“I’m a simple man trying to live in a complicated world. Most days, all I want to do is maintain my peace of mind. But, that’s hard as hell when everything I consider normal has flipped on its head.”
Jim Florentine, Everybody is Awful (Except for You!)
I’ve attended a few Jim Florentine shows, I’ve watched him on Crank Yankers, and I read his book. He’s funny because he’s like that one friend you have that seems to hate everything, but channels that hate into stories that have you falling on the floor laughing. Jim Florentine, who in his book goes so far as to call himself, “an awful kid,” and who admits he wasn’t good enough to play music or dedicated enough to play baseball (drinking and smoking weed were more fun), has turned his childhood “awfulness” into an amazing career.
He’s had a number two CD on Amazon (second only to The Backstreet Boys), he’s a regular on The Howard Stern Show, he’s shared the stage with Eminem (and a puppet), he’s toured the country, he’s been on multiple television shows, he’s been in movies, and now he’s written a book. He’s gotten to do what he loves for over 30 years, and he doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.
I got a chance to chat with Jim Florentine for Geek News Network and I learned a lot of cool stuff about an amazingly talented guy.
Scott (GNN): So, first thing, I have a bone to pick with you about your book, Everybody is Awful (Except for You), I now know that the words, “ressies”, “famjam,” and, “hundy,” exist, and I don’t like that. It’s in my brain and I don’t like it.
Jim Florentine (JF): I know. Believe me. I don’t like it either. You could say, “reservations.” You really don’t have to say ressies.
GNN: My favorite awful word you mention is,”deets,” because, as you said, people are cutting the word, “details” two letters. You’ve got to be kidding me.
JF: Yeah, I know. If you need to do something maybe in a text to shorten it or something, that’s fine. But to write it out and just to say those words in public, it’s horrific. You don’t have to say hashtag anything in public either. Like, “#I’m not happy. The bar’s closed.”
GNN: Exactly. There are a lot of awful things people say…and you talk about them in your book, Everybody is Awful (Except for You), which I loved. The only issue I had is that I think you shorted yourself a bit. I think the book could’ve been two separate books: one book about how everyone is awful, and then the Jim Florentine story could have been another whole book.
JF: Yeah, the book company wanted me to kind of do it like that, do it little bits of some of my story growing up and some stories, and then go into the book part. Which I’m like, “All right, if that’s what I’ve got to do to get a book deal that’s what I’ll do.” I would love to have just done two books because I’ve got enough crazy stories just for a regular book.
GNN: So, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. I always like to talk to content creators like authors, and musicians and comedians starting with a brief history of how you got to where you are. Growing up, you grew up in New Jersey in a big Catholic family, and music was your number one interest, right?
GNN: I’ve read and listened to some interviews and heard you talk about it; I think you’ve even said it at one of the comedy shows I attended that you just weren’t good and that’s why you didn’t pursue music. Was it something you figured out on your own or did you start performing and people were like, “You suck!”? What happened?
JF: Yeah, a little bit of both. I was a lefty, so my friends that were guitar players couldn’t teach me because I was a lefty on guitar and everybody would say, “I don’t know how to play it like that. If you could play righty…, but I couldn’t play righty; everything I did was lefty, so that was a problem. And then as far as singing, I tried to sing in my friend’s band, that didn’t work out. I went for singing lessons one time and after the first session the lady goes, “Listen, if you want me to be honest with you, you really don’t have it. I can take your money but you just don’t have an ear for music.” And I was actually happy that she didn’t just decide to take all my money and just make me keep coming back. So then I just knew, all right I don’t have the talent for this, I don’t have an ear for music even though I did enjoy it so I’ll just try to figure out what else I want to do.
GNN: I have a feeling if you were a kid now, people would take your money and keep leading you along because you watch these people on American Idol and they’re like, “I sing at my local karaoke bar every week and everyone tells me I’m the greatest thing in the world and then they get on the show in front of professionals and God, it’s like someone beating a sack of cats. So I guess it’s good that you were cut off before you could invest a lot of time and energy.
JF: Yeah, but you know what, I knew deep down that I wasn’t right for it. I knew I just didn’t have it. So I was like, “All right, whatever.” I mean I was interested in it; all my friends were in bands and I loved the music and all that stuff and the whole idea of being in a band but it just didn’t work out.
GNN: So, all right, so music, done. Was there anything in between that and starting up comedy or was there ever going to be another path somewhere?
