Jim Florentine has made a giant impact in the worlds of comedy and rock music. He is a co-host on That Metal Show on VH1 Classic, the biggest and best rock talk show around. He is an accomplished stand up comedian with four live albums and five volumes of “Terrorizing Telemarketers”. And of course, he provided the voice for Special Ed and Bobby Fletcher on Crank Yankers. I spoke with Jim to discuss That Metal Show, adventures in comedy, his personal stories with iconic rock musicians, and much more!
Alex Obert: What does it mean for you to be back in New York City for That Metal Show?
Jim Florentine: I mean it’s cool cause it’s local, so it’s nice. We only do one show a week. Every Tuesday, we tape it. It airs on Saturday. This is compared to when we go to Los Angeles, we cram ten shows in thirteen days, tape two a day. The schedule’s a lot easier. But in New York, there was a blizzard this past week, sixteen inches of snow. California was eighty and sunny. Most of the hard rock and metal guys live in LA, these guys have gotta fly in now. You’re limiting yourself with guests, but I think it’ll work out.
Alex Obert: With the new taping schedule, will you be keeping up on rock current events to share?
Jim Florentine: Yeah, we try to. We just talked about what’s going on with Queensryche and the naming thing, whose gonna get the name cause that’s pretty much coming down to the wire. We talked about it on this past week’s taping and the show will air Saturday. But then again, they show these shows for the next three, four years in repeat. So it’s current for this week, but after that, six months down the road, we’re already gonna know the Queensryche name.
Alex Obert: One of the more recent segments on That Metal Show, what is your opinion on Origins?
Jim Florentine: It was good. We’re not doing it this season, we did it last year. They wanted a bunch of new segments for the show. They wanted it to look a little different and put some stuff in. I guess it worked for last year, but we’re not doing it this year. So I don’t know if we’ll do it again. But you know, look, when the executives want some changes, they just wanna freshen up the show a little bit, it’s like, “Alright, well let’s figure out what’ll work best.” Some other ideas they weren’t so crazy about.
Alex Obert: What is your favorite new segment?
Jim Florentine: I like when we ask the five questions to the artists, first album they bought, first concert, what song did they learn, the one vice, it’s gets a little more personal with them. We can spend a little more time with them going around the horn. I like that kind of segment, it’s quick, not long-winded answers. Sometimes it’s “What’s your favorite new band?” It’s always cool to hear what these guys are listening to.
Alex Obert: How do you determine which segment goes with which show?
Jim Florentine: That’s up to the producers. Most of these segments like ask ’em five questions and the top five and The Throwdown, they’re pretty much in every episode.
Alex Obert: I’d like to go over some past That Metal Show memories with you and feel free to share any thoughts that come to mind.
Jim Florentine: Sure.
Alex Obert: The iconic Van Halen skit in the first episode.
Jim Florentine: I loved it! I wish we could do more of that stuff, that’s me and Don just breakin’ balls, what we do best. But it’s tough with budgets. When you shoot something outside the studio, it costs a lot of money to get a crew, to get audio guys, and then go back and edit the whole thing. We’re on VH1 Classic, we’re not a big budget. It’s tough for that stuff to fit in, that’s why we don’t have any live music on the show. Because it costs a lot of money for a band to play one of their songs now. Bands aren’t making the money now through record companies and record sales. They charge even way more for their songs played on the air. So that’s why we can’t have that either. We’re limited in budget, but I love stuff like that, bustin’ balls. But then again, look, if we’ve got Steve Harris in from Iron Maiden, I know that as a fan, if I’m sittin’ at home watchin’ that show, I don’t wanna see me and Don busting a guy’s balls about a Van Halen show. Though it’s funny, I wanna hear what Steve Harris has to say. “We know you’re funny. We get it, dude. You guys are funny, you guys are comics. But come on! You got Steve Harris from Iron Maiden and I wanna hear from him! Have him talk about The Number of the Beast record and what it was like to get Bruce Dickinson in the band.” Stuff like that.
