The middle of the day for stand-up comedians isn’t exactly their busiest of times. As creatures of the night, a lot of mornings and afternoons are spent waiting for the gig. Years ago, Jim Florentine found a funny way to kill the day, and now, he and fellow comic Don Jamieson have a No. 1 comedy record based on a hobby that turns the tables on annoying phone callers.
You despise telemarketers. Jim and Don love them, and the duo’s “Terrorizing Telemarketers” series has hit its seventh edition and reached the top of the comedy album charts.
“I would be home during the day and have a comedy show at like 10 at night,” Florentine explained of the origin of the series. “I had really nothing going on, so when a telemarketer would call, I would just mess with them to see how long I could keep them on, whether it was an hour or half hour, I was like, ‘Might as well, I’m bored.’”
Jamieson got wind of what his buddy was up to and asked to listen in on the calls. “He said, ‘You’re on to something, we’ve gotta start recording these,’” Florentine said. “I thought, ‘Really? I just thought it was funny to me.’ Don was a big prank phone call fan, so he knew. I knew some of The Jerky Boys stuff, and I would do prank calls, but I was never a big prank call fan. He was like, ‘This sh*t is gold.’”
Jamieson said telemarketers make the perfect targets. “Everyone hates telemarketers,” he said. “From 8 years old to 80, everybody hates them. They’re so intrusive. They’re like the Covid of phone scams. They prey on the elderly and vulnerable. Although sometimes we break their balls so hard, people feel bad for the telemarketer.”
The all-ages appeal is another part of what makes “Terrorizing Telemarketers” successful. While no one would consider Jim and Don clean comics, most of their prank phone calls are suitable for everyone who has a disdain for unwanted intrusions.
“I remember one of the first ones I did, I played it for my 10-year-old nephew and my 72-year-old grandmother, and they were both laughing at the same thing,” Florentine said. “There’s rarely any cursing. They’re not dirty. The telemarketer will hang up if you curse. So they’re pretty clean, and they’re all evergreen. It’s not really anything topical besides the new Covid mask call. But by the time we put out Volume 8, people will probably still be wearing a mask and we’ll be on booster No. 17.”
Recently, Jim & Don talked all about their “Terrorizing Telemarketers” albums and their prank hidden camera series, “Meet The Creeps.” The former co-hosts of VH1’s “That Metal Show” also discussed what it would take for the popular hard rock talk show to return in this Web Is Jericho interview.
How long does it take for you guys to put an assemble an album’s worth of prank calls?
Jim: “It helps when you’re still single, and you have nothing going on in your life. And me and Don are single. It’s tough to tell your girlfriend if she wants to go do something, ‘Sorry, we gotta wait for the phone to ring.’”
Don: “It’s good that Jim and I usually get in and out of relationships at the same time. Even if we don’t, if he gets out before I do, I try to rush mine along. Then I’m like, ‘Ehh, I can make another album now, it’s good.’”
Jim: “And the relationship usually ends right before Christmas or Valentine’s Day. I don’t know why. We end it then. But we started (Volume 7) during the pandemic, probably around September of 2020. We decided we were bored. There wasn’t much going on. The clubs were still mostly closed. We said, ‘Let’s do another one,’ and we took our time putting this one together.”
How many calls do you have to go through typically before you get one that’s a keeper?
Don: “It depends on the day. Sometimes we can get 3 or 4 right in a row. And then other days, I’ll go over Jim’s house to record, and we’ll come away empty handed. The key is getting the right reaction from the person. That’s really what it’s all about. If they don’t get upset or agitated, it’s not as funny.”
Jim: “I can remember some days where we got 20 calls in one day, and we got nothing out of it. You just never know. If the person isn’t reacting, then it’s not a good call, so you’ve gotta find that person.”
One call on the new record that’s hilarious is “Fiancé.” You turned the telemarketer into a therapist.
Jim: “It’s amazing I got him to tell me what Don told him, that he was having an affair with my fiancé. It’s amazing he actually blurted that out. That was our goal. We probably did that four or five times, and the telemarketer just wouldn’t say it. They would go, ‘I don’t know. He didn’t say anything.’ ‘Are you sure?’ Then finally that guy reveals it. (Laughs) Why would he get involved?’”
