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Ex-wrestler Jake The Snake Roberts brings his comedy tour to Belleville

Jake The Snake Roberts

Jake The Snake Roberts on stage at The Stache in Belleville last week. Photo courtesy of Kristen Sinclair

By Jaykob Storey [1]

BELLEVILLE — Jake The Snake Roberts [2] is a  former professional wrestler, a recovering addict – and a stand-up comedian who performed recently in Belleville.

As if he’d walked straight out of the ’80s, Roberts swaggered into The Stache [3] last Thursday night with slicked-back hair and a thick moustache, wearing a leather jacket. Before he could even take the stage, opening-act comedian Ryan Dennee laughed and warned the audience that “Jake doesn’t not swear.” And he was right. The moment Roberts got hold of the microphone, a slew of expletives left his mouth.

Throughout the late 1970s and all the way to the early ’90s, Roberts was known in the wrestling world for his portrayal of the devious, villainous character Jake the Snake. He achieved enough success to be inducted into World Wrestling Entertainment [4]‘s Hall of Fame in 2014.

Now, he travels around the world telling stories from his days as a professional wrestler.

While his comedy may not have been for the faint of heart, the fans in attendance at the Belleville show were immediately engaged. They laughed, cheered and listened intently to every word he said. Jake The Snake may not be a household name anymore, but for the men and women who grew up watching him on TV, he was a childhood hero come to life.

Roberts moved on from his opening monologue to speak candidly about his history of drug and alcohol abuse and his successful rehabilitation process. He attributed that success to his friend and fellow professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page [5], who helped him through his recovery.

Roberts’s stories mostly revolved around the playful nature of the backstage behaviour in wrestling. He recounted the many pranks he pulled on (and was subjected to by) famous wrestlers like Hacksaw Jim Duggan [6], British Bulldog [7], Shawn Michaels [8], Rick Rude [9] and Andre The Giant [10].

Close to the end of his show, Roberts winced and reached for his hip, reporting to the crowd that the hip had just popped out of place. “I’m in excruciating pain right now and I apologize, but I have to cut this short,” he said. But not too short, as he promptly looked back to the audience and said, “I think I have two more stories in me, though. Two more and then I’ll cut this off.”

In wrestling, performers are often expected to work through injuries and continue the show despite terrible pain. At 60 years old, Roberts did just that – and the audience loved him for it. The applause he received after leaving the stage was tremendous.

“It was awesome,” said Justin Badgley of Belleville. “Jake The Snake, one of the best wrestlers of all time – for him to come to Belleville and do a show? Just awesome.”

A man who said his name was Matt, but declined to provide his last name, called the show “amazing.” Jake The Snake was an important figure in his life, beyond just being a favourite wrestler, he said. “He’s an idol to me, being a past addict myself … He’s an inspiration not just to wrestling fans but for recovering addicts and I’m proud to say that partially because of him, I’m in a better place in my life now.”

Roberts’s fellow WWE Hall of Famer and best friend, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, will be performing his own comedy show at the Stache in April.