Jim Florentine Goes From Metal Head to Mr. Mom


jim-florentine-special

Reflects on Dark Moments, and Turning Them Into Comedy

Lynyrd Skynyrd extolled the virtues of being a being a simple kind of man, and Jim Florentine has taken their words to heart.

This December, Florentine will release his latest one-hour stand-up comedy special, “Jim Florentine: A Simple Man” (available December 9 on iTunes and www.jimflorentine.com). “A Simple Man” will be available for digital download as well as on DVD and CD release.

“A Simple Man” is classic Florentine, as he riffs on pop culture with his usual wry, caustic wit, and mines the comedy from his own personal life as a single dad balancing his career with raising his son; a metal-head turned Mister Mom.
“It’s really tough,” Florentine said of the challenges of being both a dad and a stand-up. “I try to get all of my stuff done between 9 and 3 when my son is at school, and then it’s all about him until 9 when he goes to bed. For the first 20 years of my career, I was used to staying out late and waking up at 10 or 11. Now I have to be up at 7 packing lunches and making breakfast. And then touring on weekends.”

When you’re going through that kind of thing – a divorce or a death or whatever – you’re experiencing the emotions and the grief associated with it. I know I’m not thinking about how I can I make it funny at that time. But eventually the floodgates open.

“A Simple Man” was filmed last year, but the release was pushed back to December, Florentine said. “I didn’t get too topical with this, so it’s not going to be dated when it comes out,” he said. “The only dated reference is that I have a joke about RG3 playing with The Redskins, but other than that, we’re good.”

Florentine’s comedy is rife with personal reflections on traumatic events from his own life, such as his divorce. He said even the most painful experiences can lend themselves to comedy after some time has passed and you can look back on the event without being locked into it at the moment. “When you’re going through that kind of thing – a divorce or a death or whatever – you’re experiencing the emotions and the grief associated with it. I know I’m not thinking about how I can I make it funny at that time,” Florentine said. “But eventually the floodgates open. And sometimes you think of jokes that capture the humor in those universal experiences. You work through it and begin to see the humor in it. And when you tell those jokes that come from such a personal place, the crowd can sense it. They can tell it’s genuine. And that’s the best kind of comedy.

“The important thing is to approach that material without coming across as bitter or angry, because that will alienate the crowd,” Florentine said. “You can’t work those things into your set right away. You have to wait until you’ve had enough time and you’re ready to get into it.”

I was always fascinated with Pryor and the way he was able to get the crowd back by making fun of himself.

Florentine attributes that approach to comedy to his childhood obsession with . As a boy, he snuck into a showing of a Pryor stand-up film, an experience that had a profound effect on his sense of humor and perspective on performing. “I was always fascinated with Pryor and the way he was able to get the crowd back by making fun of himself,” Florentine said. “One moment, Pryor’s telling jokes, and the next he’s talking about setting himself on fire, and it’s still incredibly funny. It’s horrifying, but it’s still hysterical because of the way he approached it. It took me a long time before I was able to walk onto a stage and be able to make fun of myself like that.”

Like Pryor, Florentine has also maintained his own unique voice, even as comedy audiences become more and more politically correct. “You can always adjust to the room. Some people are a little more sensitive and PC, others are sick of that and just want to laugh,” Florentine said. “You’ll get that with any crowd. I’ll always have people coming up to me after the show and saying ‘You’re a misogynist’ or whatever, and it’s like ‘It’s just a joke. This is comedy.’ I let my material be my material. I can’t worry about that 20 percent of the audience that may not get it. I’m honest to myself and let the material land where it will.”

“A Simple Man” is available for pre-order at www.jimflorentine.com and you can watch a clip below.

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Dan Murphy is a freelance writer in Buffalo. Pre-order his new book documenting the rise of women’s wrestling from sideshow to WWE main event on Amazon.com, "Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Women’s Wrestling"