JF: Well, I always played sports, especially baseball. I played in high school too. But once I started getting into drinking and smoking weed and cigarettes and stuff, that was pretty much over. As soon as I discovered that, about junior year, I was like, “This is way cooler,” looking at dirty magazines and all that stuff. And hanging out and smoking weed in the woods with your friends. I’m like, “Forget about baseball. I don’t give a shit about this.” So, that quickly went aside. I mean look, I would have never made the pros or anything like, so. But then I decided I wanted to get up on stage somehow. You know what I mean? I started DJ’ing. I opened my own DJ business and I was DJ’ing on the radio, on college radio. And then I got a morning show at this little local station. I was the morning guy when I was 22 years old…one of those 100-watt stations or whatever like that, so. Then I had my own DJ business where I was DJ’ing weddings and parties. I was also a rock DJ in rock clubs on the weekends. Like a heavy metal rock club. So, I did that…I started with that. And then once I would start doing the radio I realized I couldn’t say what I wanted to say. I didn’t want to be like Howard Stern or anything like that, just say crazy stuff, but I wanted to at least have a personality. But they just wanted you to read the news, the time, and then go to the next song. So once I realized that I go I was writing jokes every day, whatever was topical. And then I was always attracted to stand-up comedy. I always liked watching comedy, so I just decided, “Let me go up on an open mic night and see what this is about. Maybe I can do this.” And once I got that first laugh I got that rush and I’m like, “Man. This is what I want to do.”
GNN: Nice. So you got the first laugh. I know I, like a lot of people, are afraid of trying to perform or creating anything because we’re afraid of just failing. A lot of creative people I’ve talked to, like authors or musicians, say you have to be afraid to fail. How did it go overall, your first time out?
JF: It took me about nine months to a year before I actually got on stage before I knew I wanted to do it because I was afraid. I was afraid to fail. I wasn’t good at public speaking, even though I was a DJ at weddings; I just announce. I didn’t like doing public speaking at all. I didn’t mind being behind the mic at a radio station because nobody could see me, but when I first got on stage, I didn’t get any laughs…except for when someone said something in the audience and I came back and said something back. I had three minutes of material, and none of it worked. I did it down in Florida. I was actually on vacation in Florida with a girlfriend at that time, and I was driving from the airport to the hotel and I saw open mic night on Tuesday. And I had my notebook with me. I said, “I’m going to write. I might as well while I’m on vacation if I’ve got some downtime.” And I go, “This is the perfect spot because nobody knows me here.” I didn’t want to do it in front of anybody that I knew because I was petrified. So, meanwhile, it ruined the whole vacation with my girlfriend at the time because I was just walking up and down the beach practicing my lines, my jokes, or what I was going to say. She broke up with me like a week later when we got back home. But whatever.
GNN: Now that you’ve mentioned someone in the crowd, one thing I’ve noticed recently, and it’s with this world where everyone wants to be famous and all this, I’ve noticed that almost every comedy show I’ve been too lately someone gets thrown out. Has that gotten better or worse over the years? Are your crowds typically better behaved?
JF: I’m surprised when you saw me at Side Splitters in Tampa that you didn’t see someone get thrown out because that club, I’ve probably done it eight times and I’d probably say four times over the course of the weekend when I’m there, people have gotten dragged out of the club.
GNN: Actually, the last show I saw you did in Tampa there was a bachelorette party next to me and the woman there was trying very hard to get tossed out. I mean, you had the patience of a saint. You were engaging her, but not allowing her to take over.
JF: Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes with bachelorette parties, you get a bunch of women together and they’re drunk and one wants to stick out or whatever. Sometimes it could get ugly. Sometimes I’ll pass a couple of times, let them yell something, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. I know, that’s crazy” and then go right back on my act and shut them down. Or it could be a battle and I’ve done it where it is a battle and the whole nine of them get up and they’re yelling at me that before they leave the room and the bouncer has to come in and the manager and it stops the whole show. So, I know it could get to that point where it’s just happened before and then it stopped, the crowd’s all weird, in a weird spot. It just completely stopped the show for three or four minutes, so I think that night, I probably just decided let me just talk over and just shut her up.
GNN: Does one thing seem to work all the time or do you just, on the fly, try to figure it out? Do you use the same techniques or do you try to employ different tactics?
