By Andrew Bansal
Best known in the hard rock & heavy metal realm as one of the hosts of VH1 Classic’s ‘That Metal Show’, comedian Jim Florentine has successfully been able to bring the two worlds of comedy and metal together through his witty, sarcastic demeanor on That Metal Show, his exploits as a stand-up comedian, radio show host, podcaster and in various other capacities. His material is rooted in rock and metal for the most part these days, and he’s been able to draw from his experiences as a metalhead over the years. He released his stand-up comedy debut album ‘Cringe n Purge’ via Metal Blade Records in 2011, which captures his personality to perfection. I spoke to him for this interview in late July, and at the time he was on tour with Megadeth, Black Label Society, Newsted and others for this year’s Gigantour run as a host/MC. Since this tour hit only secondary markets, we LA folks missed out on it but Jim recounts some of his experiences from the tour for us, talks about That Metal Show, and the other things he’s up to these days. Enjoy my conversation with Jim below.
Jim, firstly I wanted to ask you about Gigantour. I believe you’ve been hosting all the shows on the tour. What has that been like for you?
It’s been great so far, seeing those bands every day, watching Megadeth and Black Label Society every night. I’ve been getting to hang with those guys, and I go up on stage to introduce each band, share a quick joke or two before they come out. It’s been awesome!
That’s great to hear. How have people responded to you? Do you get to speak a lot or is it just short introductions?
You know, I speak for about two minutes before each band. I don’t want to be up there for too long because there’s actually six bands on the show. The crowd just wants to see the bands. I picture myself in that crowd, and if I was in it I’d be like, ‘Alright, enough! Let’s hear a couple of jokes and move on with the show.’ So, I’ve got to keep it short and simple.
The bands on this year’s Gigantour have also been taking part in jams. I think Mustaine, Zakk Wylde, Newsted and all those people have been playing some songs together at the end of the shows or something. That must be pretty cool for you to see on a regular basis.
Yeah, there was one show in Dallas where Slash’s band was actually on. Megadeth recorded a cover of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Cold Sweat’ on their latest album Super Collider, so they got together with Slash, Zakk, Jason Newsted and Vinnie Paul to play Cold Sweat. Each night they’ve been doing something different, and it’s so much fun to watch.
That sounds awesome! So, obviously you’re on this tour as a comedian and host. So far, what’s the funniest thing you’ve experienced during Gigantour?
Well, we were in Oklahoma City. It’s an outdoor venue connected to the zoo. You’re not supposed to curse at the venue and I didn’t know that. I went up there and started cursing right away. I still might get fined $3000 for that. The local promoter should have told me, because I didn’t know! I mean, why can’t you curse at a heavy metal show, you know? So I’m still waiting to find out whether I’m going to get fined for that.
That is funny. Coming to ‘That Metal Show’, Season 12 has just ended airing on VH1 Classic. I was at one of the tapings. I think the show has changed a lot of things. There was Neil Fallon from Clutch on the show, which I was pleasantly surprised by, to be honest. They were never on the show before and I didn’t think they would ever be.
I wanted Clutch on the show since day one! They totally deserve to be on it and I’m glad it finally happened this last season. The way I look at it, we’re eventually going to run out of classic hard rock or metal guys, so you have to open up the show a little. And Clutch have been around for 20 years so they can probably be considered classic hard rock anyway. It’s not like they’re a new band or anything. But yeah, we’re hoping to get more bands like that on the show. I’ve been wanting that since day one but we’ll see how it goes. There’s a lot more decision-making involved than people think. The higher-ups at VH1 make those decisions. The only decision I get to make on that show is what t-shirt I’m going to wear (laughs).
Right! And you do represent some of the lesser-known bands through your t-shirts, so that’s a good way of promoting them.
I try to, because if I can’t get them talking about bands like Ghost or Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, I wear their shirts. At least people can go, ‘Oh, I’ve got to check that band out. I’ve never heard of them!’ It makes people search for the band online and if they like what they hear, may be they’d buy a CD. So yeah, it works out.
A lot of people complain about having repeat guests on the show, but I guess it’s simply not possible to get different people every time, right? It’s just out of your hands sometimes.
Yeah! It all depends on which people are around. A lot of times we tape in the summer, so most of the bands are on tour. Other bands don’t want to do it until they’ve got something to promote. May be they have an album coming out in October, and they don’t want to come on the show in April. So we end up not having such bands if we’re not taping in October. Then again, when you look at late night talk shows, Tom Cruise is on the Tonight show 15-20 times and nobody bitches about that!
You’re right, that’s a good way of putting it. But even the format of the show has expanded and changed a lot. There’s no more ‘Top 5’ or ‘Throwdown’. There’s ‘Metal Modem’ and ‘Origins’ now. So there’s something new for people to look at.
Yeah, VH1 just wanted a different look to the show and they just thought it looked a bit stale in its old format. Every episode looked the same. So they just freshened up a little bit and introduced some different segments. Some of the segments like Throwdown were getting old because we were running out of ideas with that. We did it for so long, there are probably like 95 episodes with Throwdowns. After that long, you get to a point where it’s simply not a good Throwdown. For a segment like that, you want good audience participation and people going back and forth instead of everybody agreeing. So we figured we’d give it a rest this season. May be we’ll bring it back in the future.
That makes a lot of sense. So, aside from Gigantour which you are currently getting to see every night, you go to shows as a metal fan. I saw you at the Udo show at the Whisky in LA last April. That was such a great show!
It really was. Udo is my favorite heavy metal singer of all time. I’ve just always loved his voice. I’m a huge Accept fan. I like the new Accept with Mark singing too, but the old-school Accept stuff was just so underrated. All those records like ‘Restless & Wild’, ‘Breaker’, ‘I’m A Rebel’, all that stuff. I hadn’t seen him since 2003, and I was amazed by his voice even at this age. He’s got to be in his 60s now. That voice just filled that room up, it’s just so powerful. I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to hit all those notes but he did, man!
Looking ahead, what do you have coming up after Gigantour?
Well, I do a show on satellite radio now on Ozzy’s Boneyard, which is on Channel 38 on Sirius XM, every Thursday from 5 to 7 PM. They repeat it a bunch of times. It’s on 3 or 4 times during the course of the week. It’s just classic hard rock and metal tunes. A lot of times I have a co-host, like during this Gigantour run I’ve had different guys from the tour. I had David Draiman on the show last week, and Vinnie Paul the week before. I’ve also had Mike Mushok as well, who’s playing with Newsted now. I’ll probably have Mustaine and Zakk soon too. I just play shit that I like. I can make my own playlist. I just played ‘London Leatherboys’ from Accept last week! I also do a podcast called ‘Comedy Metal Midgets’. It’s free and it’s on my website. I interview metal guys and just do rants about different kinds of stuff. It’s been getting pretty popular and people have started to dig it.