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The Jester Interview: Jim Florentine

Stand-up 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 e-mail.

Jester: How did you get interested in doing stand-up comedy? How did you start out?
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 performances?
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 stand-up?
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 Green?
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 cool.

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 might be?
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.




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