the “downs” of your life?
On the contrary it’s very uplifting to see how things can be turned around. The footage shows this is possible and this is now my motivation for including them in my show, though at the time I was just filming out of habit. Comedians especially seem prone to depression, but mental health in general needs to be talked about more. Apathy is part of the problem, so I can’t consider working with these filmed moments a difficult thing.
We’d like to than Ed for his time with us and hope to have him back with is in the near future.
You can keep up with all his latest antics over on his website.