JF: It’s definitely different tactics. It’s all about in the moment, like, “all right, this is going to go bad. Let me just nip this in bud. Let me move on or let me just attack and get this person out of here because they’re not going to stop the whole show.” Sometimes people yell out something one or two times and then realize they’re interrupting the show so they stop. So I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and then I’ll just move on and if they keep doing it…but sometimes, it’s tough because it really affects you when you’re up there. You’re like, “Come on, man. I’m just at my job.” You know what I mean? You know. You’ve seen comedy shows on Netflix, wherever, and people don’t heckle during the guy’s act, so you know how it works in a comedy club. Just because you had a couple of drinks, you’re f***ing up me at work, you know what I mean? And then they always go, “What did I say? I didn’t say anything. What, I’m not allowed to talk?” That’s always the one. “I’m not allowed to talk to the comedian?” No, you’re not. I always say those are the same people. The next day, they’ll be in a movie theater and there will be some young teenagers talking during a movie and they will be mad at them. They’ll say it’s so rude to talk during a movie. Meanwhile, they’re doing the same thing at a comedy club, but when you mix alcohol in a nightclub, you never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes I’ll just break it down and go, “Do you realize you’re the only person in this room that is yelling stuff out? Nobody else is, just you.” Nobody else is doing it.
GNN: But Jim, they’re funnier than all those people. They’re the funniest one.
JF: I know. I know. Yeah, but there haven’t been more hecklers over everyone want to be famous, everyone wants to yell out, get attention. I haven’t seen that. And I also haven’t seen more people walking out of a club because they’re offended either. Which you would think that’s the case with social media, how everyone’s just bitching and crying about what everybody says, and picking up our words. But that hasn’t happened either. I think those people don’t come to a comedy club or they research the comic and they know that it’s not their style of comedy, which is good for us.
GNN: No, absolutely. Information is out there. All they need to do is Google you and there are 500 videos. Especially with the Everybody’s Awful podcasts, I think people can watch three one-minute chunks of that and pretty much figure out what you do.
JF: Yeah. Then it’s not for them. It’s not family-friendly.
GNN: It’s funny. You wrote the book Everybody is Awful (Except You) and you’re selling it at your shows and I bought a copy. Basically, the book highlights the “awful” things people do online and in life. The end of the book was good because you say, “Listen. Don’t get offended by any of this. Don’t let this book change the things you love.” I mean, very few people are going to get through it and say they haven’t done anything you say is awful. You talk about how you hate putting ketchup on everything and how ridiculous “man caves” are. Are you finding people coming up to you or hitting you up on social media saying, “Hey, man. I have a man cave! You’re an asshole!” You’re saying that people aren’t offended by the book either?
JF: Yeah, no. I definitely get that. And I’ve probably been guilty of a couple of things that were in the book, so yeah. Once in a while, I’ll put ketchup on a hamburger. But somebody just asked me on the air one day when I was on Opie and Anthony something about ketchup. I’m like, “You don’t need…,” and there goes Rich Vos, who’s having ketchup with his eggs on the radio and I go, “What are you putting catchup on that for?” He’s like, “What do you mean?” I’m like, “You don’t need ketchup,” and then I just started from there and I just ramped on it. I really have nothing against ketchup. Up until I was around 25, I used to put ketchup on everything because I just did as a kid, so it’s just a habit of putting ketchup on.
Well, yeah. At the end of the book you say, listen. You say you’re not meaning to bash on anybody. Don’t get your panties in a twist because a couple of things were in there that you do. I was happy I made it through and I think I, maybe, only said one or two of the words that you said make you sound like an idiot. But basically, at the end of the book, you say that you’re not meaning any harm. You’re just pointing out the craziness of life and things that maybe make people more aware of what they’re doing.
JF: Yeah. I always tell people, “Don’t take it personally.” I loved heavy metal as a kid and I understand that people don’t like it and make fun of it, but it’s not going to make me not like it anymore. I’m not going to take it personally, like, “How could you like Black Sabbath? How could you like Judas Priest, still?” Do you know what I mean? You’re a grown man and I get that. And I’ll be like, “Well, I just like it.” Do you know what I mean? I’m not going to be mad at someone making fun of it, but I’m also not going to take it personally. So if someone does something like this, even with my podcasts and my book, it’s like, “Don’t take it personally. We’re just f***ing around.” Do you know what I mean? If you’re saying the word, “deets,” instead of details, it shouldn’t really bother you that I’m making fun of it. But if it does, then that’s on you. That’s fine. I’m not going to be mad at you, but it really shouldn’t bother you.
