An Evening with Tank Abbott
This originally ran three years ago, in an issue of Total MMA, around the time they were letting me get away with anything.
Biggest Daddy – An Evening With Tank Abbott
Having recently become somewhat jaded with all of the violence and bloodshed, I took myself off for a rare evening of culture, to the opening night of Biggest Daddy, Tank Abbot’s one man off-Broadway show, which previewed in late November to huge critical acclaim. There were a host of celebrities from stage and screen, who’d also come to listen to the bearded man talk us through his life with a unique blend of songs, naked poetry and anecdotes. In the foyer, I exchanged knowing nods with Larry David, and spied Dom DeLuise and his lovely wife, while Natalie Portman, looking resplendent in the balcony, informed security of the restraining order she has on me, and had me escorted away the requisite distance. Once I’d pulled up my pants, I took my seat, just in time for the lights to dim and a dapper looking David L. “Tank” Abbott to be illuminated, head bowed, by a single spotlight.
“Good morning, good morning! We’ll talk the whole night through, good morning, good morning, to you!” Now, I wasn’t about to point out that it was nine in the evening, but Tank’s amended opening refrain from Singing In The Rain was such an upbeat celebration of life, that there wasn’t a face without a smile, nor a pair of hands not happily clapping along in time. From there, he segued straight into an opening monologue that took us through his life before he found fame, charting Tank’s early days in the militant Black Panther movement, the “missing” six years he spent accidentally locked inside an abandoned fridge, and his short lived marriage to Stevie Nicks.
The big man then meandered over to the piano and belted out a range of show tunes that showcased his ability as an all round entertainer, and his love for the work of Cole Porter. His laid back lounge-biker chic was so stylish that he wouldn’t have looked out of place strolling through a casino with Sinatra’s Rat Pack, pressing Sammy Davis Junior above his head, and jamming a broken bottle into Dean Martin’s thighs.
The show was punctuated with anecdotes from his storied life as a fighter, and Tank was not opposed to taking some bitchy swipes at fellow MMAers. “John McCarthy’s house smells like bottoms,” he informed us, followed by a remark about a certain Pride fighter with a foot-fetish who kept “accidentally” falling penis-first into the shoes laying around backstage, that elicited embarrassed laughter, and no small amount of dry heaving. He also delighted us with tales of beating an elephant to death with his ballsack, and the day he pulled a bus-load of orphans over a cliff, under the pretence of training for a strong-man contest. “You should have seen all those little caskets,” giggled Tank, before he sent us grinning into the interval with a bombastic rendition of Bugsy Malone classic So You Wanna Be A Boxer?
The second half kicked off with an emotional segment, throughout which you literally could have heard a pin drop, as Tank recounted the memorable knock-out of “that guy who went all stiff.” “I don’t know why I mocked him,” said Tank, “I suppose I wanted to make myself feel big, to deflect some of my own insecurities,” before turning on a dime and angrily spluttering, “Nah, actually, fuck him, puppet-armed motherfucker,” and kicking a chair into the audience. Indeed throughout the evening, he snapped between witty, urbane raconteur and a terrifying hooligan barking threats into the audience at the drop of a top hat, while commanding our attention with a magnificent stage presence.
The only slight misstep of the evening was the performance of a self-penned monologue, which was Alan Bennett-esque in its observations of life after the death of a long term partner, but Tank’s portrayal of “Old Widow Jenkins” was bizarre to say the least, albeit with an underlying undercurrent of eroticism. Biggest Daddy‘s finale was a high-kicking, rip-roaring song entitled “I Fucked Your Mom To Death (Then We Went Out Drinking)”, with a long-sustained final note that brought down the house. Come Tank’s bow, everybody in the theatre was on their feet, delivering a much earned standing ovation, and many around me were wiping tears from their cheeks and tossing roses onto the stage.
I simply couldn’t recommend Biggest Daddy any more highly. A stellar night’s entertainment, and a vastly superior show to Mark Coleman’s ill-judged alternative history take on how Lincoln would have coped on 911, or Ross Pointon’s condensed solo re-enaction of the HBO series Oz, which ran at last summer’s Edinburgh festival, and was pulled after two nights. (“I wouldn’t mind,” said Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian, “but he’s just acting out all the rapes.”)
Biggest Daddy runs right through to the end of March, book now to avoid suicidally severe disappointment.