Don: “And the great thing is like halfway through the call, the guy says, ‘When I first got on with you guys, I thought it had to be a prank. But now that I’m into it, there’s no way this is a prank.’ Then he psychoanalyzes Jim and I with such precision, he should’ve been awarded a Masters Degree in psychology at the end of that call.”
Jim: “That’s one of my favorite calls. It’s so dark. And it has to close the album. It’s like our (Iron Maiden’s) ‘Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.’ It’s our 18-minute song.”
What’s been the most surprising call in terms of someone staying on the line? What’s the longest you’ve strung somebody along?
Jim: “There’s ones that have been longer, but it just didn’t work. Some of the calls have been 30 minutes, and we’ve gotta cut it down to like 4 minutes. There’s a lot of fluff in there, where the telemarketer is going back to doing the pitch, and we’ve got to cut all that stuff out. (‘Fiancé’) is our longest call that made this album.”
What’s the longest prank you’ve had someone go along with in general? “Pepper” from your “Meet The Creeps” series comes to mind where the waiter just keeps going and going grinding up pepper on your food.
Jim: “That was 34 minutes, I think. We’ve strung along people where the telemarketer says, ‘We just reached the hour mark, I have to go. That’s our company policy.’ But I’m like, ‘Yeah, but I’m still trying to get the information.’ But I would say easily we’ve had people for 45 minutes to an hour.”
Don: “I like how Jim said, ‘Early on in my career when I didn’t have anything going on in the day …’ We still have nothing going on during the day. (Laughs) We’ll stay on the phone all day with these people.”
Jim: “I was doing it before I was even recording them. ‘Why? Are you recording it for yourself?’ Yeah, it just made me laugh.”
Have you ever gotten trouble for any of the calls?
Jim: “Two different times the cops came to my house over calls. One time I pretended my friend Chuck was giving my girlfriend a home abortion. The cops broke down my door. They thought someone was upstairs bleeding. Because I’m an idiot, the woman on the line had my address right in front of her. So she called the local police in my town. She thought it was real. Another one I pretended I was going to kill my grandmother. She was in the hospital, and I was gonna smother her with a pillow. They called the cops on that one, too. We try not to take it that far, but you never know what you’re gonna blurt out. We did one on Volume 3 … remember the whole anthrax scare after 9/11? We did a call like two months later where I said I had inhalation of anthrax. Don was the doctor, and he was taking me away. That one they could’ve said, ‘Holy sh*t,’ because if you were exposed to or had anthrax, you had to isolate right away. I’m surprised they didn’t call the cops on that saying, ‘This guy has anthrax.’ (Laughs)”
Don: “I’m surprised the CDC hasn’t put a sticker on our album for having the call ‘Covid Mask’ on there.”
Jim: “Yeah, I know. Like (the disclaimer) they do if you mention it on Instagram.”
Don: “‘This could be misinformation.’”
They did do that. When I looked up that call on YouTube, it has one of those “For info on Covid” disclaimers.”
Jim: “There is? I didn’t know that. That’s great.”
Don: “That’s like our PMRC sticker.”
Who have been some of your favorite pranksters over the years?
Jim: “I liked the Redbar guys, when they call the bar, ‘Is Mike Hunt there?’ They only did one record, but there was like 20 of them that were so great. Also the Touch-Tone Terrorists. The guy who had the phone number that was one digit different than the UPS number. So he had 10 different lines, so if someone called one number off, they thought they were calling UPS looking for the package. And he would say, ‘I set it on fire,’ and people really believed it.”
Don: “The Jerky Boys of course. I remember passing around those cassettes. The next thing you know, these guys are making movies in Hollywood. So they definitely took it to another level. I remember the last time I saw Kamal, he said, ‘You and Florentine are good, but don’t forget who the kings are.’”
Jim: “I like that The Jerky Boys brought profanity to prank calls. It made it edgier, which was good.”
Have you ever pranked anybody in the hard rock or metal world?
