The Jester Interview:
comedian Jim Florentine has his own industry of prank phone calls and
candid camera-style stunts released on various CDs and DVDs, that
reached the most prominence when some were adapted for “Crank Yankers”
on Comedy Central. Florentine also will work a few stories of pranks
he’s pulled in his stand-up sets. He also has a gift for pulling
audience right into his material, blurring the line between what comics
call crowd work and delivery of his own monologues. He performs August
21 at Comix in a benefit for suicide prevention, and returns to the New
York area in late September with shows at Bananas locations in
Poughkeepsie (Sept. 26) and Hasbrouck Heights (Sept. 27). Jester
recently posed Florentine some questions about his comedy experiences by
Jester: How did you get interested in doing stand-up comedy? How did you
Jim Florentine: The only other skill I had was mowing lawns and I knew I
didn’t want to do that the rest of my life. I was only into landscaping
for the tan anyway.
J: Can you describe your best and worst experiences? Best and worst
JF: Most are good experiences. There were times that I was bombing so
bad onstage that they pulled the plug on me in the middle of my set.
J: How did you get involved in, and get ideas for all the variations on
pranks that you do -- Crank Yankers, Meet The Creeps and Terrorizing
Telemarketers? Do you consider these things to be improv rather than
JF: I’m good at bothering people. That is one of my talents. All the
pranks I pull I would be doing even if they were not being recorded. I’m
a guy that just refuses to grow up.
J: Is there really a ‘Chinese wall’ between stand-up and improv? How do
the pranking bits inspire your stand-up or vice versa?
JF: A lot of my stand up comes from me fucking with people like a
cashier when they ask me a stupid question and I call them out on it.
The next day I’ll put that in my act.
J: Who do you enjoy collaborating with most and why? What’s it like
doing “The Good Side of Bad News” with Jim Norton? Working with Tom
JF: Jim Norton is one of my good friends. We both started doing stand up
at the same time and we lived together for awhile and even shared some
women together. Tom Green is awesome. Talk about a guy that likes to
fuck with people. I respect his work a lot.
J: Since you have close ties to Howard Stern’s show, and you’re also
friends with Jim Norton, who’s a regular with Opie & Anthony, are you
allowed to set foot on the Opie & Anthony show?
JF: I just recently called into Opie & Anthony’s show for [Norton’s]
birthday. Now that the merger [of Sirius and XM satellite radio
companies] went through, I think everyone will get along, which will be
J: Do you think the hysterical censorship climate of two or three years
ago brought on by the Janet Jackson incident is receding, that society
is becoming any less uptight about transgressive content in the media?
JF: No. It is getting worse. Look what happened to Imus and Kidd Chris
and now the controversy over the new Ben Stiller film [Tropic Thunder]
were they use the word retard and people are protesting. I wish I was
retarded. Then I wouldn’t have to work my ass off and could just sit
around and masturbate in public and not get in trouble.
J: When you do a USO tour, do they bother with any content restrictions?
Or is it even more freewheeling, than say, a guest shot on Letterman
JF: They did give us some restrictions but of course we didn’t listen to
them and the soldiers loved us and there were no complaints.