Don Jamieson is a metalhead. He has been all his life, so much in fact that his love for rock has seeped in other aspects of his life including the last fifteen years as a stand-up comedian. He and his comedy partner, Jim Florentine are co-hosts of That Metal Show on VH1 Classic, where the two comedians talk about pretty much anything related to the world of hard rock and interview icons from the scene. Don just released his first-ever stand-up CD, Live And Hilarious which was recorded in his home state of New Jersey. As a group of people with appreciation for things hard rock, we caught up with Don to discuss his love for music, find out what it’s like being on a metal label, we even talk bit of the Garden State with him.
Hey Don, how’s it going?
It’s going alright man, going alright. Living the dream.
I’m sure, your life is caviar, bitches, the whole nine right?
Yeah, no. I just moved to Jersey, I live in Maybury now so it’s stealing my neighbor’s internet connection and walking a block to the farthest part of town.
I lived my entire life in Jersey; we call that “toughening up the residents.”
No it’s all good now, I live down by the beach with my girl now, everything’s chill. It’s definitely weird to get used to it.
So, Live and Hilarious, it’s your first stand-up comedy album, right?
Yes, first live stand-up CD, yeah.
And you’ve been doing stand-up for about fifteen years now?
Why was now the right time to get something recorded?
My comedy partner Jim Florentine, who’s also my co-host on That Metal Show, we’ve done a whole series of CDs called Terrorizing Telemarketers. Where we talk to telemarketers and we’ve done these hidden camera DVDs called Meet the Creeps. We’ve put out these products on our own for over 10 years now. I was always content to put those things out on our own on and sell them on the website or at gigs and things like that. You know every stand-up comic would have their own live album out and I was like, “if I ever do one, I want to do something a little different, something special, with mine.” Rather than just record a bunch of shows and put it out. So when Metal Blade came along I was like, “this is perfect! I’m going to mix the world of comedy and metal and uh, hopefully do something cool with it.”
One of the things I noticed about the CD when I listened is it definitely doesn’t feel like it’s your regular comedy album that’s recorded in a vacuum; it has a really loose, raw feel. It feels as if you are sitting there at the bar listening. Did you do that on purpose?
Yeah, well why do anything the easy way when you’re a comedian? Why record six shows in a full packed theater, where the room is papered and then you can piece together this amazing CD where every bit destroys, every reaction is perfect? I recorded at a rock club in New Jersey, it’s one show and it’s as live as it can possibly get. And I named it Live and Hilarious, as if I’m not drawing enough attention to it, it’s like I’m telling people, “this is hilarious.” So instead of saying, “okay live and decently funny.” I have to set the bar high and do everything completely differently. But, for some crazy reason it all seemed to work.
Yeah, it sounded great. Now, you’re on a metal label, and many metal labels are picking up comedians these days. Do you have an opinion on all these traditionally hard rock/metal labels picking up comedians? Is it like a sign of the times? Do you think this is something that’s been bound to happen?
I think it’s bound to happen, because so many comedians are metalheads and most guys in metal and hard rock are really funny guys. They all want to be comics, and comics all want to be rockstars. That dates back to the days of Sam Kinison and Andrew Dice Clay, so there’s always been that connection. But I guess Brian Posehn was one of the first big names to get signed and sort of bridge that gap with the stand-up and the metal. It was cool because when Brian did That Metal Show he said something that was smart, which I realized too. He said, that he loved metal his entire life but never talked about it on stage, and he started to feel weird about that. Comics talk about every other wrinkle of their life. He didn’t know why he never talked about metal in his act. I felt the same exact way. So it just became a natural thing where I was just like, “well I gotta talk about this stuff because it’s a part of me.”
Do you ever get to a point where you think, “man maybe I am a Rockstar?” I mean you got to have drinks with like Kirk Hammett that’s any metalhead’s dream. Does that ever hit you? Or do you still feel like that perpetual roadie?
I’m a comic, I will always feel like a loser and a reject. You can have 1,000 great shows in a row, but that one bad one is the one you obsess. There’s always an audience whether you have a Top 10 album on the Billboard charts or and Emmy award or whatever, there’s always an audience waiting around the corner to knock you down a few pegs. So no, you never get cocky.
Where do you prefer performing? Comedy Clubs, or places like heavy metal shows?
Yeah, I like doing the nightclubs and stuff like that because it’s where I came up. It was the thing with the album too! As much as there’s the heavy metal connection with the album, with the packaging and everything based on Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous album, people don’t need to know enjoy the packaging or the material inside. And while I do talk about metal, I also talk about other stuff. I talk about the President, I talk about terrorism, and I talk about fat chicks and masturbating. So this isn’t for everybody.