Don: “Lamb of God. Before we were ever on ‘That Metal Show,’ really hardly any metal bands knew who we were, but we were friends with the Shadows Fall guys. They were on tour with Lamb of God and Slipknot. So we said, ‘Take us around and introduce us to everybody and say we’re their biggest fans.’ We’re gonna ask them to autograph stuff for us and say, ‘Hey, you’re our favorite bass player ever,’ when it’s the drummer.’ Then we’d have them sign ridiculous stuff like, ‘To Don, thanks for the reach around last night,’ and see how far we could push it.”
Jim: “We also got Howard Jones from Killswitch Engage.”
Don: “We did the same thing with him, but we’d ask, ‘Can we get a picture with you?’ And we’d bend over in front of him, and he would stand behind us like he’s ramming us in the *ss. (Laughs). And he is this big, intimidating looking guy, but he has a good sense of humor, because he didn’t kick our *sses. And he actually took the picture with us. It’s on one of our ‘Meet The Creeps’ DVDs.”
I like how on “Meet The Creeps,” the bits just end. There’s no reveal or happy resolution. It’s just super awkward and then it’s over.
Jim: “And that’s how the ‘Fiancé’ call ends on the album. He says, ‘I gotta go,’ and I say, ‘I’m sorry sir. I don’t know what to say.’ And then it hangs up and that ends the album. I love that sh*t.”
Is it hard to keep from busting up when you’re in the middle of a call?
Jim: “Sometimes we crack, but we’re so used to just busting balls, that we know each other’s timing. Once in a while we will laugh, but it just comes natural to us. Growing up in New Jersey and being dicks, I guess helps.”
Don: “Sometimes when we do these calls, we’re only four feet apart. So sometimes we have to turn our backs to each other during the calls, when the person really goes off the deep end so we don’t start laughing.”
Jim, I know you’re back on “Crank Yankers” on Comedy Central. But I take it the world is too PC for ‘Special Ed,’ now?
Jim: “I guess. It’s not coming from me. It’s weird, because they show the old episode with ‘Special Ed’ right before the new episodes. At 10:30 is a new episode, but I guess at 10:15 he’s not offensive, it’s just after 10:30. I still do Bobby Fletcher on there. What are you gonna do? I can’t control that stuff. If he came back and people were giving me sh*t, I’m like ‘whatever.’”
So what else do you guys have in the works?
Jim: “We might be bringing ‘Meet The Creeps’ back. There’s some talks. And just touring. I put out a stand-up special, ‘Bite The Bullet,’ about four months ago. Right now I’m back on the road building a new comedy set to do another special in a few years.”
Don: “I’m pretty much just on the road doing stand-up. We’ll be back on the Monsters of Rock Cruise next year. I do a bunch of metal events throughout the year with Metal Blade that I host. I’m going out to Vegas again soon to host. It’s the 40th anniversary of the label, so they’ve been doing all these concerts around the country. But we’re psyched about the new record. It debuted at No. 1, so thanks to everybody that put our childish nonsense at the top of the charts.”
Jim: “Every band says about their latest album that it’s the best one. I’m not saying that, but I’m psyched for this one. It makes me laugh, and usually I’m sick of it, because you hear it so many times editing. But it’s just so childish and immature.”
Don: “Even Jim’s 12-year-old son told us that we were immature.”
Jim: “We were editing one, and he walked by, and he goes, ‘You guys are so immature.’ If a 12-year old tells us that, we’re on to something.”
I know you both have been asked this about a million times, but any chance ‘That Metal Show’ gets a re-boot of some sort? I know it’s not really up to you guys and Eddie (Trunk) for it to happen, but It seems like every few months, new fans discover the show and hope for its return.
Don: “When Jericho puts up the money for a new season, he could be the fourth co-host, and we’ll get it back on the air. So Chris, if you’re reading, cough up the dough, brother.”
Jim: “If someone comes around with a lot of money to shoot a real TV show and not put it on YouTube with iPhones, then who knows? But you never know. Sh*t comes back. ‘Crank Yankers’ was off the air for 11 years, and it came back two years ago. There’s nothing in the works, but who the f*ck knows?”
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