Alex Obert: You also had a segment with Kerry King and Dave Lombardo rating various albums.
Jim Florentine: I loved that! Kerry’s a great guy, and Dave too. They’re very opinionated and we love that about them. That’s why we thought they would be great for that segment. When we showed them Metallica’s Death Magnetic, they’re like, “Uh…nice try.” And they’re buddies with those guys. We showed them our comedy CDs, they’re like, “I never heard of this guy, he looks like a douchebag.” It’s just really funny. Those are the guys that can do something like that, where they’d be honest.
Alex Obert: Were you personally surprised that they listen to Nirvana?
Jim Florentine: No. I think a lot of metalheads secretly like Nirvana, but they’re not allowed to say it. Supposedly, that killed the eighties metal, when Nirvana came out. But you know what, it wasn’t Nirvana’s fault. Nirvana didn’t come out and try to do that on purpose. In my theory, it was more of MTV and radio programmers around the country that just said, “You know what? Let’s stop playing Ratt and let’s play this Nirvana stuff.” And then once MTV started playing it and the radio stations took a hold of it, they said, “We’re not playing Ratt anymore.” So they’re the ones who wiped it out. It wasn’t Nirvana’s fault. Nirvana was a great band. I always talk about Nirvana, wear Nirvana t-shirts. People are like, “How could you wear that?” I’m like, “Because I like ’em. I’m not gonna hold it against ’em.” The music changed, but some of those bands still last, they still play in smaller clubs or whatever. But some of that stuff, it did peak, it was the same formula. Put out two catchy hard rock songs and a ballad and we’ll go out on tour. So maybe it needed a little kick in the ass.
Alex Obert: Getting into the Vault segment of That Metal Show, there was an episode with Sebastian Bach and Anvil where the Vault showed a young Eddie Trunk. That must have been memorable!
Jim Florentine: Oh, yeah! That was funny cause Eddie didn’t even know that was gonna happen. The producers showed that to me and Don before we taped the show. He goes, “Hey, we’re only showing a little of this, and then when we tape the show live, we’re gonna cut in where Eddie sees himself for the first time.” So that was a pretty cool moment. There was another great moment with Duff McKagan, the one where he’s all messed up in the Vault segment. I think he was at his house and he was completely hammered. And he was just looking at it like, “Oh my God! I can’t believe I was that guy!” He was really shaken about that, even afterwards. “Man, I can’t believe that that was me and I was on TV like that. I don’t even remember that! That’s sad that MTV was at my house and I don’t remember that!” So that was a pretty cool moment.
Alex Obert: What are some of your favorite “We’re honored to have with us…”?
Jim Florentine: I remember there was one guy that looked like Artie Lange, the comedian Artie Lange is a good friend of mine. There was one where I said he looked like Artie Lange. That one was a good one. Sometimes it’s tough. Sometimes you’re like, “Aw, man! That’s kinda reachin’ a little!” But there’s only sixty people in the audience, so I don’t have too much to choose from. Sometimes you’re like, “Alright, that was a stretch!” But there’s always a Kerry King, there’s always a Tom Araya from Slayer, I think there was an Ozzy. The producers usually go, “How about that guy over there? He looks like this!” I’m like, “Yeah yeah! Okay! That’s the guy!” Or I’m like, “Nah, it doesn’t look like him.” So you’re trying to make the best of it.
Alex Obert: Was that part of the show your idea?
Jim Florentine: I think so. I think originally I said, “Man, look at that guy over there! He looks like Ozzy, man! We should point him out!” So I think that’s how it went down.
Alex Obert: I’d like to go over a few guests you’ve had on the show. Share any memories, anything significant to you about having them on the show.
Jim Florentine: Okay.
Alex Obert: Lemmy.
