Chris Jericho talks 'But I'm Chris Jericho', WWE return, 'The Walking Dead', books and more
Chris Jericho: Never into the comics. I just started watching the show because of zombies. I'm a huge zombie-phile since I was a teenager. And not just, "Oh, I like 'Dawn of the Dead.' Like Lucio Fulci ("Zombie"), Dario Argento and super crazy Giallo-type stuff. Plus I'm a big Frank Darabont fan.
I never even knew it was a comic. I stopped reading comics a long time ago. Nothing against them, I just don't have time with all the other s*** I have going on. But yeah, from the first episode until now, I've never missed one.
To be fair, the episode that aired before "The Talking Dead" ("Indifference") was perfect to analyze. There was so much allegory going on. When I was doing the pre-interview, I kept coming up with more shit and I was like, "Dude, I'm a genius." And afterword everybody kept saying, "You brought up all these great points." Because it was so obvious, that everyone was letting go.
The show seems to have at least one big character death each year. Any thoughts on who you think it will be?
I mean, they're kind of running out of people. Maybe they'll throw a monkey wrench and not have it. hey had a major banishment, but I think Carol's (Melissa McBride) going to come back in a big way. If somebody's going to go, I think it's Tyreese (Chad Coleman). He's just too much of a loose cannon.
Who knows, though? It could be Rick (Andrew Lincoln), you never know with them and I think that's why the show is so great. And, in my case, I don't read the comic, so I don't really know if they stick to it.
They really don't, which helps make the show so special. Even if you're a fan of the comic, the show is a whole other world.
That's half the fun, because even the readers don't know what's going on. For me, especially since "Breaking Bad" is done, it's moved into the forefront as my favorite show. That, and "Sons of Anarchy" is pretty bada** too.
I loved "Breaking Bad," but it's funny because I loved "Dexter" too. "Dexter" was the tale of two shows, though. At its best it was one of the most well-written, coolest, creepiest f***ing rad shows ever. At its worst, it was just filled with plot holes and they just didn't give a s***, and the finale I felt fell in that category. Come on, seriously? It's like watching "Friday the 13th Part 12."
"The Walking Dead" doesn't do that. It's all I ask for in a show, just don't give me blatant plot holes where I just can't buy it.
Now you've got your own show, the web series "But I'm Chris Jericho." What's the story behind the idea of that?
This came from ... About 2005 I left WWE and came out to LA to pursue acting and break into this world and I realized fairly early on that even though I was Chris Jericho from WWE and had a huge fan base worldwide, when it came to Hollywood, some people didn't care.
I'd be going auditions with ten other guys who look exactly like me for "CSI: Peoria," and after a line I'd be sent out. I'd be like "...but I'm Chris Jericho, don't I get another chance?"
I couldn't believe how little the name value of Jericho meant, so I thought wouldn't it be interesting if I got blackballed from wrestling and had no other alternative but to go into acting, but I had to take whatever I can get. I'd be trying to make it on a bigger scale, but having to start out doing commercials for laundromats in Reseda.
So I started coming up with idea for a Christopher Guest-style mockumentary, back in 2006. In retrospect, it's a very "Curb Your Enthusiasm" kind of thing, taking your life to a completely bizarre, exaggerated level, but there's still a kernel of truth in it.
A friend of mine in Toronto and I wrote the pilot. We wrote a couple episodes and started to pitch it, but no one was interested, really. Then about a year and a half ago my friend called me and said "I sold it." I said, "You sold what?" "The show?" "What show?" "But I'm Chris Jericho."
I was like, "You're still working on that?" So he went behind my back, in a good way, and sold it as a web series. Which, four or five years ago, might have seemed like doing a direct-to-DVD movie, but now it's the wave of the future. It's the way to watch TV, because you can watch it whenever you want. With each episode being six to seven minutes, it means you don't have to spend all day watching, but it also means every line has to count. Everything has to be good.
Since this is based on an experience you went through, was there something therapeutic about making fun of it?
I never take myself too seriously, I think you can see that in anything I've done. So it was one of those things where it was a natural progression to take some of these funny experiences and use it to my advantage. Because stupid s*** happens, it happens to all of us.
Now my name value is ten times what it was back then, so to take those experiences that you see on the show, it's not the Chris Jericho you expect to see. I'm pretty much the straight-man on this show. We spent a lot of time creating this ridiculous universe where the other characters are crazier than I am. Still, it's the experiences where nothing good ever happens to Jericho, he takes one step forward and six steps back.
It really was funny. In the episode "Pirates," it's a real thing that happened to me. I went in for an audition for this very serious Lifetime movie, like "Jenny Your Mother is Dying," starring Valerie Bertinelli and next door they were auditioning for a pirate movie. So while I'm delivering all of these very serious lines I'm hearing, "Arr, swab the deck!"
No one in the room is reacting but me and finally I say, "Can you not hear this?" "Well that's not on the script." "But there's pirates!" "Well, you should be a professional."