JF: I still say one thing that I just can’t get rid of, “I felt like I threw him under a bus.” I still say that one because I don’t have another word for it and it just sticks. And I use it in a couple of my jokes on stage. And I go, “Yeah, I can be guilty of that.” People hate that one. And people have sent me messages to make fun of it…they hate that, when people say, “Oh, I got thrown under the bus.”
GNN: If you want to take that up an obnoxious notch, you could say you’re putting a guy on blast. That’s even more obnoxious.
JF: Yeah. That’s a little worse.
GNN: Now, I was an English major and I write technical documentation for a living. I’ll see things when I’m not at work and it makes me twitch a bit. I can’t turn it off. I’ll be reading a menu at a restaurant, I’ll see a typo, I’m trying to have fun, but the hair on the back of my neck stands up a little bit. I crack my neck and I’m like, “Let it go,” and I move on. Is that kind of how you take it? When you’re out and about, if you can hear someone say, “deets,” does it make you twitch a little bit?
JF: It definitely makes me twitch a little bit. If I see a menu…those menus where they try to be funny, like in a sports bar, and the appetizers are, “opening day,” and desserts are, “extra innings,” I’m like, “F**k it.” That drives me nuts. The comedy clubs do it too. They name sandwiches after comedians. I’ll take the Sam Kinison BLT…
GNN: The Jim Florentine Sub has extra, “guac,” because I know that’s a word you love, and double ketchup…served with a “manmosa,” on the side.
JF: That’s funny. That’s brutal. But, you as an English major, you see a typo, that does bother you, but it doesn’t ruin your day, right?
JF: You’re out to dinner with somebody, it’s not going to ruin the meal for an hour, but it hurts you for a minute and then you’re going to let it go. And that’s like me. I just let it go.
GNN: There’s a special kind of feeling. You know when you get the chills? It’s a special kind of chills.
JF: Yeah. It is. I remember it started when I go to an IHOP and they used to have this breakfast, a Rooty Tooty Fruity…whatever it was called. And I would get it because I did like it. And I would just point to it on the menu. The waiter would say, “What do you want?” I would say, “Yeah, I’ll take this.” “What?” “This right here.” The Rooty Tooty, whatever this is, I would never say it. I couldn’t.
GNN: Are you trying to say that you can’t say Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity out loud?
JF: Is that what it was? Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity, yeah. I couldn’t. I couldn’t do it.
GNN: So, in addition to doing standup, you started doing Terrorizing Telemarketers prank phone call CDs and those got pretty popular. I mean, there probably isn’t a soul on the planet who doesn’t appreciate you doing those CDs. When was your first CD of those?
JF: My first CD came out in like 2000, 20 years ago now. I was a struggling comic. I was home during the day. I did gigs at night. And the phone would ring. And I would just mess with telemarketers because I was just bored. So I tried to keep them on the phone for as long as possible just to see how long I can go. And then, I just decided to start recording them. My buddy Don Jamieson, who was a big Jerky Boys fan, he’s like, “Dude,” because I was a big prank call fan. I would make prank calls. But I wasn’t like following other prank calls…I had heard the Jerky Boys and I thought it was great, but I didn’t think this was going to be anything because you got to recording some of these. It sounds really funny. I just got to record. I hooked it up on a phone. And next thing I know, I put a CD out, you know what I mean? And it just took off from there. And I just put it out there just to get my name out there. Like, maybe after shows, people would buy it and know my name. And then, I can build a follow up from there.
GNN: The stories I’ve heard was that the first CD really took off when Howard Stern played it on the air. How did it make its way to him?
JF: Yeah. Well, Don Jamieson knew Gary Dell’Abate, the producer. I also knew him a little bit because he used to host some comedy shows. So, I got the CD, and Don goes, “Hey, let’s drop it off.” So we dropped it off. I remember we went to K-Rock in New York City and Gary had like 100 CDs on his desk. “All right. Fine,” he goes. “If it’s funny, we’ll play it.” And I’m like, “All right. Cool. Thanks.” And we walked away like, “He’s never going to play it. See the stack of CDs? He’s not even going to get to it. I’m sure he says that to everybody.” Then, the next morning, they started playing it. I wasn’t even listening the next morning. I was a big fan. But he’s on at 6 o’clock in the morning. I was never up that early. I woke up at 11:00 and I had all these voicemails like, “Dude, Howard Stern was playing your stuff on the radio today.” And it just took off from there. The next day, he started playing it and stuff. He’s like, “Who is this guy? We love him.” He loved me. So a few months later, I started going on his shows as a regular guest.