It’s interesting that this comedy hour almost becomes a time capsule for you since there’s topical humor on it. A metal album could take years to put out and a comedy album is done once the material is written…
I have fifteen years of stuff to kind of go through. But I didn’t want it to be stuff from the first five years. Because most of that stuff doesn’t hold up now I wanted to be current but I also wanted there to be evergreen stuff just about me, those are constant things in my life. It is a bit crazy that two weeks after my album comes out all the Osama Bin Laden material is completely outdated. For my next one I’ll have the jokes about him getting shot in the eye, it’ll be awesome.
Right on, and I wouldn’t say outdated – I think a testament to a time and place is the better way of saying it.
Yeah, exactly it’s a little time capsule so…
Let’s change gears a bit, a lot of people don’t know that you write jokes for Lisa Lampanelli. You’re one of her people.
I’ve been writing some stuff, yeah for the roast and stuff like that for her. Yeah, for a while.
How did you meet her?
Lisa and I both did the clubs in New York back in the day. So we’d always run into each other here and there and we just were friends. We did some gigs on the road together, once time I just sent her a bunch of jokes I wrote saying, “I don’t want any money for these, I just want these jokes to have a good home.” She’s such an amazing roaster and she said, “Oh my God I love your writing, and I want you to work with me.” We’ve been writing stuff together ever since, it’s been really fun.
One thing I always wanted to ask when writing for other comics – say you write a joke for someone else and it doesn’t work for whatever reason, is it a double bad feeling?
Hmmmmm. I haven’t thought that deeply about it. I just throw everything against the kitchen wall and hope that it sticks. I try not to obsess on one or two jokes as opposed to an entire body of work, just like when I write for my own act. If I write twenty new jokes and get one really great one, that’s awesome. It’s about quantity, it’s if you sleep with 100 women there’s going to be at least two fat chicks in there.
It’s the law of averages. Why did you choose Bar A as the place to record Live And Hilarious? As a guy that lives in Jersey it’s an obvious place. Yet at the same time, I don’t believe I’ve heard any comedy albums or even any live albums recorded there. What made you choose that place as opposed to something in New York?
Again, why would I do something the easy way? I mean Bar A is a place I used to go to and drop roofies in girls’ drinks and now I’m recording a live album there? No. I don’t know, we did some comedy shows there over the summer and I wanted to have more of the like rock club feel, they have a lot of bands play there so I just thought it would be a cool midpoint. I wanted to do the album in Jersey, it was just sort of a midpoint that I picked. My buddy is one of the owners there so he made it real easy for me and we did it.
Getting back to you being like the big metalhead… You are a co-host of That Metal Show on VH1 Classic. Producer Nick Raskulinecz, who’s worked with Rush, Foo Fighters, Alice In Chains and the like, said in an interview where he thought the state music, metal especially, was slowly going down. What do you feel about that statement as a big proponent of the genre?
From all the feedback I’ve gotten from bands, everybody from Kirk Hammet or James Hetfield all the way down the line is our show is helping keep it alive. Our show is the destination for people who want to get the word out about metal, especially from bands that have been around for 30 or 40 years. They need a new way to get out the word. A lot of them are still making good music. We had David Coverdale from Whitesnake on the show and Whitesnake’s new album is awesome. How else would he get the word out, especially to an older audience? Here’s where our show comes in and it’s something I feel is important to let people know these bands are still around and alive, they’re making music at a high level. Between New York and LA people don’t even know that Iron Maiden tours.
I hear people calling Eddie Trunk’s radio show saying, “Hey do you think Iron Maiden will ever get back together?” It’s like, “dude they’re like the second biggest metal band in the entire world! They’re still making albums and still packing arenas everywhere!” James Hetfield told both Eddie and I at the Big 4 concert, “thank you so much for what you are doing for metal, it’s so important.”
I think metal has one of the best communities of any genre of music. It strikes me as outcasts growing up and banding together. What do you think about it?
Yeah, we’re all the same. We’re the guy that instead of going to prom sat home and put on Iron Maiden’s Killers and reread the special thanks and the lyrics and the liner notes for the 500th time and memorized the length of every song. Most of these people never lost what it’s like to be a fan. For example, when we had had Kirk Hammet on the show – one of the reasons he agreed to do the show is because we got Uli Roth from Scorpions on the show. Kirk is a huge fan of Uli and that was why he agreed to appear, even though he never saw our show before. As soon as he heard Uli was going to be there he agreed and had a great time, he knows what it’s like to still be a fan. Even the biggest guys in the world know what it’s like to look up to another artist. I think that’s what keeps the metalheads close and loyal to each other because we know we have to count on each other. I did a comedy CD that went Top 10 on the Billboard charts without ever having an HBO special, a Comedy Central show, or anything traditional in stand-up. If that’s not a testament to the metal community, I don’t know what is.
