After a life defined by landing punches, Darren McCarty is embarking on a new phase: landing jokes. The four-time Stanley Cup winner served 1,477 minutes in the penalty box and participated in more than 200 fights during his career.
“Let’s get one thing straight: Calling me a comic would be like calling me a musician. You are insulting both of those talented professions. I am an entertainer,” McCarty said.
The Detroit Red Wings alumnus is touring everywhere in Michigan, from Escanaba to Detroit, for 30 shows. However, it won’t be the first time he’s been on tour in front of a microphone. He spent almost 10 years as the front man of rock band Grinder during his hockey career.
Friend and comic Jason Douglas first suggested a comedy tour. McCarty assembled a troupe and ran with it.
“With retired athletes, unless they do something stupid or they die, you never hear about them,” McCarty said. “Being my fan is a little bit different, you live with the ups and downs of my life.”
So far, McCarty’s hardest hitting opponent has been himself. Alcoholism plagued him on and off the ice for years, resulting in multiple stints in rehab, bankruptcy and divorce.
He wrote at length about his struggle in the 2013 book, “My Last Fight: The True Story of a Hockey Rock Star,” in collaboration with USA Today sports journalist Kevin Allen.
Nothing from his life story is left off the table in McCarty’s comedy set.
“If you can look at it and use it not only as a learning experience, but make fun of it, it means you have self awareness,” McCarty said. “Being able to talk about it helps people know they aren’t alone and it helps me to know I’m not alone.”
McCarty will also incorporate moments from the mid-90s to 2008 era when the Red Wings won four Stanley Cups in 11 years.
Rising to the top of the list is the story of McCarty’s spat with Colorado Avalanche player Claude Lemieux, and the ensuing vicious brawl between the two teams on March 26, 1997.
Despite being over 20 years old, the tale still captivates hockey fans of all ages.
“I really get to see – when I meet younger people that weren’t alive — what some of these events, like the Claude Lemieux fight, meant. These have been handed down through the family and heritage they’ve learned and watched on YouTube.”
Holding a medical marijuana card since 2015, McCarty said cannabis helped him kick alcoholism.
“I was falling apart coming into 2015.
I was stuck between pain and insomnia. The only way I knew how to sleep was to drink and pass out,” he said.
Inspired by friends who used cannabis to kick pill addictions, in 2015 he broke the habit by taking one-gram servings of Rick Simpson oil, a marijuana plant concentrate, seven days straight. “It put me to sleep and put my body down, so I became dedicated to get educated about the plant.”
McCarty said he has eight lifetime’s worth of material for standup.
“It is all about me rehearsing and going through how I want to deliver it; learning where the punchline is and when you are going to get the laugh.”
Michigan comic Dustin Cole will open up the night. There will be a Q&A session and meet-and-greet with McCarty after the show.
“For me, I am not afraid to fall down and get back up,” McCarty said. “I did it not only in my career, but in my life. My virtue is vulnerable truth with integrity.”
Darren McCarty's "Slapstick" Comedy
Tour Thursday, Oct. 18, 7:30 to 9 p.m. $20.00 The Loft 414 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing (517) 913-0103 www.theloftlansing.com