So when I walks out of there, I knew I didn't get the part, but I also had a great story to write a series about.
What's the response to the series been so far?
Through the roof, man. I think, typical to anything I do, for some reason people assume it's going to be wrestling. They should know better by now, if it's wrestling I'm wrestling, if it's not then it will have absolutely nothing to do with wrestling. It's kind of a backbone for the story, but there's no wrestling in it.
People have been pleasantly surprised by how funny it is. One guy told me, "I didn't think it would be so funny." It's a comedy. If it wasn't funny, I wouldn't have done it. Pretty much, 100% an amazing response and lots of it, which is exactly what you want. You want to start off with a bang, which is why we picked "Sausage and Eggs" as the first episode, with the naked dad. We wanted people, right off the bat, to be throw like, "What the f*** is this?"
It helped us set the tone for what the series is about, gaining a lot of fans in the process.
When did you actually shoot these?
We shot them all in January, ten episodes in five days. My schedule was really tight, so I wrapped in five days, but there was lots of extra content that was filmed in addition to it. We had a great cast because we shot it in Toronto and had access to the Toronto comedy world. We were able to get Andy Kindler ("Late Show with David Letterman"), Scott Thompson ("Kids in the Hall") and Colin Mochrie ("Whose Line is it Anyway?"), plus a bunch of local actors, which made for an amazing cast of legitimately f***ing funny people, which is why the show works. It's not all on my back, nor was it intended to be.
Has there been any thought about continuing into a second season?
Obviously, say the word and I'm there. I think a lot of it now is to see how it does and what the reaction is. As far as I know, we've created something very unique and funny. This alternate Jericho universe has a lot of characters in it and there are so many places we can go with it.
If the response continues to be as good as it has, I see no reason why we wouldn't be asked to do more.
You say now your name value is ten times what it was in 2005. Is acting still something you're pursuing.
Well yeah. It's funny, because I've been acting my whole career. That's what wrestling is, it's acting. I was playing a character and that's why I was able to make it to the heights I did. I'm not the biggest guy in the world, but I was able to connect with the crowd and play this character that people wanted to see.
I think I've done a lot more hosting-type jobs, which has been great because it's all part of the same thing, keeping people interested in what you're doing. But I'd love to do more acting and I don't think I was really getting a lot of chances in acting. So that's what you do when you're not invited to the party, you start your own party.
That's what we did with "But I'm Chris Jericho." I can walk in anywhere in the world and say "This is what I can do." This day and age there's no reason for anyone to not do that.
That's the beauty of where the internet is headed. There's so much content being born and existing solely online, some of it even rivaling what you'll find on TV.
That's why it's the wave of the future. You can see it whenever you want, you don't have to wait for Sunday night at 8:00. It's the same with iTunes. People don't want to have to go to the record store to buy a record. Why would you when I can just buy it on my phone right away? Same with Netflix.
You have to embrace those types of advancements and now fight them. That's why I think we're in a really good position to take advantage of that technology. Would we love to have it on HBO? Of course, but if you can't then online is probably better than being on TBS at this point.
There's a habit of watching things on TV, but as generations go on they won't be growing up with TV, they'll be growing up with iPhones. That's how entertainment will be in the future.
Beyond that, smart TVs come with YouTube installed on them now.
And it's in every country, worldwide. You know, for my band or any band, if you're not on iTunes, you don't exist. It's the same thing anymore, if you're not on YouTube, you don't exist. And if there is a TV show I miss, I can find it online anyway. It's become a less patient society, so you need to find ways to take advantage of that.
So now you've got the web series, you're touring with your band Fozzy, you still make wrestling appearances when you can. Where on earth do you find the time for all of this? Because you also have kids and a life.
You keep it really ... You keep all the balls in the air and don't take on too much. It seems like I do a lot, but everything I do I have a big passion for. It's worth it for me to make the sacrifice of being away from home. Music and wrestling are no-brainers, I've been wanting to do both since I was a little kid. Acting if an off-shoot. I'm in the entertainment business and you have to take the opportunities that are afforded to you.
However, when I'm at home I do nothing but hang out with my family and I make sure of that. We just had to turn down a huge tour in November because I promised my family I was going to be home. And it hurt to say no, believe me, because it's one of the biggest bands on the planet right now. There will be other chances though and family is the most important thing.
Plus, for me we just finished finished a five week tour, I come home for two and a half weeks then go to Europe for another five weeks and seven weeks in Australia. It would blow you up.
Then there's the fact that I'm writing another book. You've got to slow down sometimes and know when you just have to withdraw. So outside of a couple dates here and there, November, I'm only working about seven days. But when I'm home, I'm home. That's the balance and if there's projects I don't think I can handle, I don't do them.
Speaking of tour dates, it looks like after December there's nothing on the books. Is there a possibility you'll be back in a wrestling ring anytime soon? Your last return was at the "Royal Rumble" in January, maybe a chance of seeing that again?
