Exit Interview: Jim Florentine
LONG BEFORE JIM Florentine became a regular on Comedy Central’s prank-call puppet show, Crank Yankers, and The Howard Stern Show, he was just another Jersey schlub trying to break into comedy. On June 14th, years of abuse from drunken Wildwood crowds pay off with a co-headlining gig at Trump Marina. Thinking of checking out the 43-year-old’s act? If you’re a fan of American Idol, The Secret or G-rated humor, you might want to pass. If you enjoy watching white people feel uncomfortable and Whitesnake references, get your tickets now.
How did you start your career here? Around 1993, the clubs in New York were tough. You had to be in with a few guys. So I played South Jersey and Philly a lot to hone my material.
What was your routine like then? A lot of one-liners, like a cross between Rodney Dangerfield and Andrew Dice Clay. When there’s a Flyers game on and they turn it off because a comedy show is starting and everyone’s booing, you have to get to your jokes quick. I really honed my craft in Wildwood during the summer at Club Casba.
What was a typical Wildwood comedy crowd? It was insane. All the clubs used to be open until five in the morning, and people were angry, sunburned and drinking. It made me a better comic. And the nightlife was insane. You’d get out at one o’clock and tear it up until 5 a.m. I had long hair back then, so I cleaned up. I looked like David Coverdale. I had the worst car in the world, I had no money, and I was banging 10s.
Wildwood 10s, though. Well, that was the look back then — high hair, slutty, tight stretch jeans.
Some things never change. How do the crowds in Atlantic City compare to Vegas? There wasn’t comedy in A.C. until the Borgata came. Now there’s comedy everywhere, and a lot of young people. It’s a good scene. They’re not as drunk as Vegas — everywhere in Vegas, it’s completely out of control.
So Vegas is Wildwood with better hair? Exactly.
With the success of the Helium club downtown, Philly’s comedy scene is making a comeback. Yeah, Helium is great. For a long time, you only had one club — the Laff House on South Street. I used to play there all the time. It was mostly an urban crowd, and they wanted some white people to come in, so they’d put one white comic on. Not many comics can handle it. But black crowds are great, because they don’t judge jokes like white people do. If they think it’s funny, they just laugh. White people go, “Can I laugh at that? I don’t know.” Black people are like, “That’s fucked up, but it’s funny.”
Are you really dating Robin Quivers from The Howard Stern Show, or is that just a publicity stunt? Oh no, we’re dating.
They call you two “Quivertine.” Yeah. That has to be the gayest thing I’ve ever heard.
Do you have to dodge paparazzi, or do they think you’re her chauffeur? No, because I’m not black, so why would I be her chauffeur?
That would get a laugh at the black club. Of course! The white people wouldn’t laugh at that. “Ooooooh, is there a black guy around? Let me look.”
With Crank Yankers, did you ever catch flak from PC-types over your characters, like the handicapped Special Ed? Not really. The show was a cult hit. Anyone that’s uptight is not up on Sunday night watching Crank Yankers. They’re in bed reading The Secret.
Did you get in any serious trouble making prank calls as a kid? Nobody cared back then. You could call someone and say “We just put a bomb outside your front door” and nobody would call the cops. These days, it sucks.
Another downside to the Patriot Act. Really. You can’t do anything anymore.
How much farther can prank-call comedy go? Are there any limits? It’s tough now, with caller ID and harassment charges. There are so many legal issues.
Is prank text-messaging the next frontier? That’s possible.
So what can folks expect from your live act? Sometimes people just go see a comic they don’t even know. People don’t go to the movies and say “There Will Be Blood? I don’t know what it’s about, but let’s go in there.” It’s funny when they come up and say, “I don’t think you’re funny at all. I don’t know why you’re the headliner.” I’m like, “I don’t know why, either. Talk to the club owner. I’d rather go on first and start drinking early.” Expect a lot of edgy humor. If you think Simon from American Idol is mean, this isn’t for you.