Rowdy Roddy Piper on Charlie Sheen and staying in the ring
Rowdy Roddy Piper is one of the stranger interviews I've ever done. He's a hard man to get a hold of -- he juggles a variety of projects from showbiz to professional wrestling -- but once you get him on the phone, he's like a spigot unstopped, a torrent of tangentially related stories and asides that run the gamut from chest-beating bravado in one moment to a surprising degree of ruminative tenderness in the next, all related in exactly the grizzled basso profundo you'd expect him to sound like. But in a long career like that of Piper, who, at the age 56, is still wrestling, a man's bound to accumulate some things to talk about -- which is basically the point of his latest project, a comedic storytelling tour that comes through town tomorrow night. In advance of the show, we talked to Piper about pimps, bagpipes and the true love of the game.
Watch out, Cindy Lauper.
Westword: You're probably best known as a wrestling icon, so it's a little weird so see your name on the bill at a comedy club. Can you tell us a little bit about the act?
Roddy Piper: I'm getting this question. And it's cool, and one of the things it's triggered right away is it's not an act. I heard about Charlie sheen, and I don't know what you call that -- and just for the record, Charlie sheen's not a pimple in my ass. This is a show destined for Broadway. It was actually, Jimmy Kimmel and Sal Kimmel -- he's the head-writer of the Kimmel show -- they wanted me to do this one-man Broadway show, like the one Will Ferrell did with George W. Bush. It's hard to define. So they ended up putting me in the Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard for a year -- for a year, I did the Comedy Store -- to the point where my name is in the hall of fame there. You know it's one of the most haunted places in America? Yeah, the Comedy Store, it's one of the most haunted places in America. Check it out, bro, I'm telling you.
Listen. I'll tell you a story: I'm on Mancow in Chicago -- you know, the radio show? I'm on the show for an hour. So while the show's taping -- I can't remember what the topic was -- in comes these guys in trench coats and a Playboy bunny. And they're just there. So finally, I say to these guys, what's your name. He says Don the Juan -- apparently he's this big-time pimp in Chicago, I didn't know it at the time. Anyway, so this guys invites me to the Player's Bally -- I have no idea what this is, but I end up going, and I'm, uh, I'll just say I'm the only guy of my ethnic group there. And the situation is getting out of control, and I'm just figuring out what's going on; anyway, at the end of the day, two very large black men with canes that turn into swords walked me to a limousine and I got out of there.
So what do you call that? I mean I kicked Cindy Lauper, I wrestled a bear, I slapped Mr. T. What do you call that? I don't know. But I try not to work blue. And I like to play the piano a little bit, so I hope there's a piano there.
WW: You just play piano if there happens to be one?
RP: Yeah. When you get a chance to, bud, look up the Comedy Store on the internet. I know the ghosts there. I play the piano way in the back where you can't even see the keys. I'm not that good yet, but I'm going to get good some day. I'm going to play Carnegie hall, right next to Billy's Bar and Grille.
WW: It seems like there's a certain kind of nostalgic irony going on with what you do -- like, a lot of people my age remember you as a sort of iconic figure of the '80s, and there's this kind of irony to your appeal, which seems like something you've been especially willing to play on in stuff like It's Always Sunny. Do you think that's true of the show?