That's the thing. "Again." We've been there and done that. Plus people seem to put too much stock in the Fozzy dates. It doesn't really work like that, for me. We're in the studio in January to work on a new record.
Not that I couldn't come back to wrestling, but it would have to be under the right circumstances with the right angle. I enjoyed earlier this year when I came back, it was one of the best runs of my career, but I found it to be a bit listless. There wasn't a specific mission, like when I came back in 2012 and it was the CM Punk story. This time it was just working with random people, which was fun. At this point though, to come back to wrestling, which I still love, it would have to be for a specific angle that I could really sink my teeth into.
If not, I don't know that I would come back and I don't know if they'd want me to come back. It's very egotistical of me to think I can come and go whenever I want. They say it's cool, but Vince [McMahon] could change his mind and say, "I think you should stay for a year and if not we can't really use you."
Who knows? I've spent the last ten years working on my life after wrestling. I'm 43 years old. I still feel great and I can still work great, but eventually I'm not going to be able to do a Chris Jericho match at the level I can do it, which is five-star, balls-out every night, whether you're at Madison Square Garden for "Wrestlemania" or in Covina, Cal. for a house show. Ten or 10,000, I work the same.
Beyond that, there's a lot of stuff going on in my world. I just signed on to do a podcast with Podcast One. They do Steve Austin's, Adam Carolla's, Seth Rogen's. There's always things like that popping up and I think a lot of the time wrestling fans want you to be tied to wrestling for the rest of your life and unfortunately it doesn't really work that way. For me, I've never though of myself as just a wrestler, but as an entertainer. Anything that falls under the umbrella, I'm going to do it.
You seem to be one of the few in the business that has been able to do that, branching out to create entirely new careers outside of wrestling.
Yes! Thank you! And it's really kind of rolling now, where cool opportunities are popping up quicker and quicker. That takes away time for wrestling. When I come back, I like to do all the shows. I don't want to just do TV or pay per views. I like being on the road and working with the guys.
I don't know what the future in wrestling holds, because I haven't gotten a lot of feedback from WWE either. I don't know exactly where I would fit in with them at this time. They've got their storylines locked in, and you can already kind of see what they're going to do for "Wrestlemania." But it would have to be something very special for me to come back to. If not, and wrestling fans might hate me for this, I don't need the big retirement tour. I don't need the last match, I don't even really want to do that, like the [Ric] Flair thing and the Shawn [Michaels] thing.
I'm not that type of guy, I like doing the opposite of what people want. I just want to fade into the sunset and never be seen again.
That seems to be how you go when you do disappear, and the immediate fan outcry is "What are they doing to Chris Jericho?"
Yeah, it's kind of the way that I do things. And I think I'm real easy-going now when it comes to wrestling, which people get mad about as well. They complain that I lose all the time, which I don't. But they think I do. It's show business, man. Having said that, I'm not going to come back to lose every night, but if I'm going to work for Steven Spielberg and he tells me that my character in "Saving Private Ryan II" dies 15 minutes into the show and I say, "No, I'm not going to do that." Well, he tells me to go away and hires somebody else to do that. If I'm going to go back and work for WWE for two months, I have to do what the boss says.
What's this podcast you're working on going to be about?
It's just me. I did the "Nerdist" last year and we did an hour of talking about bad sitcom spinoffs. "Golden Palace," "After M.A.S.H." Then I did Adam Carolla's and it was the same thing, just talking about whatever. I thought, "F***, I could do this."
So it's just going to be me. I'll get a guest on whenever I feel like it and just talk about whatever's going on. It'll be fun for me to do because it's something I've always wanted to do and now I have the avenue for it.
And you're also working on the next book?
Yeah, I have been every single day since August 9.
What time range will this one cover?
It picked up exactly where the last one ("Undisputed") left off and goes until the "Royal Rumble" of 2013, covering a five-year span. It's funny, because you think, "F***, does this guy really need a third autobiography?" But I've got so much s*** that I've still got stories I need to save for the next one already.
Maybe before they've read the first one they might wonder why you'd need another, but it's easy to see you've experienced a lot of very strange things in your life and career that no one else has.
It's funny, though. When you've been going so long and have been to as many places as I have in my career, you run into so many random famous people that it all makes for crazy stories, from pick pocketing Christopher Lloyd in Tokyo to watching Paul McCartney fall into a piano pit in Tampa.
In this one, I just wrote this ridiculous story about Joseph Gordon-Levitt in New York. Who else would have weird stories about Christopher Lloyd, Paul McCartney and Joseph Gordon Levitt and make them all mean something? So it's pretty cool to be writing this and it's a long, hard mission to write a book. It takes a lot of time, effort and rewrites. I'm about 70% through my second rewrite and no one's about to read it. My publisher, editor and collaborator are all up my a**, but it's not ready. They can see it when the second draft is done.
Until I feel like it's ready to be read, you can't push it. It has to be right, it's my book and my life that will be there forever, so you can't half-a** it.
New episodes of "But I'm Chris Jericho" are released Tuesdays on ButImChrisJericho.com.