JF: And then from there, Jimmy Kimmel and Corolla heard me. They were fans of the Stern show. They were starting up Crank Yankers and they wanted to know if I wanted to be part of the show.
GNN: Right. You were two characters. You’re Special Ed and…it was Bobby Fletcher? Were those characters you had done during the terrorizing telemarketers or…?
JF: Yeah. Well, Bobby Fletcher’s just me with my regular voice. I gave him the name Bobby Fletcher. And Special Ed…I just got to the point where these telemarketers wouldn’t hang up. I’d have them on the phone for like an hour just messing around with them like, “They won’t hang up.” So then, I started acting like Special Ed, and they would still stay on the phones. That’s like with that character. So let me see if they’ll even try to sell me something when I sound like this.
GNN: Yeah. I’ve listened to a bunch of them. There was a person you wanted to pay with change and you wanted them to stay on the phone while you counted it.
JF: Yeah, yeah, yeah, Bose radio, I remember (laughs).
GNN: And for the longest time, it seemed like the guy was going to stay in it for the duration. I mean, I don’t obviously want to know to the second, but what is the longest time you’ve kept someone on the phone?
JF: Oh, yeah. So, I remember this one woman goes, “Listen, we’re at one hour. And I have to end this call.” I’m like, “Why?” She goes, “We cannot stay on the phone longer than an hour. I’m really sorry.” I’m like, “Yeah. But I want to get the product. I wanted to get the information.” I never released that call because it just wasn’t that great right. I remember she said, “I have to go.” And she hung up.
GNN: So, have you ever felt bad during one of the telemarketer prank calls? Have you ever thought, “You know what? This person is only doing their job. They’re actually being pretty friendly.”
JF: I don’t feel bad because I remember when I was a kid, my grandparents who lived down in Florida, these telemarketers called them and told them the roof was going to cave in and then they got a crew that kind of came over, and they gave them like $15,000 to fix the roof. They went up there one day and then just left and never came back.
GNN: Wow! That actually happened? I’m sorry.
JF: They didn’t know. They’re just like, “Oh my God, the roof’s caving in. All right, sure. Come on,” you know? So they showed up one day and then ripped up some of the roof and then never came back. So I’ve always had something against them. I even did a little telemarketing when I lived down in Florida. At the time, I worked there for like a week. I’m like “I can’t. I can’t scam these people out of these things. This is BS, this stuff that we’re trying to sell.” I forgot what it was. And I just felt bad calling these people and trying to trick them, basically. It wears on you mentally. But most of them are happy to talk to me because they’d be like they just had 10 people in a row curse at them, tell them, “Don’t ever call me again. Take me off the do not call list,” or whatever. “Don’t ever call here again,” screaming at them. So they finally got somebody like, “Wow, oh man, I’ve got someone.”
GNN: So, I read that after you were on Stern your CD shot up to number two on Amazon. Was it selling well before that, or…?
JF: l checked before I went on the show to promote the CD and I remember I was like, 282,984, my sales rank on Amazon. Nobody was buying it. That’s maybe selling two CDs a day. And then I went on there, and I went to number two. And the only reason it didn’t go to number one is my website crashed because it didn’t have enough bandwidth. This was in 2000…I think it was 2001 when I went, actually, on the show. I didn’t have enough bandwidth, so it crashed. And the only one that beat me was the Backstreet Boys because they had a new album out. I almost topped the Backstreet Boys.
GNN: So close! It’s amazing the power of Howard Stern. It’s funny, the people who don’t know Howard Stern like to bash on him, and the people who really know him, always say he’s a nice guy. Is he a nice guy?
JF: Absolutely. I’ve hung with him off the air. The guy did wonders for my career. Howard Stern was that type of guy; he was almost like the Johnny Carson Show for comedians, like back in the day if you went on Johnny Carson as a comedian you made it. The next day you were selling out clubs and you had a big agent and a TV deal or whatever. And Howard Stern almost was like a Johnny Carson for degenerate comics or comics that are a little edgy that couldn’t get on TV. He took those guys in. He just launched my career from going on and I was a huge fan of growing up and listening to his show. I was hugely influenced by him. I loved it. I loved that he was out of control and breaking rules and saying things he wasn’t supposed to say and getting in trouble. I loved all of that.
