Atlanta-area native New Jack was one of the originators of hardcore wrestling in the '90s with Extreme Championship Wrestling. Known for bringing garbage cans full of weapons to the ring and using staplers on his opponents, "The Original Gangsta" found himself in legitimate legal trouble on more than one occasion for the violence he unleashed in the ring. Now living in Florida and dating former wrestling personality Terri Runnels, New Jack has found a new outlet for his aggression by doing stand-up comedy shows. He returns to Atlanta for a show at the Punchline this weekend.
Your promos and interviews have always been entertaining, but your in-ring work is no joke. How do your comedy shows compare to your wrestling, and how did you make that transition?
I was always known as a good talker, and I was literally pushed on the stage one night. Me and Terri Runnels went to see one of her friends, Shirley Q. Liquor, doing this thing for a comedy club. He's a white guy with chocolate-colored makeup on, but on top of that, he's a gay dude.
During his set, he got drunk and fell. We went to see if he was OK, and he was trying to get his wig back on. In the meantime, Terri handed me the mic and pushed me on stage. So I started just talking about silly shit. The guy who ran the show actually came up to me and said, "If you ever want to come back here and do comedy, you're more than welcome."
Then I started looking up comedy clubs, open mics and stuff like that, and I started attending some of these places where they were doing it. Then I started going on stage and doing it, and the next thing you know, people started wanting to book me to do stand-up comedy. I went to the Punchline one night and did it and it went OK, but you could tell I really didn't know the game. So I started to study it a little harder and put more time and effort into it, like I did when I started wrestling, and just created a character and studied how to deliver and how to become what a comedian should become.
Is this weekend's show going to be a wrestling-themed comedy show?
Somebody told me, "You've been doing comedy now for 20 years and you didn't even know it with the promos you've been cutting since 1992." So it was just a matter of learning to transition from the ring to the stage. What I really had to do is look at the way I was delivering my promos and kind of turn that into a story that would be funnier and just trim it down a little bit. I talk about things that actually happened on the road, but my life itself has been a joke, so that's 48 years of material right there.
The good part about it is when I'm done, I'm not sitting in the back gluing my forehead together or having a concussion. I might be a little winded, but physically I come off the stage and I'm fine.
Why do you say your life has been one big joke?
The family I came up in was very dysfunctional. We had a roof over our head, but my father died when I was 5, and my mom was just the type of mom you'd want to trade in for somebody else's mom. She never gave a rat's ass about any of the kids in the family, and unfortunately I had to be around her longer than anybody else because I was the youngest. Everything I've accomplished, I've accomplished on my own. You know how you might go see your kids play ball and tell them they played a good game or whatever? I never got that. The one or two games that she came to, she criticized me. As a parent, she was about as worse as they come.
I went to Therrell High, spent a couple of years in prison, then went to Clark College [now Clark Atlanta University] for a couple of years. Then I started bounty hunting and I've been a certified bounty hunter since 1986.
So my life has been a complete joke, but it's been a situation where I've been able to take the bad things that's happened in my life and turn them into something good. I can either do that or end up back in prison. I played every kind of game there was to play growing up to survive, from dealing drugs to robbing people to everything else. And the statute of limitations done ran out now, so anything I say now can't be held against me in court.
Over the last year, my life has done a complete turnaround. I've finally started caring about what I do and the outcome of that, whereas before I didn't care. I'm still me and if you run up on me and I feel that you might have something on your mind, I will not hesitate to stop you by any means necessary, and I won't lose one minute of sleep over you laying there and somebody trying to find a pulse. I've changed in ways to make myself better, but the man that will stand up for what he believes in is still the same.
I'm doing what I'm doing now because I have people that are not related to me around me that care about me and are interested in whether I wake up the next morning or not. Terri has played a very major part in that, and we've been together now for over a year. I'm happier now with myself than I've ever been, and I can focus now more than I did before. I've never had to worry about anyone caring what I did, so I did whatever I wanted to do. So when you talk about me doing comedy, you're actually listening to me tell a life story. What I do is a lot different than what people are used to seeing.
I would love to give my mother a front-row seat just so I can let her know how I really feel about her and other people can be like, "You bitch." It would just be funny to me.
You recently returned to the ring for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling's Hardcore Justice pay-per-view. Any chance you'll return to the ring again in the future?
That was a well-deserved farewell that I will be comfortable with. When people say, "What was the last thing you saw New Jack do?," I want people to say it was that TNA appearance.
Do you plan on attending any of the WrestleMania events this year?
The only place I can guarantee I will go to while in Atlanta is the Clermont Lounge. I will not come to Atlanta without going to the Clermont because they got the worst dancers in the history of stripping. Every time I go in there, it's a different event and it's the funniest thing you've ever seen in your life. They've got Blondie, a black chick in a blond wig, and she's damn near 70 years old. If I had to pay to see that, I would. You might see a chick dancing with one nipple or surgical scars on her stomach or something out of the ordinary. So if you see me and Terri out and about, trust me, it will be there.