Exactly! What would you say are acts in both comedy and metal that you get excited about coming up in both of those genres?
Wow, it’s funny in metal to talk about the younger bands that are coming up because they’re still bands that have been around you know for fifteen years but are just gaining popularity. Bands like Danko Jones from Canada, a great trio, AC/DC-meets-Motorhead-meets-Thin Lizzy-meets- Kiss kind of vibe. They’re one of my favorite new bands. I love Amon Amarth who are labelmates on Metal Blade, Viking Metal from Sweden, again they are a band that’s been around for twenty years so it’s funny to think of those guys as “new” but in the world of metal they kind of are. They’re rising right now. Um those are a couple of my favorites.
As far as comics, a couple of the guys we’ve already talked about, I really do love is Posehn and I love Doug Stanhope, so those guys I definitely feel. Not only do I love their comedy but I feel like a kindred spirit with them. Yeah definitely, both metal. Even Patton Oswalt, same thing.
I think it’s almost funny to see how many comedians are metalheads because it’s the same kind of mentality of creative aspects, the more intense aspects, and I think it definitely shines through so much.
Yeah, I figure my style is kind of loud and aggressive so I felt like I fit on a metal label but Metal Blade. It’s a dream come true because it’s a label that carried the metal torch for thirty years and to be the first comedian signed there, I’m on the same label and King Diamond! I mean what can you say?
That speaks for itself. Being on a label exposes you to new audiences and vice versa. Like you said, any King Diamond fan who doesn’t know about you already will see that Metal Blade logo and they’ll associate you with that band.
Right, and I would love to go back. I got the deal with Metal Blade because I went on the road with their band, Charred Walls of the Damned. I opened a two-week tour in rock clubs doing comedy, it’s how Brian from Metal Blade saw me and decided to sign me. He saw me going up in front of these hardcore, metal crowds and doing a whole heavy metal set before his band would go on and it worked and was cool. I’d like to do that again this summer.
What are the bands you would love to open for? If we can’t count Maiden.
No, I don’t think they could count. I opened for Twisted Sister before; it was good, funny because we taped it for the TV show. It was their Christmas show and five minutes before we went on Dee Snider came into the dressing room, Florentine did it with me, and he said, “listen this is the Christmas show, no cursing.” We were like, “What? We’re going to go out in front of 2,000 drunk metalheads, and we can’t curse?” Dee said, “Yeah you can’t, because there are families out there.” And we said, “we learned to curse from you!” The truth is I’m as influenced by some metal artists as I am by comics in terms of stage presence and he’s one of them. Dee didn’t give a shit man, if you hassled him, he’d come back at you ten times as hard. Ted Nugent’s stage rants were always hilarious. I’ve always been influenced by guys like that. I mean, even listening to Ozzy, that person’s got more one-liners than Rodney Dangerfield.
So these people are all hilarious. It’s that same kind of humble self-defacing humor half the time that Ozzy always does. I think that in his mind he still doesn’t believe he’s the prince of rock. Just as I’m sure Rodney Dangerfield never considered himself the king of comedy at any time.
Right, Rodney was always busy helping other comics make it big. He put Dice, Jerry Seinfeld, Kinison, and a bunch of people on the map. You are right about Ozzy, if you ever watch The Osbournes, he’s just a guy who goes out and sings songs. At the end of the day he’s still gotta take out the garbage and clean up the dog crap.
You are completely right. Now Live and Hilarious is great and having recorded in my home state gives an added bonus. Now that you are a resident of New Jersey, I have to ask you the one question every person who lives in Jersey is asked – Are you a Wawa man or a Quick Check man?
Well there’s a Quick Check right around the corner, but I drive for the Wawa experience.
See! That’s the right answer!
You know why? Because you get the card, you can get the gift card and that’s fun to take on the road. You can go to Vegas and perform for a week, when they ask for a credit card for incidentals, you give them the Wawa card. Then you wait and see how long it takes them and how many swipes until they realize it’s not a real credit card.
It’s hours of fun.
Well, it’s been nice talking to you Don. Good luck, and the best of luck with everything.
Thanks for the support man I appreciate it. Have a good one.
Don Jamieson’s new album Live And Hilarious is available now. Pick yourself up a copy and follow up on Don at www.donjamieson.com.