GNN: Okay. So obviously, going on the show had an effect on the CD sales. Did it also have an effect on your stand-up?
JF: Yeah. I remember the first time he plugged a club I was going to be at and I sold out five shows that weekend. It was on a Wednesday. He’s like, “Jim will be at the Funny Bone in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this Friday and Saturday.” I sold out every show and I wasn’t selling any tickets at that point because people didn’t know who I was. The power in that show was amazing and his fans were rabid and they loved comedy like that so I fit in perfectly with that.
GNN: So, then you got Crank Yankers. I mean, obviously, you’re still riding the wave from Howard Stern. Did Crank Yankers boost your career the same way? I mean, obviously, it made you one big friend in Eminem.
JF: Yeah. Well, it took like a year for Crank Yankers to take off. With the first season, we only did six episodes at first and it was kind of like, yeah, it wasn’t great with the ratings and stuff and they guaranteed us another season. And then we heard Eminem took a liking to the show. We heard through the grapevine that he liked the show. And the next thing you know, we heard from his management that he wants to be on the show and he wants to do calls with the two characters that I do.
So, within like three days, I’m in a studio, Eminem Studio, 8 Mile Studio, freaking Detroit doing prank calls with the guy because he and his daughter would watch it like that’s what they bonded over. They would watch that show every week, Crank Yankers, and she goes, “Dad, how come you’re not on that show?” And Eminem used to always do prank calls on his old albums, too. And then I wind up doing to the Music Awards with him, the MTV Music Awards.
GNN: Yeah. Didn’t he kill Special Ed?
JF: Yeah. He beat him up. I was like right under the podium doing the voice and the I’m working the puppet so we had to rehearse and all that stuff so it was pretty cool. So I was at those award shows that I ended up working with him, too.
GNN: So, I’ve only been talking to you for a little bit, but I think I know the answer to this. When some folks came to you or called you or whatever and said, “Hey, Jim, get this. We’re going to take your prank phone calls and we’re going to add puppets,” what’s the first thought that went through your mind?
JF: This is the worst idea ever. You all will get canceled in two episodes. I was embarrassed to tell my comic friends because I was like they’re going to make fun of me. They’re going to make fun of me that I’m on this terrible show. And I remember my manager at the time, he’s like, “Dude,” he goes, “They’re guaranteeing six episodes with Comedy Central. It’s Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla,” and they were still doing The Man Show at that point and that was really big for that time. Look, of course, I’m going to take it, but this sounds terrible. Who’s going to watch this? I really was afraid to tell my comic friends. I’m like, “Man, I’m going to get beat up all over this forever, that I was on their show.”
GNN: I kinda’ figured you’d say that.
JF: And when it came out, I saw the finished product, I’m, “Oh, good. This is going to work. All right. I could see this. It’s a little weird but I could see it working.” And you know, whenever it comes out of a puppet’s mouth it’s always a lot…you got a filter there. You could say more dirty stuff or edgy stuff because it’s coming from a puppet.
GNN: So, before this interview, I looked you up on Wikipedia and IMDB and over the years you’ve done quite a bit. You’ve had those relationships with Howard Stern and Eminem, and you were on That Metal Show and Inside the NFL. You were on The Apprentice. You’re a voice in Grand Theft Auto. If I were to tell 12-year-old Jim Florentine when he was making prank phone calls, that that was going to one day lead to all that…I mean, some of the things you’ve done, you’ve been in movies, you’ve been on television…what would 12-year-old Jim Florentine tell me?
JF: No. It’s insane because like, my whole childhood was making prank phone calls or listening to heavy metal. And I get on a show that makes prank calls. There’s never been a show in TV history of making prank phone calls. All of a sudden I’m on that show. I get picked to be on that show and I was like the only unknown at the time to be on that show. Everybody else was pretty much established, the comics they took, and they get on a heavy metal talk show. And I was like, I didn’t have to do any research for any of the guests, because I was such a fan. So it’s like, I’ve been waiting 20 years to talk to these guys to ask them these questions. So no, it’s unbelievable that stuff like that can happen. But I just think, of whatever you do, if you just do it long enough and you’re not a d**k, good things will happen.
GNN: Oh, man. Do I have your permission to write that and put that on a shirt?