Jim Florentine: Lemmy’s always a great guest. One thing about Lemmy is he’s pretty short with his answers. Some people are like, “Man, Lemmy seemed like he was in a bad mood.” It’s like, “Lemmy, you think Ace of Spades was your favorite record?” “No, no it wasn’t. I think we’ve done ten records better than that.” The guy leaves it at that and it’s like, “Wow man, is he mad that he had that question?” But that’s the way Lemmy is. He’s a super nice guy. Great dude, he’ll answer anything. And so funny too. Always a great sense of humor on him. We’ve had Lemmy on like four different times and he’s awesome.
Alex Obert: Corey Taylor.
Jim Florentine: Look, Corey could be on with Katy Perry on the same show and he could relate to her. When we saw that we were having two different guests, when we expanded the show to an hour, some of the artists were like, “I don’t wanna be on with this band! Then I’m gonna be lumped in with them!” You got that feedback like, “Who am I gonna be on with? Can I be on the show with this guy instead?” When we had Night Ranger on, we were like, “Man, who are we gonna put on with them? We’ve got a bunch of heavy guests that season.” And I’m like, “You know what? How about Corey Taylor? I bet Corey could care less. I know he likes eighties music.” And when they asked him, he was like, “I love Night Ranger! Of course! That would be great!” So Corey can adjust to anything, he can talk about anything. I mean the guy’s in Slipknot, one of the most extreme bands. Also Stone Sour. He’s just a really smart, educated dude. Great interview!
Alex Obert: Billy Sheehan.
Jim Florentine: The guy, still at whatever age he is, to play the bass like that. And just one of the nicest guys in the business, without a doubt. And just the legend. That band he was in when David Lee Roth left Van Halen. Him and Steve Vai. Gregg Bissonette on drums. The Eat ‘Em And Smile record and Skyscraper. Just legendary. Phenomenal still on bass and just a great dude. And he’s having more success now with that band, The Winery Dogs too.
Alex Obert: Jake E. Lee.
Jim Florentine: Jake, it was great to see him finally. He was out in hiding basically for a while. Really funny. He was a little shy on camera. But hangin’ with him on stage, super funny guy, wicked sense of humor. And just good to see him back playing again. I think he was gone for too long.
Alex Obert: Adrian Smith.
Jim Florentine: Adrian, we were lucky to get. The guys from Maiden, they all live in England except for Nicko, lives down in Florida. But Maiden doesn’t need to do press, that’s the thing. They’re so big, they don’t really have to promote a new record or come on our show to do that plug. From England to California is a friggin’ twelve hour flight or something like that. They’re not doin’ that. But luckily, Adrian had a place in California too and he was promoting a solo record. And he was in town at that time. He was like, “Aw man, I wanna get my record out there!” So it was perfect timing. I’ve never met the guy before and it was great. He was the first guy from Maiden that we had on the show. Then we had Steve Harris who was looking to promote his solo record too. So we lucked out with those guys with that.
Alex Obert: During the early days of That Metal Show, who were you personally hoping would go on?
Jim Florentine: Well, when Rob Halford actually came on, I think the second season, he was on it. And the guys from Rush, Eddie knew the guys from Rush. We had Geddy and Alex on. We pretty much had everybody. The only guys, big guys that we’re missing from the show are James Hetfield, who watches the show, but he’s like, “Eh, I love watching it, but I don’t know if I wanna come on.”, which is fine, Ozzy hasn’t been on, and Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Those are the four big ones. We’ve had Angus Young and Brian Johnson on, me and Eddie actually interviewed them at their record label when Black Ice came out. That was in our first season. So that was amazing. And then we had Brian on one more time. Look, we’d love to have Jimmy Page or Robert Plant on too. As the show gets bigger, people wanna do the show cause they see it’s a good outlet to plug whatever’s going on in their careers, so it’s easier for us to get guests.
Alex Obert: Relating to music, what is it like to bond with your nephew over bands?
