I talked to John Sweeney by phone on Thursday morning, and my first question was intended more as an introductory pleasantry than an invitation to be hilarious.
“How are you doing?” I asked.
“Oh,” he said. “Just trying to balance being a theater owner, a dad and an idiot.”
Wednesday was like a lot of other days for Sweeney, right up until the point that he ripped off his shirt at Kevin Garnett’s welcome home game at Target Center to reveal a special message for KG. But even that was something Sweeney — an improv comedian and co-owner of the Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre in Minneapolis – has done before.
Sweeney first pulled the shirtless act back in the Wolves’ heyday in 2003-04, riling up the crowd at a few games, including one in the playoffs against Denver. A Star Tribune writer dubbed him “Jiggly Boy,” and it stuck. Does he mind that name?
“I’m fine with that name,” Sweeney said. “I’m the youngest of 8 from a Irish Catholic farm family, so I’ve been called a lot worse.”
He was in cahoots 11 years ago with the Wolves’ game ops folks, and he said they texted him again a few days ago with a simple question: “KG is coming back. What about Jiggly?”
The difference now is that Sweeney has two impressionable sons, ages 11 (William) and 9 (Michael), and both were at the game with him. But he couldn’t resist.
“We had a good philosophical discussion on the car ride home about when it’s appropriate to take your shirt off,” Sweeney said.
In this case, the timing was perfect. An overflow crowd was already amped up for the return of Garnett, and the sight of the 49-year-old Sweeney dancing shirtless turned the dial up a notch. Even KG couldn’t help but look and smile.
“It might say more about the Minnesota culture than you think. We’re OK getting a little bit more than appropriately excited as long as someone does it first,” Sweeney said. “When KG gave me the smile and the wave, it got a little crazy in there.”
Alas, we should not get too used to seeing Sweeney’s routine. It’s reserved for special occasions, and Wednesday was about as good as it’s been around Target Center in a long time.
“I think it was a (one-time) special appearance,” he said. “Maybe it’s me being a comedic snob, but you don’t want too much of a good thing. I think it’s really fun to see a 49-year-old fat guy dance a couple times, but there’s a tipping point where it goes from funny to ‘sit down.’”