JF: Yeah, exactly. You never know who might help you down the road if you’re not a d**k to people. If you are a d**k, they go, “No. We’re not going to use that guy,” or whatever. So if you don’t cause too many problems and you’re not a drama queen, good things can happen to you.
GNN: No. That’s excellent advice. Some people think they got to be heads-down and shut everybody out.
JF: Yeah. And then, everybody’s got an ego. I need to be this person in this. I didn’t care. You know what I mean? Like, as long as I’m part of it, it’s all good. I don’t care if I’m not in the promos or I’m not the lead guy or whatever. Who cares?
GNN: Now, you said it was like nine months that you were working on stuff before you got the courage to get up on stage. Okay. So you got up. You did your first act. It didn’t go particularly well. How long does it take to get it…I mean, obviously, it’s going to be different. But for you, how long did you find that it took to get it to where it was getting regular laughs?
JF: A couple of years. I was lucky because when I got in the business, there were a couple of headliners already, at the time, Bob Levy and Rich Vos. They were already established. And there was a bunch of work. And they took a liking me. So they would bring me out. And I’d be working like five, six nights a week. And I was only doing comedy like six months a year or whatever. So I was getting on stage a lot. So I was getting better because I was getting a lot of stage time. But about the three-year mark is when I got an MTV show, a comedy show, about three years in. I did like a 10-minutes set. But I still wasn’t good at three years. But I was doing okay. Usually, about the nine/ten-year mark is when you really can hit your stride as a comic. It usually takes that long. You don’t think it does. But it does.
GNN: And the reason I ask is just for people who are thinking of doing it. Their friends tell them they’re funny. Their family tells them they’re funny. They have a little YouTube video or something. It’s just one of those things where if your first show bombs or your first five show bomb or six months, you still don’t feel like you’re a failure; don’t give up.
JF: No, you definitely don’t give up. You never know. Hang in there as long as possible. But these guys that could put a YouTube video out and be funny and then tour the comedy clubs, that’s a person you’re only going to go see once because they don’t have the chops. They don’t have 45 minutes to an hour to stand up there. So you really got to put the time in. No matter what, you still have to put the time in to get good on stage, to get the stage presence, and to handle any situation: a drunk crowd, a bad crowd, a crowd that’s in a bad mood, or whatever, a rowdy crowd. So you need that experience of just work in the club. It’s like working out in a gym. You know what I mean? If you’re going to want to be an athlete, you got to be in the gym. You got to keep doing it. That’s what comedy is.
When we get out of this whole coronavirus thing…none of us has been on stage; we’re all going to be rusty. This is the longest I have gone without performing. I love just going to an open-mic. There’s one like 20 minutes from my house. Once a month, I go down there just to work on new jokes. I just love getting up there.
GNN: All right, based on your book and your disdain for Facebook, if you could snap your fingers right now and make Facebook disappear from the planet, would you do it?
JF: I don’t know. I mean, I’m sure people have a good time there; it’s just not for me. It’s funny because I’m working on my podcast for Monday that I’m going to record, and it’s all about the Facebook games that people come up with. That whole thing, it’s like yeah, here are 10 concerts I went to, but one I didn’t. Try to figure out which one I didn’t and don’t cheat. I’m like, how are you going to cheat? Am I going to call Madison Square Garden and see if I can get the security footage to see if you were at a Bob Seeger concert in 2002, to see if you were there? “Don’t cheat.” All right, ready? And then, go. No one’s going to know. Yeah, I didn’t know when to start. I was waiting. The guy didn’t write, Go,” so I guess we don’t start yet.
GNN: Yeah. I mean, I looked at a guy’s thing, a puzzle he had on there for a week, and he didn’t say, “Go.”
JF: He didn’t say, “Go,” so you’re like, I guess I can’t start yet.
GNN: Yeah, I can’t, I’m sorry. I sent him a message. I’m like, dude, I looked at your puzzle for a week. No “go,” I can’t spend any more time on this.
JF: Now, but look, if people get enjoyment out of Facebook, that’s fine. To me, it’s a waste of time. But it was originally set up for people to put pictures of their kids, so their grandmother in Seattle could see them. And then it just came in as all political and this. And I’m sobbing, and I’m making up stories that I helped some old lady change a flat tire, and then I gave her an extra $200, I gave her a ride home, I tucked her in bed. Everyone’s just trying to top each other in stories.
GNN: Okay, if someone knocked on your door right now and said they’d green-light any project, whatever you said got green-lit right away, what would you do? Do you have any projects in your head, “Oh, it’d be great if I could do this.”?