Jim Florentine: It’s awesome! He’s fifteen, he freakin’ loves all these bands. He turns me on to some bands that I don’t know about. I turn him onto this stuff. I just got him into System of a Down. He never even heard of ’em until like a year ago. Now he’s like, “I love these guys, man! These guys are great!” I love doing that to him. And then he’ll bring a band, “You gotta check this band out!” Butcher Babies or something. And he turns me onto them. It’s really cool. He was at the taping last week. He’s a huge Avenged Sevenfold fan and M. Shadows, the singer, was on our show. So he got to meet him and talk to him. He loves Five Finger Death Punch, I brought him to the show. Those guys were totally cool with him and stuff. It’s good because at some point, he’s gonna be taking care of me as I get older. When I’m an old man, I’m gonna tell him, “Dude, remember when I fuckin’ brought you backstage for M. Shadows and you got a picture? He talked to you for ten minutes. Wipe my ass cause I can’t reach it!”
Alex Obert: On your podcast, Comedy Metal Midgets, you are known for ranting on various topics. One of the topics was rock FM radio, I’d love to get your thoughts on how you would change it.
Jim Florentine: Don’t be so safe. This is a time to take chances. They’ve gotten so more conservative because they’re afraid of satellite and Pandora and Spotify and all this other stuff. People are gonna have all of this stuff in their cars, if not now, pretty soon. That’s the thing with Sirius, when you got original talk programming like Howard Stern, Opie and Anthony, Ron and Fez, Jason Ellis, guys like that that are interesting. Guys that people wanna listen to. That’s why people are gonna pay for that. So if you’re just gonna play the same songs over and over again, Bob Seger Old Time Rock and Roll, Bad to the Bone, and Doors Light My Fire, you’re screwed. That’s gonna work for a little percentage of the audience, but this newer generation has got a lot of options and they know how to get to ’em. And don’t worry about the FCC. If someone says shit, you go, “Hey, sorry!” They’re not really fining people like they did back in the day with Stern and all that stuff. They’re letting stuff like that slide. But get some good, original content out there and stop worrying about offending everybody. That’s what it is in this day and age. Even podcasts now, everybody is listening to podcasts now and everything and just going, “Look what this person said!” They put it online and there’s a bunch of babies out there, a bunch of tattletales out there that wanna start trouble. If they get offended by something, hey, maybe it’s not for you. So don’t worry about it. You like your little shit, don’t worry about what someone else is doing on a podcast. That’s not for you. Don’t come into a comedy club or on the radio and, “They were talking about sex and I have my five year old in the car!” Then change the station. Why are you listening to that? You’re not a good parent! I have six kids CDs loaded in my CD player in my car, when I have my son in the car, I put them on. I won’t put on Stern or Opie and Anthony, something edgy like that, when he’s in the car. I know when he’s out of the car, then I can do that. For regular radio, just take more chances because you’re gonna get pounded soon, man. When people out there have so many options, it’s just like cable TV now. You see Duck Dynasty, it’s got fuckin’ eighteen million people watchin’ that show. And then the corny sitcom that’s on NBC at the same time gets four million people watchin’ it. People have options now. Cable’s taken it to another level now, gotten a little edgier, got a little darker. People wanna see that stuff. So that’s what you gotta do. Regular TV is almost like regular radio. Take some chances. If someone’s offended, tell em, “Too fuckin’ bad! I don’t know your sense of humor. I didn’t know you weren’t gonna like that. That’s not my problem!”
Alex Obert: Going back to your podcast, Comedy Metal Midgets, do you have any rant ideas for upcoming episodes?
Jim Florentine: Yeah, I wanna do one about tattletales. I think that’s gonna be this week. People telling on people and trying to get people in trouble. Like this whole Richard Sherman thing, the football player from the Seattle Seahawks went crazy right after a game. The guy’s going to the Super Bowl for the first time, he made a huge play to save the game to send his team to the Super Bowl. And they ask him about two minutes after he made that play, “How do you feel?” And he’s got adrenaline pumping and he starts yelling like a wrestler. And everyone’s like, “That’s bad sportsmanship!” Really? Somebody finally had some passion and said something in a post game interview instead of going, “Well, the 49ers were a good team. My hat’s off to ’em. They played a great game. We’re just excited and we’re gonna prepare for the Broncos. We’re gonna celebrate today, and then we’ll get ourselves prepared.” How many times are you gonna see that? That’s boring! The fact a guy finally says something different and people are like, “He’s an animal! That’s bad for the kids watchin’ at home!” Shut up! A bunch of babies.
