It's Opening Night for Chris Jericho
Tonight, the audience will file into the Toronto Centre for the Arts. A hush will fall over the crowd as the lights dim. The curtain will rise and former WWE Superstar Chris Jericho will make his theatre debut. Several months of training, rehearsal and promotion for the play have led to this moment. Does Y2J have butterflies in his stomach or is this just another chapter for "the larger than life superstar?" WWE.com caught up with him to find out.
"I'm really excited to see what people think of it and to get out there and just enjoy myself," said Jericho. "It's a funny play and a great role."
In the play Opening Night, Jericho plays Jack Tisdale, a middle-aged varnish salesman who takes his wife to the opening night of a play for their 25th wedding anniversary. She's ecstatic, but he would rather be home watching the World Series. Will the role be too much of a departure for fans loyal to "the sexy beast"? Jericho doesn't think so.
"It's a completely different role, but there will still be elements of Chris Jericho in there, just like there are elements of any actor (in their characters)," he said. "Any role that Johnny Depp plays has elements of Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt or Robert De Niro or Screech."
Jericho compares himself to some pretty big names, but has worked hard to develop his acting skills.
"I've been studying for the past year with some great coaches out in L.A., and one of the biggest things they've said is that I should really do a play," said Jericho. "It's an actor's actor who's able to do a play because it's one take, and you're in front of a live crowd. I've done that for years, so it doesn't intimidate me at all. I think it's a lot of fun to be out there live without a net. You gotta nail it and react to what the crowd is reacting to. In a lot of ways, it's similar to being in the WWE."
In preparing for his theatre debut, Jericho also had a chance to work with the L.A. based comedy troupe The Groundlings, whose alumni include Phil Hartman, Will Ferrell and Kathy Griffin among others.
"It's helped me so much in leaps and bounds, not only as a performer, but as a comedian," said the Human Highlight Reel. "I'm up there with some of the best in the business, holding my own and pushing the envelope and learning along the way. It's just been a great experience. It's funny because they ask me ‘have you ever trained in improv before, what kind of improv training do you have?'… I say I used to do improv with The Rock or Steve Austin for 15-20 minutes after the matches sometimes just with the microphone, insulting each other and putting on a little show."
Jericho went on to explain the finer points of what makes performing in WWE or improv comedy successful.
"Just commit to what you're doing and even if you're given a situation that might not be the funniest situation, if you commit to it and believe in it and give 100 percent, people will get into it and therefore it, becomes believable, and therefore it becomes funny," he said.
Working with The Groundlings has helped Jericho on many different levels.
"It puts me in a totally different realm when people see that Chris Jericho is with The Groundlings," he said. "Now it's kind of like ‘Wow. The Groundlings? Jericho? He's that wrestler guy. Is he funny?' It's just another wall that I've been able to tear down and take myself into a different world, so it's really been paying off for me professionally, personally and character-wise."
The "Ayotollah of rock ‘n rollah" has torn down many walls already. In addition to acting, Jericho hosts a Sunday night show on XM radio, he tours internationally with his band Fozzy and makes numerous TV appearances. Recently, he was on G4's Attack of the Show; helping the show get its highest ratings ever.
"It's good that people are still tuning in to the things that I'm doing," he said.
Jericho said he has a lot of things in the works and has had offers from E!, Bravo, G4 and VH1. His most prolific TV work comes from his appearances on VH1's many flashback shows. Currently, he is on I Love the 70's Volume 2, but Jericho has been on so many that he is having a hard time keeping up.
"No exaggeration, I think I have done upwards of 20 different shows. When I saw they were doing I Love the 70's Volume 2 I said, ‘Man why didn't they ask me to do that? I wonder what happened.' But I'm all over it. I'm on it more than I was for some of the other shows."
Jerichoholics may notice he is wearing a certain red shirt… again.
"The funny thing is I'm wearing this red Hollister shirt. I've probably worn it in, I'd say, at least ten VH1 shows. I must have filmed four of them in one day or something like that... I do actually have other shirts in my closet. That's just my lucky VH1 shirt."
Having so much going on might drive some people nuts, but Jericho says that's the way he likes it.
"I'm becoming like a male Bette Midler. I'm doing a little bit of everything at this point," joked Jericho. "I'm just happy to be doing what I'm doing. I'm very creatively fulfilled you could say."
With so many other accomplishments, surely Jericho's theatrical debut tonight will be another in a long line of successes, especially with all of his preparation.
"It started out as a challenge to see if I could do this, and now I know that I totally can."
Opening Night starring Chris Jericho opens tonight at the Toronto Centre for the Arts in Toronto, Ontario. For more information visit Chris Jericho's website at www.chrisjericho.com