JF: I’d probably just bring back That Metal Show that I used to host, you know what I mean? Because it was just such a great gig and an easy gig and I loved doing it. I loved being part of the show. So I think probably something like that. I’m not really into TV shows and stuff like that. I love watching them but not developing them. Because my stuff is darker, and I’m sure it’s not going to work. That’s really not my thing, to write screenplays. That’s not me but I think like hidden camera stuff, I did hidden camera stuff back in the day. I did a pilot for Comedy Central. Never got picked up. Maybe something like that. But Impractical Jokers do it well. So there’s no need for that, but I think bringing back That Metal Show would be the thing that I would like to do.
GNN: Same cast, or would you like to put new people on there?
JF: Same cast. Me and Don Jamieson and Eddie Trunk. We’re all friends. Same show pretty much. So people still like it. All those heavy metal shows, like that whole Motley Crue, whatever you say about that music, the whole stadium tour was sold out. 50, 60,000 people. So there are still people out there that like that type of music. And also the new current version of heavy metal. Whatever is out there. We had those guys on too so it’s a nice little niche market… that’s a small percentage of people that like that music but the people that like it are super passionate about it, which is great.
GNN: Sure. I talked to a buddy of mine who was going to do a podcast and he said the more niche your podcast is, the better because people who are fans of it will find it. And there are always enough people. So, I’m guessing if you just did a music podcast that’s two billion people, and then you go heavy metal, and then if you narrowed it down more, heavy metal of the 80s that kind of you get a better audience.
JF: And that’s why when my podcast I didn’t want to interview other comedians, because of a lot of podcasts that comics that have podcasts, they interview different comedians. And that’s the show. And I was like, I don’t want to do that what everybody else is doing. Let me try to do something different. It might not be as popular but the people that like it are going to dig it. You know what I mean? So that’s why I just said I’m just going to rant by myself and just do different rants each week.
GNN: And that’s the Everybody is Awful podcast, correct? And that can be found where?
JF: It’s on Barstool Sports. It’s out every Monday and Thursday. Two podcasts a week.
GNN: Okay, last question. What are you geeking out on right now? You said you were watching the Michael Jordan documentary. Are there any television shows, movies, music?
JF: What have I been watching? I’ve been watching a lot of stuff on the ID network. The channel all those shady people murdering people and they do the reenactments and stuff…I know, but I’m fascinated by that stuff.
JF: Police sergeant. He’s a serial killer in the town, stuff like that. But you know what I watched last night, which was unbelievable, on Netflix? You know, the comedian Darrell Hammond from Saturday Night Live? He’s got a documentary he put out about his life. It’s called Cracked Up. He had a horrific upbringing and, of course, it was in Florida.
GNN: There you go…Florida making headlines again.
JF: His mom just tortured him as a kid. And the guy’s been in five different mental institutions over the course of his career. He got taken out of SNL one time on a stretcher and brought to a mental institute because he’s had such a horrific upbringing and he tells the whole story goes back to his hometown to his original house where he grew up in Florida for the first time in 40 years. It’s sad, but it’s fascinating.
GNN: I’ll have to check that out. Now it’s time to talk about where people can find you on the interwebs. You have a website, correct?
JF: Yeah, Jim Florentine.com.
GNN: And you can on the website, you can get CDs and DVDs and your book, and shirts and your book’s also on Amazon, right?
JF: It’s on Amazon. There are really no bookstores anymore. So it’s in there for a little while and then they need shelf space, so your book’s out but everyone goes to Amazon to get books anyway. That’s why some of my shows I said, “Listen, I got my audience at a show, so they don’t feel like going ordering off Amazon or going to a bookstore. I’ll have them there.” And then I sign them for people too, so…
GNN: So are you on Twitter? Facebook? Are you on any of the social media?
GNN: Gotcha. Any other projects coming out to be made aware of? You working on anything else?
JF: Just stand-up. I’m working on it. It’s good because this downtime is like I’m going over old sets, old comedy sets. I record all my shows on my phone when I do them. So I’m going back and just listening to old sets and just…because sometimes I’ll riff and I’ll just say something. I’m like, “That’d be good to put in my act,” or whatever. And just tightening up the act for when we get back out there. So I work it again.
GNN: All right, Jim, thank you for the time, brother.
JF: Yeah, man. Thanks. I appreciate it.