Alex Obert: Getting into some more of your memorable moments in comedy, can you describe to readers the Twitter incident you had a couple years ago with the guy sitting next to you on the plane?
Jim Florentine: Look, comedians exaggerate and stuff. I was taking a flight to LA. I’m in the emergency exit aisle, it’s got a little more extra room. I see this big guy coming. When you get on a plane first and you start looking at people like, “I hope this person doesn’t sit next to me!” Or you see a hot chick and you’re like, “Oh, I hope she’s in 21B right next to me. That’d be nice.” And then I see this big guy and he sits right in the middle seat next to me on a six hour flight. So I went on Twitter and I said, “Oh man, I got this fat guy sitting next to me! His freakin’ blubber is on my arm! He’s looking at my arm like it’s a mozzarella stick.” I’m just crackin’ jokes, just being silly before the planes takes off. And he just looks at me cause he’s on his phone, he goes, “Dude, nice joke! Thanks!” I’m like, “Uhhh…” He’s like, “I follow you on Twitter!” And I felt so bad. And he wasn’t that big, I definitely exaggerated, but he was definitely husky. He was big enough where you didn’t have that much room. And then now I gotta sit next to him for six hours. I told him I was just kidding. And then he goes, “Now all your Twitter followers are gonna think I’m a fat fuck.” So then I have to go, “He’s not really that fat. Don’t pick on him.” And he’s like, “Alright, no problem, no problem.” But you could tell that he was tense the rest of the flight. He was not comfortable. We had six hours together. I wish it would have been at the end of the flight so I could go, “Dude, I’m sorry.” And then walk away. So you gotta be careful because somebody could be there.
Alex Obert: You also had an incident on The Apprentice.
Jim Florentine: I did one of the episodes of The Apprentice. It was the last episode where they do a charity thing and they had a comedy show. The guy told me, “One thing man. George Ross (Donald Trump’s advisor on the show) and his wife are gonna be sitting in the front. The only thing, just don’t pick on ’em please! That’s the only thing I ask. Do your act, be funny. But just please, don’t pick on him!” So as soon as he said that, I went right at him. I’m like, “Hey, George is here with his wife. Do you pull his diaper when you guys have sex?” And they were cuttin’ to the guy sweating backstage, “Why is he doing that? I told him not to!” I just did that to be an idiot.
Alex Obert: Do you have any memorable stories of offended people during your set?
Jim Florentine: Yeah, absolutely. I sell merchandise after the show and I’ll meet people, take pictures with ’em, whatever. That’s when you get the feedback. “You were sexist! You were talking about women in a derogatory way.” I go, “Really? I was just talking about relationships in general. Somebody has to take the brunt of it. I talked about guys too, but you only heard the talk about women.” “But you’re a sexist!” “You know what? Don’t come to a comedy club if you’re gonna be offended.” I always tell people, “If you’re gonna talk about a relationship on stage, in a comedy club, I can’t talk about how I surprise my wife with some roses and I took her to a Broadway show. And we went to dinner in New York City right before. And we had a great night, we got a hotel room.” No one’s gonna find that funny, there’s not one ounce of comedy in that. But I might talk about how she was bothering me when I was trying to be doing whatever and people can relate to that and make it into something funny. That’s what you gotta go with. Nobody wants to hear the nice stuff on stage. Some people who take it personally don’t understand that.
Alex Obert: Another comedy endeavor you’ve been involved with, who is the next musician that you hope gets roasted?
