Jake “The Snake” Roberts laughed when asked if professional wrestling was fake. The former star of the WWE revealed that the man behind the reptilian moniker has always been afraid of snakes.
“I’m terrified when it comes to those slithery things,” Jake “The Snake” — born Aurelian Jake Smith Jr. — said by phone from somewhere on the road in Iowa. “I came up with the Jake ‘The Snake’ concept while smoking a lot of pot and drinking a lot of beer. That’s what happens when you indulge. You get an idea that might not be the best thought in your mind. I did that and I was stuck with the name.”
Smith’s rival, Andre the Giant, allegedly was afraid of snakes, too. True?
“No,” Smith said with a laugh. “Andre wasn’t afraid of anything. Andre could do anything he wanted to do. He would knock me on my back, stand on my hair and grab my arms and rip my hair out and he thought it funny. Andre was a monster.”
Smith, who checked in at 6 feet 6 inches and 290 pounds, was dwarfed by Andre the Giant, who was 7 feet 4 inches and weighed 520 pounds. When Smith performs tonight (4/18) at Penguins Comedy Club in Cedar Rapids, he’ll spin yarns about wrestling legends, such as Andre the Giant; detail what it was like to fight; and tell some sobering tales about wrestlers’ mortality.
“I’ll talk about the funny side and the dark side,” Smith said. “People love to hear about Andre the Giant, who was a wonderful person. I remember him farting for 40 seconds straight in the ring. Giants can fart for a long time.”
Andre the Giant, much like other iconic wrestling figures from Randy Savage to Miss Elizabeth, are no longer alive.
“The saddest part about all of this is that most of my friends I wrestled with are dead,” Smith said. “I can see why it happens. You dedicate 10 or 15 years of your life to wrestling. You build up things and have a really good career. One day someone comes in with a suit and tells you that they can’t come up with any material from you and you’re fired. It happens, and then what will you do? How do you support your family?”
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On the road, Smith tells his side of the story. He’s clever, amusing and honest. He became a wrestler because of his father.
“I entered the profession because my dad was a wrestler and I wanted him to love me, but it didn’t work out, “ he said. “He didn’t have any time for me. That made me angry and bitter.”
However, Smith takes care of his eight children.
“I’m on the road right now with my oldest daughter, and I couldn’t be happier,” he said.
Smith will talk about the ups and downs of the business. He invented the DDT, where the wrestler gets his opponent in a facelock or a headlock, and falls backward, driving the foe’s head into the mat. The WWE voted that as the coolest finishing move.
“I’m really proud of that,” Smith said. “It’s a cool move.”
Smith also talks about his battle with addiction.
“I went through a lot, but I cleaned up my act,” he said. “What I’m most proud of is that I can help people get their lives back together. I’ll talk to anyone after the show about their issues.”
Just don’t ask him to handle a snake.
“I had so many of them, because snakes couldn’t be around for all that long,” he said. “We had to give snakes a break. I’ll never forget how some were pretty even-tempered and well, some weren’t. A lot of the snakes I disliked most were wearing suits. I can do without them, too.”
WHAT: Jake the Snake: Dirty Details Tour
WHERE: Penguins Comedy Club, 208 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 8 p.m. today (4/18)
TICKETS: $25 door or $40 VIP; Penguins, (319) 362-8133 or Penguinscomedyclub.com