Even if your older brother wasn’t into ‘90s pro wrestling, you’ve probably heard of Jake “The Snake” Roberts. It’s hard to miss a six-foot-six growly monster that carried a giant snake around with him everywhere. After a falling out with WWE in the late ‘90s and an ensuing struggle with injuries and addiction, he’s made an amazing recovery thanks to yoga and clean living. His journey has been well-chronicled in the 2015 documentary currently on Netflix, The Resurrection of Jake the Snake. Now healthy once again, Jake’s on tour telling road stories with comics across North America. Jake and I spoke about some of the parallels between comedy and his wrestling days, perfectionism, and some hilariously disturbing backstage wrestling stories.
When you were just starting out as a pro wrestler, did the physical skills come first, or the mic skills? You were great on the mic and famous for your whispery promos, but what came easier to you?
The physical aspect. Making that contact. Ah, I loved that. Learning how to do it right took time… but again you look at the interview aspect and you gotta have that. I was very blessed to be able to do what I could do with the mic, and that makes it so much easier for me to do these road stories. It just rolls off my tongue. I don’t have to think about it and I don’t write stuff down.
Were there guys who helped you out with promos early on?
No. I did it on my own. Nobody else was doing it the way I did. I was unique in that way. Everybody else was yelling and screaming and I wasn’t.
Have you worked with any comedians to work on the stories for the tour?
No, I’ve just gone and done it on my own again. I travel with a great comedian by the name of Alex Ansel. I’m picking up stuff from him whether I know it or not.
Who were some of the funnier wrestlers backstage back in the day?
Oh, Goldust was pretty funny backstage. [Hacksaw Jim] Duggan. [Mr.] Fuji was pretty funny backstage, in a sick way. He did some really weird stuff to people. Really mean stuff.
Well, there were two guys who were disrespecting him, and he wound up cooking their dog and feeding it to them as a meal.
Yeah, that’s pretty mean.
Yeah. That was pretty good.
You worked with Andre the Giant for a brief time. Do you have any Andre stories?
Well, he sat on me and farted one time, it lasted about 40 seconds. Longest fart I’ve ever heard. I thought for a moment when he got off of me that I had a wine stain on my arm, but I think it was just a birthmark…I couldn’t get up, hell he was almost 550 pounds, I couldn’t move his ass.
You carried a giant snake out with you every match, even though you weren’t a big snake fan.
No, I can’t stand them. Terrified of them.
Do you think that type of gimmick would fly today?
Yeah, if it was done right. There are a lot of guys out there that have great characters but aren’t doing them right. We can all make our product better. I was told by an old timer that if you ever felt like you had the perfect match you should go back to the locker room, take your tights off, put them in a pile, and light them on fire. Burn them and never go back in the ring. The day you quit learning is the day it’s over.
You’ve been on tour for about a month now. How’s it going so far?
It’s going great man, I’m having a blast. What a great job, to call it that – to tour the world and talk about old times, think about old buddies I used to hang with. Sharing it with people is awesome, and watching their reactions is so much fun.
Is it bringing you back to your old wrestling days, when you were on the road all the time?
It is. All the memories are flooding back in, things that I had forgotten. In the beginning I was kind of like “Oh my God, I hope I have enough material to do one or two shows,” and now I’ve got six or seven shows that I can do. The response is so unbelievable. I’ve been trying to help other people that are struggling with addiction, with alcoholism…I encourage everybody to start reaching out because there are too many people falling to the wayside, too many families get busted up, too many kids without fathers or mothers. It doesn’t have to be that way, we just have to make some changes and help each other out.
Your story is really uplifting. Congratulations on going through all that and getting sober, we’re all really happy for you.
I appreciate it. It was tough to lay it all out there but the time comes to make that decision if you want [the documentary] out there or not, and I said hell yeah let’s do it. Somebody else is suffering through what I did. A lot of people reached out to say “Hey man, thanks for the help, my dad is back at home now, mom and dad are back together,” and that feels so good.
Your wrestling persona was more serious, but you always had a sense of humor – even in the documentary you were able to joke about your addiction in some of the heaviest moments.
Yeah, sometimes you gotta laugh to keep from crying, right?
You can find all of Jake’s upcoming tour dates here.
Mark Kramer is a writer, comedian & human boy from Staten Island, New York, but please don’t hold that against him.