Jim Florentine: Sebastian Bach would be good. He’d be good to get roasted. Corey Taylor would be good. Those two would probably be pretty good to roast.
Alex Obert: And another one of your achievements in comedy, Crank Yankers, which bands do you think Special Ed listens to?
Jim Florentine: That’s interesting. I’d say he listens to Eminem cause Eminem’s a big fan of Special Ed, so Special Ed would definitely listen to Eminem. And Special Ed would like pop music. He’d like that silly pop, Katy Perry bullshit and maybe even some Lady Gaga. Whatever goofy pop is out there, Pitbull, he would like that stuff.
Alex Obert: Do you think he’d like Rock of Ages?
Jim Florentine: No. No, he would hate it just as much as I did. You know what’s funny is this week’s episode of That Metal Show, Joel Hoekstra is the guest guitar player. And he plays in the Rock of Ages Broadway show. And he’s also in Night Ranger too. And he knows we don’t like the show. We didn’t talk about it on the air, he’s like, “Dude, you can mention I play in Rock of Ages, but I got other stuff I like to plug. And I know you guys don’t dig it. So I’d rather just talk about my other stuff. Look man, it’s a gig for me.” And I go, “Dude, I got no problem with you having a gig. Absolutely, you gotta pay the bills.” I wasn’t gonna bring it up and ask how could he play in that and say it’s garbage and all that stuff. I had more of a problem with the movie than the Broadway show. I don’t go to Broadway shows, all that singin’, dancin’ and silliness, that’s Broadway. But when you try to make that into a movie and that’s what you think is gonna be a good movie. And the way they promoted it and it was just such a bomb. When the actors saw the finished product, they wouldn’t even do promotion for the movie. Alec Baldwin was getting sued if he didn’t go out and promote that movie. He didn’t promote because he saw what garbage it was.
Alex Obert: Would you ever do commentary during the movie a la Mystery Science Theater 3000?
Jim Florentine: I would love to. That would be great to do that. Doing running commentary as Rock of Ages was playing. That would be a good idea. I just don’t think the movie company would let me do it. They should just market that movie like it’s the worst movie ever made, as the cheesiest movie ever made. That way, people would go, “You gotta watch it!” That’s why I tell people to actually watch it. Don’t go in mad going, “I can’t believe how bad this is!” Go in to goof on it and you’ll have a blast.
Alex Obert: Did you talk with Sebastian Bach about his cameo in it?
Jim Florentine: No, I didn’t. He knows I don’t like it, but he’s never brought it up. He was so excited when he was filming it though. I remember he was posting, “I’m hanging out with Tom Cruise on the friggin’ set in Miami. This is awesome!” But you know what, the bottom line is, if they wanted me interviewing Tom Cruise in a scene in that movie cause I work on That Metal Show, I woulda done it in a second. I didn’t know how bad the movie was gonna be, but I knew how bad the Broadway show was. I didn’t think the movie was gonna be bad, but I would have been like, “Alright, I’ll take the part and deal with it.” So look, it was the same thing when I got Crank Yankers. My manager told me that you’re gonna be on a show that makes prank phone calls and they’re recreated with puppets, I’m like, “Man, that shows gonna last two episodes. That sounds terrible! All my comic friends are gonna make fun of me.” That’s what I was worried about most, but it wound up being a success. What do I know? But I woulda taken that role.
Alex Obert: In closing, do you have anything to plug? Websites or appearances?
Jim Florentine: I’m gonna be at the Hartford Funny Bone in March. The 20th through the 23rd. My podcast is Comedy Metal Midgets, it’s on iTunes, it comes out once a week. My website is JimFlorentine.com. I do a show on Sirius Satellite on Ozzy’s Boneyard every Thursday at 5:00 EST. And also That Metal Show every Saturday at 11 PM on VH1 Classic with new episodes for the next eleven weeks.
Alex Obert: Very nice! I’d like to thank you very much for your time.
Jim Florentine: Thanks Alex!