An Investigation into Conor McGregor
With respect to MMA, the soft brain of a newborn infant is more developed than mine. When I watch with friends, I ask that they support my neck because I’m unable to do so myself. And, that is not to say I haven’t been peripherally aware of it for some time. I drank my way through my formative years and soaked my young adult life in the throes of a college education that happened to coincide with the primes of Randy “Dogface” Couture and Chuck “The Miceman” Liddell. Heck, I remember when Chris Lieban still had a bad dye job, but before he was cannon fodder for young up-and-comers. Does Josh Koschek still have that real bad blonde dye job? If so, yikes, donate his brain to CTE research. Fairly certain you would really find the root cause there. Finally, I can recall with a degree of certainty that the Forrest Griffin/Stephen Bonner fight was one of the grittiest matches that I had seen in my piss-poor history of not being an MMA fan. Hey! I even know that fight was before Forrest Griffin got clobbered in the face and ran out of the ring, and possibly the arena! Also, let’s lend some applause to anyone willing to stow away their Affliction paraphernalia for anything other than the use of buffing wax into their I-ROC Z.
It seems that a new fighter comes down the pike every so often that has that true LASTING POWER! If not anyone else, for whom does that sentiment ring truer than Conor Fookin’ McGregor, eh? Like anyone with a sub-basement level understanding and/or care for MMA, I, too, thought Notorious (a bad nickname by any measure) would be a flash in the pan during a time when MMA was becoming a ubiquitous, not to mention premiere major sport a la Georges St. Pierre, Anderson Silva, and/or Blahnda Rousey (*yells through cupped hands* WHEN’S FILMING START ON THAT ILL-CONCEIVED ROADHOUSE ADAPTATION?!?). Yet, here we are midway through 2017, and young Conor remains dominant in the headlines, and for good reason. He built his brand and warred his way through the combat sports like Ghengis Khan and Alexander the Great, combined, plowing through Mongolia and Macedonia. Emissaries from Stockton, California and Manaus, Brazil came for this man’s head, and instead it was Conor’s petulant roar that knocked back fleeting foes, and stole their pelts as trophies. It’s like the movie 300, but you know without the paper-thin plot. There’s something of a true underdog story in the narrative that is, continues to progress, and will forever be the legend of McGregor. As accomplished in the ring as he so happens to be, and as much a bad plumber I figure he used to be, I have a theory to posit:
Conor McGregor is not so subtly moonlighting as a professional comic.
Now, what makes a comic a professional comic? What are the stipulations of separating his main craft, fighting, from becoming intertwined with his burgeoning comedy career, and what makes me so certain that he is, truly, a comic?
The obvious maxim of professionalism is if you provide a service, and you are paid for the provision of that service, you are a professional. In terms of amateurism, if you provide that service, and are not directly compensated for that service, you are an amateur. That being said, the easy case to make for Conor is that of course he’s a professional because of what he is being paid to do in order to promote the Mayweather-McGregor bout, but of course, it is more nuanced than that.
Now, Stephen King has provided the adage “If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” And with that, it’s important to separate the theorized Conor the Comic, and Conor the Fighter. The initial division of the two invites comparison. While a trunks-clad Conor obviously establishes the uniform of the latter, I would say that his most recent fashionista garb is not entirely indifferent from the sight gag of noted and acknowledged comic, TJ Miller’s recent fashion schpiel.
As Conor even states in the video above, he gets fight checks and he gets promotion checks. I’m here to say that those promotion checks very likely legitimize his comedy career. Separating the fighter from the comedian is no different than separating an actor from a comedian.
This is a good riff. While it is trash-talk, it’s hard to say that it’s not only absurdist humor, but also observational as it is riddled with meta pop culture references. In and of itself, this whole promotional tour is a kernel of pop culture, but to reference a Kardashian in the midst of this? Transcendent!
But, that’s kind of the point, here, no? Comedians perform comedy because ostensibly, they love it. That’s being naive and reductive to some extent, though. Largely, stand-up paves the way to movies, albums, specials, and you guessed it, tours. Just because Conor is doing it in reverse doesn’t make this enterprise any less legitimate. I would venture to say that each and every promo that he’s done completes an Andy Kaufman-esque schtick, including going full heel and being an open adversary to the crowd.
Furthermore, from a lay perspective, I just don’t see much in the way of difference between Conor’s singular white-hot focus in trash-talking Mayweather into become a decent, if-not-great, stand-up routine, and Bill Burr’s improvised riff on the city of Philadelphia.
With respect to the above video, I would estimate that a good 10 minutes of the 17 minute duration is dedicated to the craft of stand-up. From what I understand, a good stand-up can command a room and control the audience in that even if they don’t have A+ material, they can at least manipulate the crowd into thinking a C- joke is worthy of a chuckle, they can reel them in with a knockout A+ gag. It’s very much a conductor orchestrating a symphony with crescendos and decrescendos. You can’t just tommy-gun A+ material and then lob a handful of grenades of flunkie jokes, the routine has to build from those highs and lows. Or, and perhaps more relevant, a boxer well-versed in the rope-a-dope stratagem of fighting. And, look what Conor does here. There’s a whole bunch of charisma and charm to keep the audience under his thrall, only to be knocked right back on their asses with a wonderful observational bit.
This isn’t a necessarily new affair either. Whereas pro stand-ups often ply their trade throughout open mics, it’s not so different than Conor absolutely obliterating opponents verbally in the ring. So, the open mic thing works out, and now that same comic is invited to open for the touring act breezing through town. On the other hand, Conor McGregor was given more of a forum through promotional duties where some of his best schtick played out. The progression is obvious, a comic gets more opportunities, sooner or later he or she may be asked to tour, and where is Conor McGregor currently? On tour. What is he touring on? The source of his best material, his fighting whereas another comedian may tour on a special or album.
So, if being a good stand-up means that you have the wit and charisma to work a room, I think it’s obvious that we can check that off for Conor, here. If the machinations of stand-up are working for years to craft a routine and a particular voice, we have yet another big fat check. If being a professional stand-up means that you are compensated for your services, I believe that is another check in the box of legitimacy. And, if success of a stand-up is measured in the opportunities obtained through your talent and mastery, well I think we have all we need to know.
Let it be known that I am aware that Conor’s schtick is mostly trash talk. But, I would also point out that HERE is the precise difference between a trash talker, and a comedian. The timing, baby! The wit!
And what is any great comedian without a strong-as-hell closer? Simply god-tier stuff.
Is Conor McGregor a professional comic: I don’t know, but probably.
A few assorted musings:
I would be nothing without mentioning Dana White’s incredible coke bloat that bats lead-off in the embedded video. The guy looks like a Grand Theft Auto Vice City goon likely named “Don Parmigiana.”
Really, is the only difference between Dana White and Alex Jones a bad toupee?
Also, yes, Conor, fuck Showtime, they should’ve euthanized Dexter after the fourth season, and definitely before this shit. Jesus fucking Christ.