Roy Firestone brings one-man show to Warren
By DAN HINER
Roy Firestone was a staple at ESPN during the 1980s. And while the sports interviewer and broadcaster’s life has revolved around sports, another passion has been performing.
Firestone brought his one-man show to the Packard Performing Arts Center on Thursday.
“Even when I was sportscasting, when I was interviewing, I was doing this,” Firestone said. “I go back 30 years with this show, 27 years. So this isn’t. ‘Oh, now that I’m not at ESPN, I’ll try something new.’
“I started doing standup as a kid. I don’t really think of myself as standup. It’s a multimedia show about sports and also other things.”
Firestone began his sports career in 1975, and was performing shows at the same time. He conducted interviews on ESPN’s “Up Close.”
He credits Jerry Lewis for pushing him into performing. Firestone said Lewis appeared on his show to talk about his love of sports, and afterward Lewis approached him and supported his performing.
“[Lewis] goes, ‘Roy, don’t let anybody tell you, you can’t do something. Don’t ever get on that stage with any regret or accomodate anybody who doesn’t want you to do it,’” Firestone said.
Over his sports career, he’s interviewed legends such as Wilt Chamberlain, Muhammad Ali and Barry Bonds.
He’s performed with artists like Jon Bon Jovi and Josh Groban. But his most memorable show was with Frank Sinatra at Bally’s toward the end of Sinatra’s career. Firestone opened with a 15-minute set.
He appeared in shows like “Everybody Loves Raymond,” was in an iconic scene in “Jerry McGuire” and has won seven Emmys over his career.
Firestone performs roughly 50 times a year and specializes each show for the city or region. He writes a poem for every city, referencing landmarks and celebrities.
The poem is turned into a song and Firestone takes photos of the local attractions to run as a slideshow on the background of the stage.
His show in Warren featured references to the Sunrise Inn, former world champion boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini — a Youngstown native — and a statue of former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Paul Warfield, who grew up in Warren.
He said he wants to regionalize each show so the audience knows he’s “willing to go an extra mile.”
Firestone mixes a blend of impressions, standup, songs and stories which revolve around sports.
He made the decision to incorporate sports because “sports is a bonding experience” and it transcends politics and other dividing forces.
Firestone said he’s disappointed in the “debate” trend in sports media. He said every 24-hour sports channel revolves around the same structure — two men argue back and forth while a woman sits and doesn’t say much. He said one show on each network is fine, but he doesn’t need a list of shows that cover the same topics.
Firestone said his sports interviews were different from the current ESPN and Fox Sports formats. He said his set was “a friendly place for people to tell about their life.”
Firestone is working with former Los Angeles Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on an upcoming performance.
Firestone said he wouldn’t rule out a return to television to conduct interviews, but he isn’t too concerned about a return at the moment.
“I may get back to interviewing, too,” he said. “I may not, especially somebody my age because once you hit a certain age they don’t want ya anymore on TV — which is fine. I got 20 years of it, it’s not like I didn’t get a shot.”